A few days ago, I was virtually shopping for a new skin sunscreen and typed “sunscreens for people of color” in the Google search bar. I realized that my white counterparts would not have to tailor their searches for their skin color because the cosmetic and skincare worlds are white-centered.
Asian people have been excluded from the American skincare market for generations. This is apparent in the limited shade range of tinted sunscreens. As Vanessa (@cleancurator) mentions, “It’s quite apparent, but there aren’t many base products in clean makeup that focus on the more yellow undertone of Asian skin.” Since the American skincare industry is white-centered, many of the skin issues it aims to fix do not cover issues prevalent among Asian people, such as hyperpigmentation.
This lack of consideration for Asian people can have serious consequences in medical care, specifically in dermatology. Many dermatological procedures, such as chemical peels and dermabrasion, were first tested with white patients. If Asian people wished to receive these treatments, they must actively search for dermatologists that understand skin color. Why aren’t all dermatologists taught how to treat multiple skin tones? Why aren’t cosmetic procedures created with all types of people in mind? Not having a seat at the skincare table puts Asians at greater risk for other skin issues, such as melasma.
This lack of representation in the skincare market and dermatological procedures speaks to a larger theme of Asian people being excluded from American society. The perpetual feeling of being foreign, or “other,” is emphasized when our skin concerns are not heard. We should not have to adjust our expectations to accommodate for the lack of inclusivity in the skincare industry. The best way to continue to establish our role in this American industry and ensure our concerns are being treated is by supporting Asian-owned skincare brands. As Kasey (@pleinvanity) says, “Until women of color can shine and more voices are heard, clean beauty is going to continue to be very one-sided.”
Tulsi Patel (she/her) is a first-year student at UNC-Chapel Hill from Whiteville, NC. She is majoring in Neuroscience and Anthropology. These disciplines intersect in her interest in how cultural practices affect people’s health. She has been an active participant in the Asian American community for multiple years, as an executive officer of her high school’s Asian Cultures Club and a co-captain for a few Asian dance student organizations. Her academic pursuits and passion for the Asian community have led to her interest in AAPI advocacy, specifically destigmatizing mental health while increasing access to mental health resources in the AAPI community. She hopes to continue to pursue this field through both scientific and cultural research at UNC-CH.
In her free time, Tulsi enjoys long walks, dancing, air frying random foods, and knitting.