Some skincare tips are universal (everyone should cleanse and wear sunscreen every day), while others are highly dependent on skin type, lifestyle, and skin tone. If you’re Black, it’s especially important to use formulas beneficial to your complexion and unique needs. Why? Black skin has higher levels of melanin that can be susceptible to effects of inflammation and injury causing common issues such as hyperpigmentation (darker spots compared to the surrounding area), scarring, and eczema.
Sometimes, though, finding the right products, resources, or a dermatologist who know how to care for melanated skin can be challenging. Case in point: people who identify as Black or African American make up 13% of the American population, but only 3% of dermatologists in the U.S. are Black.
Among the Black dermatologists in the United States are Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham of Downtown Dermatology in Columbus, Ohio and Dr. Onyeka Obioha of Boutik Dermatology in Los Angeles, California. Together, they have over 27 years of experience treating skin of color. To help close the education gap around melanated skin, we spoke to Dr. Hicks-Graham and Dr. Obioha who shared their top tips for supporting radiant, healthy, melanated skin.
Wear Sunscreen All Year Round
Contrary to popular belief, everyone should be wearing sunscreen every day no matter one’s complexion. Not only does sun care protect all skin from the sun’s burning rays, but it also helps prevent skin cancer, premature aging, and the exacerbation of hyperpigmentation, the latter of which is a common experience in the Black community.
“Because our pigment-producing cells are more reactive and we tan easily, if you're having sun exposure and you're concerned in treating hyperpigmentation, you're not going to get anywhere unless you protect the hyperpigmentation from getting worse,” Dr. Obioha explains. And SPF 30 or higher is the only way to protect skin from the sun.
Keep Your Skincare Routine Simple
If you have sensitive skin, like those with eczema-prone skin, a no-frills skincare routine is best, according to Dr. Hicks-Graham.
“Eczema-prone skin tends to be sensitive to fragrance, perfume, and dyes,” she explains. As such, Dr. Hicks-Graham recommends using formulas that don’t have “a lot of additional colorants, colors, fragrances, and dyes.”
Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate
Hyperpigmentation can occur frequently for those with melanated skin.
“In darker skin, our pigment-producing cells, so our melanocytes, are more reactive. Any time there's any inflammation from a rash or acne, we have a higher tendency to produce hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Obioha says. “Alpha and beta hydroxy acids are great brightening ingredients,” Dr. Obioha says, recommending products containing these. For those with dry or sensitive skin, Dr. Hicks-Graham recommends looking for products formulated for those skin types, particularly those containing moisturizing ingredients in order to better “maintain skin’s integrity,” she says. Mandelic acid is especially great for melanated skin, like in YTTP’s Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant.
When in Doubt, Seek Professional HelpWhen in doubt, consult with a dermatologist or other skincare professional when you’re dealing with a persistent skin issue or need help creating a skincare routine tailored to you. For example, in the case of eczema, Dr. Hicks-Graham recommends “getting professional help sooner rather than later, before a lot of itching happens, which can make you scratch and can contribute to hyperpigmentation.”
For answers to other skincare Qs, book a free 15-minute Skin Session with a skincare education expert here.
Written by Shammara Lawrence for Youth To The People