For women of color, skin care advice is hard to find. Products and information usually target the white audience and those with darker skin are left to wade through to find what is relevant to their particular skin type. The following are ten things women of color should know about skin care to help their skin look healthy and keep them looking young and radiant.
You need sunscreen. As we discussed in a previous post, women with dark skin may be led to believe that they don’t need sunscreen; the natural melanin they have will protect them from the sun’s UV rays. And while it is certainly more protection than light-complexion provides, it isn’t enough. Sunscreen helps protect against skin cancer and premature aging of skin, including wrinkles.
Skin self-checks should be done on a monthly basis. While skin cancer is not as prevalent in people of color, it can be more deadly because it is often not diagnosed early. Skin cancer in those of color occurs more often on the hands, fingers, feet, toes, nails and mouth. Pay particular attention to those areas when doing a self-check. Examine your entire body and contact your doctor if you see new spots, spots becoming larger or changing shape and spots that change in color.
Know your skin type. While most people think darker skin types have only dry skin, women of color can have oily or combination (dry and oily) skin. Understand your skin type and use products that are specifically made for your skin type, for example, use oil-based moisturizers and make-up if you have dry skin, water-based if you have oily skin. If you aren’t sure what type of skin you have, a dermatologist can help.
Limit washing your face to once daily if you have dry skin. Overwashing can dry out skin and make it look chalky or ashy. Use a gentle cleanser (stay away from soaps on your face) at night to remove make-up and dirt. Use your fingertips to gently massage your skin rather than a harsher washcloth. Make sure water is warm, not hot. In the morning, use warm water only. Stay away from abrasive, harsh cleanser.
Look for facial products made for sensitive skin. Besides dryness, the increased melanin in your skin can cause you to be sensitive to certain products. Stay away from harsh products containing benzoyl peroxide, alcohol, fragrances, dyes, propylene glycol or essential oils. If you want to try a new product, use is sparingly and try it on an inconspicuous area first before using it on your face.
Match your skin tone as closely as possible when purchasing make up. You don’t need to buy the most expensive make up, most drug stores now stock a wide array of different shades of foundation making it easier than ever to find one that is close your skin tone but if you can’t find the right one, consider buying one darker and one lighter and mixing it yourself until you get the right color The closer the match, the more natural your make up will look. Yellow based foundations work best for darker skin. Brown and copper tinted blushes work well with darker skin.
Exfoliate. This helps to get rid of dead skin cells and helps it look and feel healthier. Use a gentle brush, bath mitt or wash cloth and a gentle exfoliating body wash. Make sure to pay attention to your knees and elbows. Exfoliating will help to get rid of the ashy look. Be careful not to exfoliate too often as this will over dry your skin.
Drinking water helps you moisturize your skin. Making sure you stay hydrated helps your skin stay moisturized - from the inside out. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day will help your skin look and feel better.
Spot treat acne. Dark skin can get acne but it is important to spot treat any problem areas. Products made for acne can dry out your skin so you don’t want to use it all over your face. Dab a little acne ointment on the area without spreading it around too much.
Moisturize your skin on a daily basis. Again, use a moisturizer that matches your skin type, oil based for dry skin, water based for oily skin. Heavier, creamier moisturizers can be used during the winter months. Moisturizer should be applied when it is still moist, such as after pat-drying your skin after your shower, to help hold the moisture in. You should also apply moisturizer to your face before applying make up, which helps spread the foundation more evenly.
If you notice any skin problems, see a dermatologist. Many people delay visiting a dermatologist because of the cost, however, in the end you may save money by treating the condition quickly.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.