Light and fair skin is usually the first to show the signs of aging, which can happen as early as the mid to late 20s. Because the skin is inherently thinner and contains less melanin, it’s more susceptible to sun-related aging.
Common characteristics of fair skin:
- Burns easily
- Shows the signs of aging relatively early
- Wrinkles tend to be more on the surface as opposed to deeper creases
- Can be sensitive
- Blemishes, rashes and injury are very apparent
- Enlarged pores
A Fair Complexion and The Beauty Norm
In the West, fair skin has historically been considered the ideal. Racism and discrimination have long played a part in creating this beauty standard, proliferating an entire industry of skin-lightening products. It’s only recently that the popularity of the tan has put that kind of pressure on those of us with very pale skin.
But if you prioritize the health and wellness of your skin, regardless of its complexion or tone, you’re sure to glow.
When we talk about fair, pale and light skin, we’re really talking about where your complexion lies on the Fitzpatrick skin scale. According to Louisville, KY plastic surgeon Chet Mays, MD, scales were developed to standardize what treatments and energy levels are appropriate for a given skin tone when treating with lasers. “The scale helps us to determine the effectiveness of lasers on the different skin types,” Dr. Mays explains. “The strength of the laser used is determined based on the skin’s reaction to the light, similarly to how different skin types react to the sun. It’s one of the first steps in determining the proper treatment and energy used to help you reach your skin-care goal.”
No matter your skin tone, you will face pressure to conform to a beauty norm or standard from the world and industry. But you can protect your skin and prioritize its health without submitting to toxic beauty standards.
If you have dry skin and a lighter complexion:
Dryness in lighter skin can occur from a multitude of factors. While the sun is partially to blame, the weather, lifestyle choices and even skin-care products can bring about dryness. When the outer layer of skin is void of water, the skin can’t protect itself as well, and dead skin cells make their way to the surface, giving way to flakiness.
Dry skin is not a problem limited to lighter skin, but it can become more of a problem as we grow older. Our skin starts to produce less sebum as we get older, meaning we have to work harder to keep our skin hydrated and moisturized.
Dry skin can be alleviated with the right moisturizer. Retin-a will also help to regulate the pace at which the surface cells turn over, to eliminate the amount of dryness.
If you have fine lines and light skin:
The lighter the skin, the less melanin there is, which increases the amount of UV light that’s absorbed, breaking down collagen. That means fair-skinned people can show signs of age faster than those with more melanin and a deeper skin tone.
If you’re trying to stave-off the arrival of fine lines, the most important factor is consistently using sunscreen. Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to visible sun damage, but that doesn’t mean only people with light skin should protect themselves from the sun. No matter the skin tone, you are vulnerable to the development of skin cancer from UV exposure. Protecting your skin from the sun will help retain your skin’s youthful look and complexion.
When it comes to treating fine lines, especially around the eyes and in between the eyebrows, neuromodulators are the go-to solutions. These injections relax the muscles that cause lines to appear, in turn smoothing out the skin. “If the lines are coupled by changes in the texture of the skin, like crepiness, then we need to remodel and rebuild the collagen with something like IPL or laser resurfacing,” explains Washington, DC, dermatologist Jennifer L. MacGregor, MD.
If you have age spots and freckles:
“Brown spots and freckles are directly related to sun exposure from the past, which shows up years later,” says Dr. MacGregor. Since the skin can’t naturally defend itself against the sun, Dr. MacGregor says it attempts to protect itself by producing melanin, causing freckles and pigmentation.
Again, in preventing the formation of these problem spots, it’s important to stay on top of sun protection. That’s not just for your face, but for your whole body. Age spots can appear anywhere sun exposure is common, so you need to protect all of your skin.
If you are struggling with age spots and freckles on your skin, consider starting with skin care.
Topical retinoids used in tandem with brightening creams can help to lighten discoloration, but, sometimes, something more intense needs to be used, especially if the spots are large and dark. “We can treat those with IPL or lasers, which use energy and light to break up pigment,” says Dr. MacGregor.