It’s amazing to think back on the fundamental truth of so many lessons we learned in elementary school and daycare. Concepts like following directions, keeping your hands to yourself, and treating others how you want to be treated are essential skills that even adults can follow to make the world a better place. And there’s another lesson that’s incredibly true too: that we’re all unique and no two people are exactly the same.
That fact applies to more than our personalities…it applies to our skin too. Every person’s skin has unique features and sensitivities. But there are patterns, of course, and there are certain issues that people with skin of color are more likely to experience than people with less pigmented skin. Truth be told, most skin care tips are geared toward people with light skin. If your skin is richer in melanin, how can you help it truly embrace its natural beauty? Follow these top tips for melanated skin.
1. Don’t Underestimate the Sun
There’s a common myth that people with dark skin don’t get skin cancer and aren’t affected by sun damage. Yes, skin pigmentation does reduce your sun damage because the pigment is blocking some of the radiation from reaching the depths of your skin, but no one is immune from sun damage. You can still develop skin cancer as well as age spots, wrinkles, and other premature signs of aging. Apply daily sunscreen every morning no matter how dark your skin is.
2. Take Steps to Prevent and Minimize Acne
People with more melanin in their skin are more prone to a cosmetic issue called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. Ever had a pimple and then a dark spot on your skin after the pimple went away? That’s PIH, and once it sets in, it’s tough to get rid of it.
The solution is to take a proactive approach by using a cleanser that’s specifically formulated to reduce and prevent acne . Make sure to follow it with a moisturizer so it doesn’t dry out your skin along the way. And if you do have a steady flow of pimples that are still fighting their way through your preventative measures, go see a dermatologist sooner rather than later so you can get your acne under control and prevent PIH.
3. Steer Toward Products for Sensitive Skin
The darker your skin is, the more melanin-producing skin cells (called melanocytes) you have. Unfortunately, melanocytes are more susceptible to irritation and inflammation, so the darker your skin is, the more sensitive it’s likely to be.
What does that mean for you? As you’re shopping for skin care, it’s best to steer toward products for sensitive skin . You should especially avoid products with fragrances and dyes because these are the most common culprits for skin irritations.
By the way, this increased sensitivity applies to anything that touches your skin elsewhere too. Ditch scented laundry detergents, for example, and body lotions with dyes in them.
4. Choose Skin Care Professionals Who Know Your Skin
Let’s have an honest chat here: not all skin care professionals have the same amount of experience. More specifically, not all skin care professionals have much experience with skin of color. We’re talking aestheticians, facialists, even dermatologists – any of them can have gaps in their knowledge when it comes to caring for skin of color.
As you’re choosing who to trust with your skin, make sure you find those who are truly experts in caring for beautiful skin like yours. Especially if you live in an area where there isn’t much ethnic diversity, talk to people with similar skin tones to yours and ask for recommendations.
5. Avoid Cranking Up the Hot Water
I know, everyone loves a nice hot shower on a cold day. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but hot water is notorious for drying out your skin. Truthfully, using hot water isn’t a good idea for anyone, but some research indicates that skin of color (especially Black people’s skin) loses moisture more easily than lighter skin.
Instead, opt for lukewarm water for your shower as well as washing your hands and washing your face. For good measure, apply facial moisturizer and body lotion immediately after you towel off to lock in as much hydration as possible.
6. Be Careful About Laser Treatments
It’s easy to see all the latest laser treatments on the market and think they’re the ultimate in professional skin care but hold your horses. Laser treatments actually have a higher risk of complications for people with melanated skin. The pigment in dark skin can attract the laser’s heat (in the same way that you feel warmer outside if you’re wearing darker clothes because it’s absorbing more of the sun’s rays).
There are some newer laser technologies that are safe for some darker skin tones. If you have a skin care professional recommending one of these procedures, though, it’s a good idea to ask to see before and after pictures of patients with similar skin tones to yours.
Don’t worry, though – there are plenty of treatments that can deliver amazing results without the risks of lasers. Try chemical peels, for example, as an alternative to anti-aging laser treatments, and consider epilation instead of laser hair removal.
Loving and Caring for Your Skin
There has been a powerful movement in the past few years to encourage people of color to embrace your natural beauty and be proud of everything that makes you unique. With the tips above, you can help that natural glow to shine through and enjoy stunning, healthy skin every day.