African American skin is richly and beautifully pigmented, but just like any other skin tone, medium and darker complexions present unique care challenges. For African American skin, one huge concern is the risk of hyperpigmentation, not only from aging but also from commonly used skincare products. Because many over-the-counter products are formulated with lighter complexions in mind, it might be a good idea to design your skincare regimen with the help of an African American dermatologist at Vibrant Dermatology & Skinbar MD in Dedham, MA.
What Are the Best Care Tips for African American Skin?
The higher concentration of melanin in African American skin is the primary reason why medium and darker complexions behave differently than lighter skin tones. Everything from how your skin holds moisture to how it interacts with the sun will be impacted by higher melanin, so it’s important to understand the basic principles behind good skin care for African American skin. Some of these tips include:
1. Design a Good Skincare Routine
You know what they say – prevention is the best cure for any condition. A consistent skincare routine followed each day is the best way to prevent concerns like acne, dryness, dark spots, and even sun damage for African American skin. An African American dermatologist will be the first to tell you that designing a skincare routine and following this routine religiously is the best way to take care of your skin.
It’s important for people who have medium and dark complexions to select skin care products that do not strip natural oils and are non-comedogenic. A gentle oil-based cleanser can emulsify surface oil, a lightly foaming follow-up cleanser can buff away oil, and a toner can remove any lingering dirt from the skin. When followed by serums and moisturizers designed for your skin concerns, these products can enhance the health and appearance of your skin.
Do You Need to Double Cleanse?
Whether or not a double cleanse method will be best for you will depend on your skin type, skin concerns, and your lifestyle habits. Double cleansing can be beneficial for those who have acne-prone skin and those who wear cosmetics, since an oil-based cleanser will reach deep into the pores to dissolve oil-based pollutants and a foaming cleanser will remove any lingering dirt, oil, or cosmetics that may not have been removed by the first cleanse.
A dermatologist will be able to tell you if a double cleanse is appropriate for your skin type, lifestyle habits, and skin concerns. Even people who have very dry skin or sensitive skin can benefit from a double cleanse using the right skincare products.
2. Sunscreen Is Still Important
Many people with African American skin make the mistake of assuming that they don’t need sunscreen because they are not likely to be sunburned, even in the hottest summer sunshine. However, while sunburns are not likely, sun damage is still a very real threat. Sun damage can cause early aging and hyperpigmentation, so it’s important that sunscreen is part of your daily routine. If you aren’t sure what sunscreen to use, a dermatologist will help you select between chemical sunscreens and topical sunscreens.
3. Moisture Is Key
While the higher melanin in medium and dark complexions does offer some natural protection from the sun, it’s also one of the reasons why African American skin becomes drier more easily. Moisturizing your skin is absolutely key to maintaining your glow and supporting the health of your skin. There are a variety of moisturizers that work well with medium and dark complexions, including hyaluronic acid, certain oils, and creams that will lock moisture into your skin. Moisturizing twice a day is usually the most effective practice.
4. Aging Will Be Slower But Wrinkles Still Happen
Although your skin may be slower to show visible signs of aging, fine lines and wrinkles will eventually affect you. While people with lighter complexions may experience early visible aging starting in their 30s, people with medium and dark complexions will usually see visible aging between the ages of 40 and 50. While you may be able to delay using anti-aging skin care products, it’s generally a good idea to start using these products early to maintain high collagen production in your skin. The longer you can maintain your collagen, the younger you will look.
5. Treat Acne Early
Acne is common for many people and regardless of your skin tone, early treatment is the best way to control breakouts and minimize scarring. However, medium and dark complexions often face the challenge of more severe post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can’t be treated as easily as people who have lighter skin tones. This is because many of the treatments for hyperpigmentation lighten the skin, which is not advisable for people with darker skin tones.
Treating your acne early will prevent breakouts and prevent any inflammation in the skin that will cause hyperpigmentation. If you aren’t having success with at-home products, then you may want to seek the advice of a dermatologist who will be able to help you identify products that will work best for the acne you have.
Using Benzoyl Peroxide
The most common acne-fighting skincare product is benzoyl peroxide, a substance that is well-known to bleach towels, clothing, and other linens. Some people with medium to dark skin tones may be concerned that benzoyl peroxide will also lighten skin, but this is a myth. The common concentration of 2.5% is perfectly safe for those who have medium to dark skin tones, so there should be no problem using benzoyl peroxide as part of your acne treatment.
However, because benzoyl peroxide can cause excessive dryness for those who have dry skin types, it may be best to consult with an African American dermatologist before using these products. There may be alternatives to benzoyl peroxide that can help you manage your acne without drying your skin.
6. Embrace Vitamins
It’s also important to embrace vitamins – and not just in your diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that targets all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs (or incorporating supplements to bridge the gap if you have deficiencies or dietary restrictions) is important so your skin has all the tools to be healthy and happy. But diet and adequate water intake is only one part of the equation.
It’s also important for medium and dark skin tones to use vitamin-based products as part of your skincare routine. For example, Vitamin C serums are highly effective for gently evening the tone of your skin, as well as moisturizing the skin and balancing skin function. Other vitamins to consider include Vitamin A and Vitamin E, both of which can moisturize and reduce inflammation of the skin.
Vitamin A vs Retinoids
It’s important to note here that Vitamin A products don’t necessarily mean retinoids, which you may want to consult with an African American dermatologist before using as part of your skincare routine. While most retinoids are formulated with Vitamin A, you can also use pure Vitamin A in organic or natural skincare products for a gentler effect if you aren’t ready to take the retinol plunge just yet.
7. Consult a Dermatologist
While a good skincare routine and using high-quality skincare products will make a huge difference in the appearance and health of your skin, you may eventually come across a skin condition or concern you can’t manage by yourself. When that happens, it’s time to reach out to an African American dermatologist who will understand the unique challenges of medium and dark complexions.
An African American Dermatologist Can Help You
It’s particularly important to consult with a dermatologist who specializes in African American skin before you use certain treatments, such as acids, because darker skin tones are at higher risk of hyperpigmentation and skin lightening. A dermatologist will be able to point you in the right direction of gentle products that will be effective for your concerns without presenting pigmentation problems.
Take Care of Your Skin Effectively
Much of the beauty advice imparted in popular media is subconsciously geared toward people with lighter skin tones, but people who have medium to dark complexions have unique skin challenges that may need a different approach. An African American dermatologist can give you the tips and tools you need to customize a skin care plan for you that will address all of your concerns and promote skin health. Please contact Vibrant Dermatology & Skinbar MD in Dedham, MA to schedule your initial appointment today.