Brown Skincare: The Overview

loreal british red

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:


Kim K

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!

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7 comments

  1. Hi!! Thank you for the info!! As a black female college student with a low income, I have no choice but to use drugstore products. I have a hyper pigmentation right above my upper lip and under my nose. I’m not really sure what product I should use to make it disappear. I’ve started to use sunscreen lately and I’ve started to work on a skincare routine. What do you recommend? And what is your skincare routine?

    • No worries sister! You can still find the right stuff in the drugstore! I’m so happy to hear that you’re using sunscreen.

      I am going to do a post on my skincare routine in the near future, but to give you a brief overview (so you can get your own routine going) this is my routine:

      1. Cleanser (natural cleanser that is non irritating and moisturizing – I have dry/combination skin
      2. Toner – to reinforce/protect skin’s moisture barrier which gets shaky after you do a necessary cleanse
      3. Serum – to get the skin ready for moisture and, for me, to add more moisture
      4. Moisturizer: I use oil + moisturizer on my dry spots and just moisturizer on my areas that are OK (my t-zone is normal and slightly oil in the summer).
      5. Eye cream (a must!).

      I cleanse my face twice a day – in the morning and the evening – because your skin has outside stuff on the surface (like sweat and grime from overnight) and just grime in the evening. When using SPF to protect your skin, it is VERY important to get it off. So I would say you must DOUBLE CLEANSE. By that I mean remove your makeup with your usual makeup remover and then follow that with a skin cleaning and moisturizer routine.

      Here’s what I would recommend for you (be sure to do patch tests before using on your face and neck) and read the labels to see if anything in there might irritate you (because I don’t know if you have any allergies and all that:

      Cleanser: Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash with Organic Tea Tree Oil and Awapuhi

      Toner: Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner

      Serum: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Rejuvenating
      Facial Serum (there is vitamin C in it that will help with your dark spots)

      Face/ eye cream: Bayberry Naturals Mega Moisture Face & Eye Creme

      For pigmentation treatment: Nip+Fab Pigmentation Fix

      You can get them at drugstore.com! I made sure to check the website.

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