Let's face it: If you're a man, taking care of your skin may be the last thing on your mind. Some men have been led to believe that good skin care habits are more about vanity than health, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Being healthy includes having healthy skin—no matter who you are.
Skin care for Black men is especially important because it helps prevent common concerns associated with higher levels of melanin. And, like with anything else, a little maintenance goes a long way. Read on for a closer look at the key skin care products for Black men and how to develop an effective, no-fuss skin care routine that supports your health and vitality.
Common Skin Problems in Black Men
People with skin of color, including Black men, have unique skin care needs and concerns. According to a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, the top skin concerns in people of color include acne and blemishes, dry skin, and dark spots.
These dark spots—which may seem to come out of nowhere and take forever to fade—are also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and they come from melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Everyone has melanin, but Black skin has more of it, resulting in a darker complexion. Higher levels of melanin also increase the likelihood of developing dark spots. This means that dark patches can be left behind anytime Black skin is inflamed or irritated, and they can take months—or even longer—to fade.
In addition to dark spots, many Black men deal with razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae. Razor bumps occur when curly hair grows back into the skin, causing localized inflammation in the beard area (or wherever you shave). These tiny, inflamed bumps aren't dangerous, but they can be unsightly, a nuisance to deal with, and hard to get rid of.
Good Skin Care for Black Men: Tips from a Dermatologist
A solid skin care routine helps prevent the common problems that many Black men face with their complexions. And fortunately, it doesn't have to be anything complicated or time-consuming. Think of it as part of your overall hygiene routine, like brushing your teeth, and start with these basic steps.
1. Wash and Moisturize Regularly
The first step to healthy skin is keeping it clean. Wash your face at least once daily and any time after you sweat. A cleanser like the EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser washes away pollutants, sebum, and other impurities, leaving skin fresh and balanced.
Moisturizing right after cleansing is particularly important for darker complexions to prevent patches of dry, ashy skin. Look for products like the EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer, which contains Hyaluronic Acid to lock in moisture and Niacinamide to combat dark spots.
2. Slather on the Sunscreen
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma is one of the top three types of cancer to affect men age 49 and under, and the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays cause skin damage no matter who you are. Not only is sunscreen key to preventing skin cancer—which affects all skin tones—but it also prevents hyperpigmentation. Apply sunscreen every morning after cleansing and moisturizing, and remember to reapply every two hours if you're spending the day outdoors or after swimming or sweating.
Using a tinted sunscreen with chemical blockers, like the EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, can help sunscreen absorb into your skin without leaving a chalky residue behind. Tinted sunscreen also contains Iron Oxide, which the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology explains protects against hyperpigmentation caused by blue light from electronic screens.
3. Minimize the Risk of Razor Bumps
If razor bumps are a problem for you, growing your beard is a foolproof way to get rid of them for good. For men who don't want to go this route, changing how you shave can help keep razor bumps in check.
After cleansing your skin, hold a warm compress to your beard area for five minutes to loosen the hairs (or shave immediately after you shower). Next, apply a moisturizing shaving cream and let it sit for one to two minutes. Once your skin is prepped, use a sharp or electric razor and shave slowly in the direction that your hairs grow. (If they grow in many directions, there are ways to train your hairs to grow together.)
Don't shave an area more than once and avoid pulling your skin taut as you shave. Follow with a cold compress for five minutes and an aftershave with soothing ingredients like natural oils, Aloe vera, or Vitamin E.
4. Keep Hyperpigmentation at Bay
It's impossible to avoid everything that causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but you can definitely lower your risk. Keeping your skin moisturized, protecting it from the sun, and not picking at any blemishes are good first steps. It's also important to treat any skin conditions like acne right away to prevent dark spots from forming in the first place.
If dark spots are already a problem for you, use creams or moisturizers that have other specialized ingredients to help them fade fast, including Retinol, Kojic Acid, and Vitamin C. For more stubborn discoloration, a board-certified Dermatologist can advise you on prescription-strength treatments with Retinoids or Hydroquinone.
5. Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
Your skin's condition reflects the state of your inner health, so focusing on other important aspects of your well-being will help you maintain a healthy complexion. A whole, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will give your skin the nutrients it needs, and limiting sugar and ultra-processed foods can minimize inflammation. It's also important to develop habits that help fight stress, like regular meditation or exercise.
Finally, it's best practice to regularly monitor your skin for any changes. If you notice that spots are changing in color, shape, or size, visit a Derm as soon as possible.
Good skin care is important for everyone, including Black men. If you're not sure where to begin, start by experimenting with what works for your skin. The EltaMD Men's Trial Kit, for example, makes taking care of your basic needs super easy by combining a sunscreen, cleanser, and moisturizer suitable for all skin types. Incorporating these few simple steps into your daily regimen can keep your skin healthy and ensure you're bringing your best self to everything you do.