15 facts about Irish skin
The pale Celtic complexion is much coveted abroad, but imperfections are more noticeable on fairer skin, which is also at a higher risk of sunburn. Here we offer a few tips to help better manage a delicate complexion
Published 28/07/2015 | 02:30
Our Celtic complexions may be coveted by many, but it's not always easy to live with skin that burns easily, freckles in the sunshine and is more prone to certain conditions. Having typically Irish skin - fair, pale and more likely sensitive than not - is wonderful when it's in good nick, but if you're experiencing skin troubles or just wondering how to manage your porcelain complexion as you age, this is what you need to know.
1 The fairest of them all
"The most common skin type among Irish women is categorised in dermatology terms as Fitzpatrick's type 1-2," explains Selene Daly, dermatology clinical nurse specialist working with Elave. "This is skin that burns easily in the sun, freckles and is light in colour."
So this means that pale Irish people are truly the fairest of them all and, as a result, predisposed to more skin conditions.
2 Everybody wants it
Throughout her career, Selene has found that the Celtic complexion is in fact coveted abroad. "It's said that our Korean counterparts have a 17-step skincare routine in an attempt to gain translucent, clear skin."
In fact, the use of bleaching creams is popular abroad to achieve paler skin.
3 High risk of cancer
Irish skin is more at risk for skin cancer, which is one of the most common forms of cancer in Ireland. "According to the Irish Cancer Society, we have over 10,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in this country every year," says Selene. "Most skin cancers occur on the face, ears, neck, arms and lower legs, and over 90pc of skin cancer is caused by overexposure to UV light which can occur from the sun or sunbeds."
Ironic, perhaps, in a country that doesn't get much sunshine, but could perhaps be related to our fair skin, or our lack of care when it comes to sun safety. Detection is key with any kind of cancer, so if you've noticed any unusual changes in your skin, do get it checked out by your GP. Melanoma, or a cancerous mole, is a very common type but skin cancer is not restricted to just your moles.
4 No sunbeds
By now, everyone should know that using a sunbed is risky business when it comes to your health, but a lot of Irish people seem to think that getting a "base" colour before holidays by using one of the machines is better than baring your pale, underexposed skin to the foreign sun. In fact, according to Ipsos, 12pc think it is safe to go out in the sun without protection if already tanned. Not true.
"Sunbeds are classed as a level one carcinogen and it is now illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a sunbed in Ireland," says Selene. "An American study found recently that, worldwide, there are more cases of skin cancer due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking."
Using a sunbed means concentrated exposure to UVA rays, which can cause skin cancer. So it's not just UVB rays that cause sunburn that will leave you at risk - many people think it's the burn that's the issue, but that's not the case.
5 Wear sunscreen year round
Fair people need to wear sunscreen most of the year. "The most important part of any skincare routine should be daily use of sunscreen between the March 1 and the September 30 - regardless of the weather," says Selene. "This is the season where the UV levels are at their highest, increasing the chance of burning."
It might seem like an awful lot of hassle, but sun creams and oils are a lot more sophisticated now, and instead of sitting on your skin in a white, gloopy mess, they can hydrate and even improve the look of your skin.
Buying a daily moisturiser and foundation that includes SPF is an easy way to make sure your face is protected at all times.
6 We are prone to rosacea...
Anyone with pale skin knows that redness shows up far more easily on fair skin, and can often lead to skin looking discoloured. CC (colour correcting) creams have become popular here as they help balance out the skin tone, but if you have a condition like rosacea, it can be a little more tricky to manage flare-ups.
"Terrifyingly known as the curse of the Celts, rosacea is an extremely common skin condition," explains Selene. "Rosacea tends to affect the cheeks, forehead, chin and nose, and is characterised by redness, dilated blood vessels, also known as telengectasia, small red bumps and on occasion pus-filled spots often with a tendency to blush easily. Triggers for rosacea include spicy foods, alcohol, moving from cold to hot temperatures and exposure to UV light.
"As a basic measure, it is important to use skincare which is sensitive and won't block pores, and again, the most important part of the skincare routine for sufferers of rosacea is daily use of a high SPF."
