Basic care for all skin types is the same, but there are some conditions that occur more often among certain ethnic groups. For African Americans and others with darker skin, for example, there are benefits and challenges that can be addressed with specific skin care products and routines.
Skin color is determined by how much melanin is found in the skin. More melanin produces darker brown and black skin, but within each skin color and type, there is a wide range of overlap and tones. Everyone’s skin is different, and different skin tones require their own products and care.
Finding the right skin care regimen for you can improve the overall texture, tone and appearance of your skin. What are some of the best African American skin care routines?
Keep Skin Clean and Oil Free
African American skin typically has more oil glands, and the glands and hair follicles tend to be larger, which ultimately causes black skin to be oilier. One of the benefits of having slightly oilier skin is that the telltale signs of aging typically appear much later than with lighter skin tones. As a result, dark skin tends to look younger longer.
However, with oily skin comes a greater risk of acne, which can trigger dark spots to appear after pimples have cleared. Some medications used to treat acne — such as the oral antibiotic minocycline — can actually cause pigmentation problems in dark skin. If your acne is not responding to over-the-counter treatment, consult a dermatologist who has experience treating acne in people with darker complexions.
Use a gentle cleanser daily and avoid hot water and abrasive scrubs. Even if you have oily skin, you should still use a good moisturizer as part of your daily skin care routine. Water-based, non-comedogenic moisturizers that won’t clog your pores are the best choice.
Use Daily Sun Protection
Darker skin has higher concentrations of melanin, which naturally provides more protection against UV rays, sunburn and the sun damage that can lead to fine lines and wrinkles. The melanin in African American skin provides a sun protection factor (SPF) that is about 13.4 compared to 3.4 in white skin.
“Even though African American skin provides some protection from UV rays and does not always visibly burn, sun damage can still cause uneven skin tone,” says Dr. Moneé Thomas of U.S. Dermatology Partners of Houston – Bellaire. “Skin cancer, though less common, is also a threat.”
To protect against the sun’s damaging UV rays, use an oil-free moisturizer with built-in sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher as part of your everyday skin care routine. You should also wear protective clothing whenever you are outside in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
Protect Against Pigmentation Changes
Dark skin is more likely to develop pigmentation problems, which can cause dark spots called hyperpigmentation or melasma, a condition that occurs when the skin produces too much pigment. Other times color is lost, called hypopigmentation or vitiligo, causing light color patches to form. Both conditions are common in darker skin types.
Dark spots can take a long time to fade on their own, but there are many treatment options available to help speed up the process. Using a non-greasy skin tone correcting moisturizer at night can help to hydrate skin, fade dark spots and even out skin tone over time. Many over-the-counter moisturizers are especially formulated for all skin tones and contain antioxidants to brighten the skin’s surface.
Prevent Keloid Scars
A keloid scar is a firm, raised scar that can form wherever skin is damaged, such as by a cut, piercing, tattoo, burn or even acne. Sometimes, the keloid can grow up and out from the healing area, leaving a scar that is bigger than the original injury.
This type of scarring is the result of an overproduction of collagen and is very common in skin with darker pigments. People with darker skin are 15 to 20 times more likely to get keloids. They can occur anywhere on the body and typically form around three months after the initial wound.
One way to help prevent keloids is to start treating the injured area immediately by washing the area with soap and water every day, holding pressure on any wounds and covering them with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Once the wound has healed, use a silicone gel bandage on the skin for 12 to 24 hours a day for two to three months.
Keloids can also be treated with cortisone injections, surgery and laser surgery. If you have a history of keloid scars, make sure to let your dermatologist or other physicians know before any planned procedure.
To learn more about unique skin care routines for all types of skin tones, contact U.S. Dermatology Partners today to speak with one of our board certified dermatologists.