All healthy skin is beautiful skin, but not all skin care needs are the same. People with dark complexions have different skin issues and skin care needs than those with light complexions, and there's plenty of variation in between. For Black women, understanding which skin concerns are most relevant is an important part of achieving healthy, vibrant skin. Read on to learn what good skin care for Black women looks like and some simple, effective steps to incorporate into your daily routine.
Common Skin Concerns for Black Women
All skin tones have melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color and protects it from ultraviolet (UV) light. But Black skin—which includes a range of darker skin tones—has more melanin. Generally speaking, the more melanin you have, the darker your complexion.
Melanated skin has many inherent advantages, like more natural sun protection and less age-related wrinkling. But it also comes with unique challenges related to increased levels of melanin. According to a study in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology that looked at the special needs of people with skin of color, the top concerns are acne, dry skin, and dark spots.
Acne and Dark Spots
While acne is common in all skin types, in dark skin, blemishes often leave patches of skin behind that are darker than the surrounding complexion. Long after pimples are gone, these dark spots—also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation—can take months or longer to fade. The more melanin your skin has, the more likely you'll develop hyperpigmentation any time your skin is injured or inflamed.
Dry Skin and Eczema
Dry skin and eczema are two other common problems that can be particularly challenging for Black women (and Black men). Dryness on darker skin tones gives it that "ashy" look that's especially challenging to combat in the winter months. And, like acne, untreated eczema can leave behind stubborn dark spots that seem to take forever to fade.
Top Skin Care for Black Women: Tips from a Dermatologist
For Black women, an effective skin care routine focuses on preventing and minimizing these common skin concerns. If you have melanated skin, follow these simple best practices for a healthy, vibrant complexion.
1. Develop a Strong Skin Care Routine
Regularly washing your face with a gentle cleanser like EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser helps get rid of sebum, pollutants, and other impurities that clog pores. To keep dryness at bay, always follow up with a moisturizer. But what is a good face moisturizer for Black skin? A toner with hydration-boosting ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid or Glycerin can help lock in moisture. Seal the deal with a moisturizer like EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer, which includes Niacinamide to help combat dark spots.
2. Don't Skimp on Sunscreen
Black women have some natural protection against the sun, but UV rays can still cause damage, leading to skin cancer and other hard-to-treat hyperpigmentation problems like melasma. So, even if you don't sunburn easily—or at all—daily sunscreen is a must to keep your skin healthy and vibrant. Use a tinted sunscreen like EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for full coverage without the chalky residue.
3. Minimize Hyperpigmentation
When it comes to dark spots, prevention is key. You won't be able to avoid everything that causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but you can definitely lower your risk. Regular skin care including moisturization and sunscreen are good first steps. You should also treat any skin conditions, like acne and eczema, right away to minimize the chance of developing dark spots.
To treat existing dark spots, look for products with specialized ingredients that can help them fade, like Kojic Acid, Retinol, and Vitamin C.
4. Lavish Your Hair with Attention
It's easy to forget that your scalp needs skin care too, but don't leave your hair out of the equation. Black hair has a unique structure that can make it more fragile and lead to damage and thinning. In fact, hair loss is a top concern for many Black women. Developing healthy hair habits can help keep your mane strong and beautiful.
To start, wash your hair every one to two weeks, and use a conditioner each time. Using a hot oil treatment every couple of weeks can also help improve hair moisture and elasticity. If you use relaxers, have a professional stylist apply them every few months and only to newly grown hair. Finally, make sure braids and other hairstyles that sit close to the scalp aren't too tight. This can lead to hair damage and loss over time.
5. Find A Dermatologist Who Understands Your Needs
It's important to find a Dermatologist with experience in treating the common concerns associated with skin of color. An experienced Derm can help you navigate a range of questions, from basic skin care to treating hyperpigmentation to which lasers are safe to use. When looking for a Derm, word-of-mouth recommendations are a good place to start. Another helpful resource is the Black Derm Directory, which lists board-certified Dermatologists with a special interest in skin of color needs.
Revealing Your Best Skin
Keep in mind that good skin care goes beyond your face. Skin concerns like dryness and hyperpigmentation can affect other parts of the body, too, so remember to address them in your daily routine. Focusing on healthy habits for your mind and body, like getting enough sleep and hydrating properly, will also help keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
Black women have unique skin care needs. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple, effective tools that can help you achieve a healthy glow that radiates from the inside out.