7... and keratosis pilaris - bumpy skin
Another issue that shows up on pale skin, keratosis pilaris occurs when there's a build up of keratin that blocks the opening of the hair follicle. It's common on the backs of the arms and the thighs, and while it doesn't really have any symptoms apart from discomfort when it's dry, it can be unsightly, causing red bumps and a rough feeling to touch. Exfoliating and using a moisturiser that contains salicylic acid or urea can help break down the keratin build up, but unfortunately there is no cure.
8 Beware of free radicals
We need to watch out for free radicals. "Free radical activity is responsible for many undesirable skin changes including photo damage lines and wrinkles and skin cancer. It's caused primarily by overexposure to UV light and pollutants such as smoking and environmental issues," explains Selene. "Using an antioxidant with a concentrated vitamin C base can protect against free radicals, and can reduce redness and hyperpigmentation."
9 Dry, sensitive or oily?
"It's so important to know your baseline, whether we have dry, sensitive, combination or oily skin, so an effective skincare routine can be formulated."
Whether you visit a dermatologist to find out or a beauty counter, a trained professional will be able to establish your skin type and recommend products to suit it. Oily skin may feel greasy but it still needs hydration, while combination skin means different areas of the face may need to be treated differently.
Selene recommends visiting a dermatologist to deal with hyperpigmentation and acne, as well as thread veins which can benefit from IPL treatment.
10 Hurrah for vitamin a
Vitamins A and C are fair skin savers. "Vitamin A in the form of retinol is an old dermatology solution for both acne and anti-ageing. It's extremely effective with a long-standing list of clinical data to back up it's efficacy, but it's recommended to build up the strength gradually as it can irritate," says Selene.
It's important to note that it can increase photosensitivity, so exposure to UV light is a no-no when using retinol. Vitamin C helps our skin in lots of ways, from boosting collagen production to helping maintain a healthy complexion.
11 Read the ingredients
If you've got eczema or psoriasis, read the ingredients on your skincare packaging as you would on food labels. "Try to select products which have little or no preservatives, because these can trigger eczematous reactions even in women without a history of sensitive skin," says Selene.
If you're worried about sensitivity, go for the most natural products possible.
12 Watch what you eat
In Ireland, we're known for not having the healthiest of diets despite the abundance of fresh produce grown here. A bad diet can mean unhealthy skin, and fair skin is susceptible to flare-ups. If you're suddenly suffering from eczema, psoriasis, adult acne or hyperpigmentation, a blood test can determine if you have any food allergies or intolerances.
13 We are prone to adult acne
As with other skin conditions, fair skin can make red, swollen spots look even angrier. Adult acne is more common nowadays, and the first instinct for many is to go at it with harsh products or chemicals. Selene advises patience and care, as well as avoiding overly abrasive products. "Oil free or 'non-comedogenic' cleansers and moisturisers should be used to treat the skin twice daily, but if skincare alone does not clear up the problem, then the advice of a GP or dermatologist should be sought.
"Remember what your mother said and never pick or squeeze spots either, as it can lead to scarring."
14 Our foundation is too dark
Blogger Leanne Woodfull has tried lots of different foundations to find one that matches her alabaster complexion, and has found that two brands that are known for making make-up for fair ladies are Rimmel and MAC. The latter is a pricier option, but its foundations and concealers are separated in to two categories - NW and NC.
NW is for skin with a pinkish tone, so that's most fair-skinned, typically Irish ladies. The shade NW10 is very pale. However, Rimmel's budget option is even paler in the shade Light Porcelain, and more widely available.
15 We love faking it
Fair-skinned ladies are happy to fake it. However, not all pale ladies are content to stay that way - research shows that we have the highest use of fake tan per capita, with Irish self-tanning brands growing all the time to meet the demand.
If you desire a bit of a glow, it's certainly best to reach for the fake stuff - safer than tanning or sunbeds, with no skin damage and it can reduce the appearance of certain skin conditions like keratosis, pilaris and psoriasis without aggravating them.
Health & Living