Aunts and friends often ask me why my skin looks so good. The presumption all around is that, because I am blessed with brown skin, my skin is naturally perfect and I do nothing to keep it looking as good as it does. That’s not entirely the case.
I was blessed with good skin (thanks mom!) but I do the right thing to make sure it stays healthy. I have slacked in the past with skincare – particularly in regards to moisturizing and cleansing – and felt the effects of it. Never again!
The thing for brown skinned beauties to keep in mind when walking into the drugstore or a high-end beauty counter is this: the beauty industry promotes skincare ingredients that are of concern to people with lighter skin. Ads always focus on skincare products which “boost collagen,” “infuse skin with melanin” and also products that are full of “anti-aging properties,” “fine line corrector’s,” and, of course, “redness corrector’s.”
Well guess what? None of those things are of great concern for black women (or any other women with deeper skin). Here’s why:
Deeper skin is deeper and consequently has a lot more melanin in it. Melanin is stuff that everyone has in their skin. It’s what makes us deeper skinned beauties so beautifully brown, and it’s what beauties with lighter skin happen have less of: pigment. That’s why lighter skin is lighter. Melanin is also the thing that keeps skin limber, elastic-y strong, smooth, and generally wrinkle free (bearing that you’re not smoking or living an otherwise deeply ravaging lifestyle). When people with deeper skin age they sometimes suffer discoloration or pigmentation issues (due to growing older) or they look all around younger if they look after their skin in the right way. As people with lighter skin age they will deal with wrinkles and ridges in the skin, age spots, loss of elasticity or, if they use the right products, they look fairly youthful for their age. All of our skin is made up of the same stuff but brown skin needs more of this and less of that than lighter skin.
Yes, it is important for women of colour to wear sunscreen (so ladies, if you’re not already doing so you better start doing it now), but it’s important for different reasons. The result of sun and free radical exposure shows up as redness, sallow yellow pallor, rough red spots, and, with time, lines on lighter skin. For deeper skins the results of sun exposure and sun burning are the following things:
Dull skin/grayish pallor
Severe unevenness in texture
Discoloration & pigmentation
Here’s what sunburn looks like on lighter skin:
Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find a good picture of what sunburn looks like on darker skin. But I’ve seen it on my mother: when we were in Nigeria, and she failed to bring sunscreen – thinking that because she was born and raised In Anambra State it was OK for her to do without it, she burned. Her burn showed up first as tender skin, roughness, and then some pigmentation. Luckily for her I brought aloe gel and lots of sunscreen (which I used religiously on her and me). I left Nigeria with nothing but an even tan (yes black people tan), and great memories.
Let me say that again: deeper skin that is sunburned will feel rougher to the touch than skin around it, tender, and, when the tenderness subsides, it will produce that pigmentation (read: skin that is darker than other areas of the skin).
Eczema, in fact, has a similar effect to sunburn in appearance on the skin for people with deeper and lighter skin.
Ezcema on deeper skin:
– See the texture issue? (EB)
– Pigmentation issue (Skinsight)
Eczema on lighter skin:
– Redness, peeling (WebMD)
Brown skinned women should be looking for products that brighten, improve texture and evenness of the skin tone. And, if you have a noticeable case of it pigmentation, look for products that aim to lighten pigmentation and spots.
Skincare ingredients which women with brown skin should be looking for include:
Fruit, nut, vegetable, and leaf based oils (read: like olive, rosemary, macadamia, seaberry, gooseberry, sunflower, shea butter, Jojoba, carrot, and argan oils). If you’re allergic to nuts, or any particular fruit, you would reach for whatever oil is appropriate.
Fatty acids (which brighten, nourish, and repair skin)
Vitamins A, E, D (fortifiers, strengthening barriers)
“Free radical protection” (which protect against the sun and city skin which, as I have explained, impact women of colour in different ways).
Resurfacing (if, due to sun exposure or any sort of irritation, you have severe spots and unevenness in texture. Then you’ll need to look for this too).
I am specifically listing these things as what you should be looking out for because, as you will see, some of the products in my routine promote “wrinkle fighting” or “anti-aging.” These are all claims which you’ve just heard me say are besides the point for me. But, as is the case with anything you buy, you have to know what to look for and you have to be proactive: read your labels and do your research. You should continue to read some more after reading this post too. In any case, I’m hoping this post empowers you when you go in search of your beauty and skincare products.
That’s all she wrote on skincare. But there is much more to come later!