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How to Take Care of Skin of Color

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

When it comes to all things skin care, your skin type determines which steps should be in your daily regimen and which ingredients or formulas should be nourishing your skin. But as it turns out, there is one other factor you need to consider to make sure your skin stays in fighting form: Your skin tone. And while plenty of products are designed to work for all skin types, those with deeper skin tones may have specific needs that require special attention.

“Women of color will face different skin aging concerns than lighter skin types. For instance, one of the first aging concerns of women is usually lines and wrinkles, but this is not necessarily true for skin of color. Women of color generally worry about pigmentation issues, and Latina and Asian women—depending on their skin tone—might be concerned about both,” explains cosmetic chemist Debbie D’Aquino.

Top Concerns for Skin of Color

If you have a deeper skin tone, the excess melanin can help stave off the appearance of crow’s feet and laugh lines. This, however, does not exempt you from a host of other concerns that are unique to your skin tone nor does it lend credence to the myth that it lowers your risk of developing skin cancer. In fact, according to the experts at Epionce, those with skin of color—generally falling under Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI—are likely to experience the same concerns and challenges as lighter skin types but may require a more targeted approach when it comes to maintaining skin health.

D’Aquino agrees and adds, “Although basic skin care needs are the same for everyone, there are some concerns that deeper skin tones are more likely to experience, such as ingrown hairs, certain depth and types of uneven skin tone, darkening of skin, stubborn marks and raised flaws that stand out from a person’s natural skin color.” To know more about the best skin care for women of color, below is a list of the most common skin concerns of deeper skin tones and how to address them.

Dehydration: Although dryness and dehydration are often used interchangeably, they are not the same, says D’Aquino. “Dry skin lacks oils and lipids while dehydrated skin lacks water in the upper layer of the skin,” she adds. Both, however, are common in deeper skin tones, which can be triggered or further aggravated by the use of harsh soaps that strip the skin’s barrier of moisture and natural oils. To prevent this, make sure you start your skin care routine with a gentle cleanser and avoid over-exfoliation, then follow with a rich moisturizer with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, suggests D’Aquino.Dark Spots: For those with deeper skin tones, dark spots or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation often occur after an inflammatory lesion from acne or bug bites, explains board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Gordon of Westlake Dermatology in Austin. “This is almost impossible to avoid, but to make it fade faster, make sure you are using a broad-spectrum SPF that is 45 or higher,” adds Dr. Gordon.Discoloration/Hyperpigmentation: While deeper skin tones typically have more protection against photoaging or UV-induced skin aging, they’re also prone to developing age spots and dark patches that leave the appearance of an uneven complexion, explains D’Aquino. Aside from broad-spectrum sunscreen, D’Aquino suggests adding skin-refining ingredients and treatments to your daily regimen such as non-irritating alpha or beta hydroxy acids to gently improve and even out your skin tone and a brightening serum to fade blemishes and discoloration.Sun Damage: It’s a common myth that deeper skin tones don’t need to worry much about sun damage, but D’Aquino says this is far from the truth. Constant exposure to ultraviolet rays “leads to invisible inflammation and a cascade of aging side effects regardless of your skin color,” she explains. The experts at Epionce echo this, saying that chronic inflammation is one of the risk factors that can lead to certain types of cancer. Needless to say, it’s important to not only wear sunscreen daily and visit your dermatologist for regular skin checks but to also make sure you arm your skin with barrier-repairing and anti-inflammatory skin care products.Scarring: Hypertrophic and keloid scarring is more common in skin of color because of a gene abnormality that stimulates excess collagen production when the skin is wounded, explains clinical dermatologist and Epionce founder Carl Thornfeldt. “Acne is often a struggle because of the scarring or discoloration that can occur after a lesion,” he adds. “Treatment procedures must be approached very cautiously and a proper post-treatment regimen is crucial,” he emphasizes.Oiliness: Excess oil production can occur in all skin types regardless of skin tone, says Dr. Gordon, and there are different approaches in re

medying this concern. As a general rule, D’Aquino suggests washing your face with a soap-free product to avoid over-cleansing and stripping your skin. Oil-based cleansers are also helpful as cont

rary to what most people think, oil attracts oil. “If you do use an oil-based cleanser, it’s best to follow with a gentle, non-stripping toner and water-based, oil-free moisturizer to rebalan

ce your natural moisture barrier,” D’Aquino advises.

What Ingredients to Look For

In general, those with deeper skin tones don’t necessarily need to stick to a specific set of ingredients or formulas when it comes to building their skin care regimen. It is, however, important to look for products that deliver their intended benefits without risking irritation or inflammation, says Dr. Thornfeldt. “The skin barrier is compromised in many skin of-color patients and a damaged skin barrier leads to inflammation, which aggravates all the most commo

n concerns that skin-of-color patients struggle with. So I always start with recommending a product that will help repair the skin barrier and stop chronic inflammation to rejuvenate the health of the skin,” Dr. Thornfeldt explains.

Aside from this, the best skin care products for women of color should have multitasking actives that can help improve texture, even out complexion and encourage cell growth and regeneration. Here are some of the best ingredients for skin of color you’ll want to consider:

Vitamin C: As one of the most hardworking skin care ingredients, vitamin C delivers a plethora of benefitsthat include wound healing, boosting collagen synthesis, brightening dark spots and protection from UV damage and pollution. “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that is naturally and normally found in the skin in high concentrations. It oxidizes (neutralizes) free radicals in the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist

Ashley Magovern. It can also act as a melanin inhibitor that helps correct dark spots and prevent future discoloration.AHAs and BHAs: Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (such as lactic, glycolic, malic and salicylic acids) are known anti-aging ingredients that gently exfoliate the skin to even out tone and complexion and speed up cell turnover to effectively treat pigmentation and scarring, explains board-certified dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum.Antioxidants: Antioxidants provide the skin with much-needed protection against free radical damage and oxidative stress. They encourage the skin’s natural repair process, delay signs of aging and prevent inflammation. Their anti-inflammatory response protects the skin against sun damage and photoaging, preventing sunburn, dark spots and uneven skin tone.Ceramides: Naturally produced by your skin, ceramides are a type of lipid that have been proven to increase the skin’s hydration, maintain moisture levels and strengthen barrier function. They are particularly essential for those with skin of color who often struggle with dry, flaky and dehydrated skin.

As for ingredients you need to be wary of, D’Aquino says, “Those with skin of color should avoid the same ingredients that everyone needs to avoid.” These include parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, oxybenzone and alcohol, which are known to trigger irritation and allergic reactions, strip and dry out the skin and, in some cases, even affect the body’s overall health.

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