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My friend Eric and me!
Contrary to popular belief, skin is not just skin. Dermatologists even qualify different skin types on a scale known as the Fitzpatrick scale; different types denote different susceptibilities to skin diseases, treatment plans and options. In a prior interview of mine with African-American dermatologist Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, M.D., she informed me, “African-American skin is different. It’s more resistant to treatment, yet it scars more easily. You especially have to be concerned about acne scarring.”
In the U.S., African-Americans make up over 20% of the U.S. population, and that number is expected to reach 25-30% by 2030. Yet, even though 1 out every 5 people currently has black/African skin (Fitzpatrick type IV-VI skin), there is nowhere near 1 out of every 5 products designed especially for African-American skin. Though they are limited in number, there are a few skin care and cosmetics brands designed exclusively for those darker skin tones, such as Dr. Susan Taylor’s Rx for Brown Skin, as well as IMAN Cosmetics and Black Opal Cosmetics.
According to scientific research, darker skin tones are:
- +Less susceptible to signs of premature aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles (New England Journal of Medicine, 1997). When people joke, “Black don’t crack,” there is truth to it. Darker skin tones contain higher concentrations of melanin, a skin pigment that provides natural protection from UV light, preserving skin’s natural collagen and elastin structure, as well as replication of these cells in the future. It is not unusual for black men and women to look up to 15 years younger than their chronological age.
- +Less susceptible to skin cancer. For the same reason (increased pigment), those with the darkest skin tones are also the least likely to have basal cell carcinoma or melanoma.
On the other hand, darker skin is prone to the following on the face:
- +More susceptible to uneven pigmentation, appearing as age spots, vitiligo, or melasma (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2008). The fact that more melanin is produced also means that more melanin production has to be regulated. When this process is not entirely regulated, the skin looks blotchy, uneven, and even spotted.
- +More susceptible to hypertrophic (raised) scars, including keloid scars. The exact reason for this is unknown, but is believed to be related to overactivity of immune cells called macrophages.
- +Less likely to have positive reactions to laser treatments, including laser hair removal. The trauma to the skin can cause a reaction known as ochronosis, in which the skin becomes darker than before, typically in affected sections of the skin.
- +More likely to have negative reactions to skin lightening agents like hydroquinone. The reflexive darkening of pigment known as ochronosis is seen in patients with darker skin in over 98% of cases.
- +Less natural production of vitamin D. Darker skin is able to absorb more UV light before showing signs of damage, and has evolved to produce vitamin D once triggered by UV light. When compared to those with lighter skin tones, those with darker skin tones naturally produce far less vitamin D (The Lancet, 1982).
There are also the following conditions on the body:
So treating darker skin tones requires a lot of consideration. You’re treating acne, hyperpigmentation, and scarring, but you have to avoid many traditional acne treatments, bleaching agents, and laser treatments. (!) What’s a girl (or guy) to do? Read on!
What are the Best Skin Care Products for Black/African Skin?
FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser 8.31 ($39.00, Coming Soon – FutureDerm.com/Shop)
Don’t worry – this post is not an advertorial for FutureDerm products. (Just see the other recommendations below!) Rather, this post is written to tell you about the best products for black/African skin, and our cleanser just happens to be one of them.
FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser is formulated to be a twice-daily, skin-softening detox. FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser will purify the skin and balance its charges, with SiQube, an ingredient shown in independent studies to firm skin and improve barrier function (Gelest, 2012). Our new cleanser also contains vitamin E, sodium trideceth sulfate (a safe, gentle sodium lauryl sulfate alternative), and a triple tea complex, with green, white, and red rooibos teas designed to provide a high concentration of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a compound with potent anti-inflammatory, anti-wrinkle, and antioxidant properties ( ).
So why am I recommending FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser for darker skin tones? Simple. While I love FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser for all skin tones, those with darker skin tones tend to treat their common skin conditions (acne, hyperpigmentation, scarring) with harsh, chemically-rich treatments. FutureDerm Skin Reborn Facial Cleanser fortifies the skin, making it soft on the outside (just touch it afterwards!) and strong on the inside (enhanced barrier function), prepping the skin for further treatments. It’s really solid – I suggest you try it! Plus, it comes with our unconditional money-back guarantee.
Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2 – For Day and Night ($30.12, Amazon.com)
It can be daunting to treat black or African skin – some of the most highly recommended treatments, like laser treatments, hydroquinone, and acne extraction can leave to reflexive darkening of pigment, resulting in uneven spots and even scarring.
That said, one treatment that is great for skin of color is a good ol’ chemical peel. In comparison to other treatments, chemical peels with even the strongest concentrations of glycolic acid and/or lactic acid are well-tolerated by darker skin tones for skin conditions including (but not limited to) acne vulgaris, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma, scarring, photodamage, and pseudofolliculitis barbae (Dermatologic Therapy, 2004). Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2 contains 11.25% glycolic acid – while some solutions contain higher amounts, Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2 contains unbuffered glycolic acid. “All things equal, a glycolic acid treatment with a lower pH will have greater efficacy than a treatment with a lower pH,” according to cosmetic chemist Dr. Konstantinos Lahanas, Ph.D. Which explains why I’ve seen great results with Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2. After just one use of Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2, skin looks and feels more luminous.
If your skin gets dry or ashy after repeated use, start using Glytone Rejuvenate Step 2 every 2nd evening, gradually working up to nightly use. Then start using it daily under a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
Dr. Susan Taylor Rx for Brown Skin Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 – For Day ($34.66, Amazon.com)
Despite the fact that darker skin tones have a higher concentration of melanin, darker skin tones still are susceptible to visible signs of aging accumulating over time as a result of prolonged UV exposure. (How’s that for a sentence?) What’s more, the sun hits the face in uneven distribution – think about sitting in a car, by a window, or even walking down the street. This uneven distribution of UV light makes it ultra-important for those with a tendency to produce higher amounts of pigment following sun exposure to cover up their skin – or get patches and uneven pigment everywhere!
Enter Dr. Susan Taylor Rx for Brown Skin Daily Moisturizer SPF 15. When used daily, this moisturizer designed for men and women of color will protect and defend against premature signs of aging and sunspots. I recommend reapplying at lunchtime. (Plus, if you reapply at lunchtime, you also have to freshen up your makeup – now there’s a beautiful bonus!)
Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin D Serum/Oil – For Night ($42.59, Amazon.com)
Darker skin tones naturally produce less vitamin D (The Lancet, 1982). However, vitamin D has well-deserved notoriety for its use in topical skin care creams, demonstrating promise for the treatment of acne (though not as significantly as retinoids), allergic contact dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis, as well as general anti-inflammatory/anti-aging action. Vitamin D applied topically to mouse skin has been found to significantly decrease the size and diameter of acne lesions (British Journal of Dermatology, 2006), in a manner similar to retinoids. However, retinoids in the study decreased the density of acne, whereas vitamin D only reduced the size and diameter of pimples. (Something to keep in mind!)
The fact that darker skin tones do not produce as much vitamin D could also indicate that people with darker skin have natural compensatory mechanisms, making up for the fact that they produce less vitamin D in their skin. However, if you have darker skin and suffer from acne, dry skin, and/or redness or irritation, it is likely that vitamin D topical supplementation could help, as with regular use of Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin D Serum/Oil. If your skin is oily/acne-prone, I recommend applying Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin D Serum/Oil for 30 minutes and toweling off afterwards. A basic rule of chemistry is “like binds like,” so the oil will bind the oil on your skin, and toweling off will leave your skin with less oil, but its emollient properties will leave skin softer and smoother.
Contrary to popular belief, skin is not just skin. As any experienced dermatologist will tell you, different skin tones are more susceptible to different skin conditions, diseases, and treatments. For those with darker skin tones, the major concerns are acne, hyperpigmentation/age spots/uneven pigmentation, raised scarring – and a more severe reaction to acne treatments, bleaching agents, and laser treatments! It’s almost ironic. Yet, with the right skin care regimen including low-pH alpha hydroxy acids and other non-hydroquinone age spot-fighting agents, vitamin D, and sunscreen, there is no reason why every person of color can’t have skin as great as Rhianna or Halle Berry. It’s all a matter of using the right ingredients consistently.
What are your thoughts on the best skin care for persons of color? Let me know in Comments!