Different skin care routines benefit different skin colors, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). This is due to variances in the structure and function of the skin.
Some conditions that people with black skin may experience include:
- acne, which includes pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads
- changes in pigmentation, which causes areas of discoloration
- contact dermatitis, or inflammation that occurs from contact with an irritant or allergen
- eczema, a skin condition that causes itchy, dry, and cracked skin
- seborrheic dermatitis, which appears as scaly patches on the scalp and face
In this article, we cover five top tips to care for black skin.
1. Cleanse and moisturize daily
Using a noncomedogenic cleanser may help prevent skin problems.
To keep skin bright and supple, it is best to cleanse and moisturize it daily, ideally right after showering.
Use a gentle cleanser that does not clog the pores. It may be worth looking for one that claims to be “noncomedogenic.”
Massage the cleanser into the skin with clean fingertips, then rinse it off with warm (not hot) water and pat the skin dry with a clean towel.
Some research suggests that black skin loses moisture quicker than some lighter skin tones.
To avoid this, and to prevent the skin from looking ashy, apply a daily moisturizer that contains humectants, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid. Humectants retain moisture in the skin.
People can purchase moisturizers containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid online.
A highly effective moisturizer is petroleum jelly (Vaseline). However, people should take care when applying thick products such as this to the face, as they may cause acne. Be sure that they are noncomedogenic before applying.
Avoid moisturizers with fragrances, as these can irritate some people’s skin. Moisturizers that include creams or ointments are preferable to lotions.
Do not use a loofah or other similar exfoliating product on the skin. Also, avoid abrasive scrubs.
2. Always wear sunscreen
One of the biggest myths about black skin is that it does not burn, and that black people do not need to wear sunscreen. This is untrue, and everyone should use adequate sun protection.
Although people with black skin are less likely to get skin cancer from sun exposure, they are more likely to die from the condition if it does develop. This may be because it is more difficult to notice and diagnose.
Sun exposure can also cause dark spots, such as those typical of melasma, to develop on black skin. It can also make existing spots darker.
The AAD recommend using a waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that protects against both ultraviolet (UV) A and UVB rays. This is called broad spectrum protection.
People should apply sunscreen all year round to all areas of exposed skin, even on cloudy days, when in the shade, and in the winter.
Many regular moisturizers contain SPF, including facial moisturizers. Sun protection is especially important on the face, as it is often the only part of the skin that gets sun exposure all year round.
Face creams with SPF are available in pharmacies, drug stores, and online.
People can also wear special clothing for extra sun protection. A range of UV protection factor clothing is available online.
3. Consider treatments for hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation, or areas of skin discoloration, can affect people with any skin tone.
Although sunscreen can prevent new patches of hyperpigmentation from developing, it does not get rid of existing dark spots. That said, it can prevent existing dark spots from getting darker.
To reduce the appearance of existing dark spots, people can use a specialized product. These typically include ingredients such as:
- Retinoids: Over-the-counter topical differin and prescription-based products such as tretinoin can be helpful.
- Hydroquinone: Products containing hydroquinone stop the production of excess melanin, which causes dark spots.
- Kojic acid: This is another skin lightener that can reduce dark spots, but it may be less effective.
- Vitamin C: Some research suggests that vitamin C, an antioxidant, can reduce hyperpigmentation, protect against sun damage, and increase collagen levels. However, vitamin C has a poor ability to penetrate the skin, so more research into its effectiveness for these purposes is necessary.
People should use these products — particularly hydroquinone and kojic acid — with caution, as overuse could irritate the skin.
It is important to not use hydroquinone for extended periods of time. Aim to take a break after 3 months of continuous use.
After long periods of use, hydroquinone can result in darkening of the skin. This is part of a condition called exogenous ochronosis.
Dermatologists may recommend a combination product that combines multiple products into one that people can use on their skin.
4. Treat acne early
A person with acne should try to avoid scented laundry products.
Treating acne early could prevent the condition from getting worse. It may also prevent the formation of dark spots on the skin, which is part of a condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These spots are not scars.
Establishing a gentle daily skin care routine can help stop acne, as can using noncomedogenic, oil-free products.
People should also try to avoid irritants, such as scented laundry detergent and skin products with heavy perfumes. It is important for a person to see a dermatologist to learn about the products that may be appropriate for their specific type of acne.
5. Eat a balanced diet
Good skin care starts on the inside. To give skin the nutrients it needs to form and repair itself, eat a healthful diet rich in:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- lean protein sources, such as fish, eggs, legumes, and tofu
- healthful fats, including nuts, avocado, and olive oil
Avoiding processed and sugar-filled foods and limiting alcohol intake may also help improve skin health. Alcohol may make certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, worse.
People with a skin condition such as acne or eczema should speak with a dermatologist to determine whether there are any foods that may make symptoms worse.
Establishing a good skin care routine can help keep black skin bright, supple, and clear.
As well as performing a gentle daily routine and adopting a healthful diet, people with black skin should aim to avoid using products that contain harsh chemicals and fragrances.
Specific skin issues, such as acne and dark spots, benefit from swift treatment and preventative techniques.
To prevent the formation and worsening of dark spots and more serious health concerns such as skin cancer, experts recommend that everybody use sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.