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If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good skincare routine and I take great pride on what I put on my skin. I have spent years learning about the specific ingredients targeted to treat my array of skin issues and tried just about everything out there in the process. As exciting as this has been, and not to mention expensive, I can’t help but wonder if many of these beauty products and ingredients are actually safe for my skin and people of colour in general.
As dark skin contains more melanin, it is more susceptible to hyper-pigmentation, a result of trauma to the skin or inflammation (post-inflammatory pigmentation). This can occur for many reasons such as injuries, excessive sun exposure (wear your SPF!) and even hormonal imbalances. If you add unsuitable skin care products to this list, this also causes an array of skin issues.
When the wrong skincare products are used, irritation occurs. On dark skin, this irritation usually causes the skin to send more pigments to the surface or produce more melanin in a concentrated area as a protective response. For small children, the skin rapidly repairs itself and the scars or pigmentation will fade. However, as we age, our collagen production and cell turnover drastically reduces and it takes a little longer for this process to kick into full effect.
Whilst trying a myriad of products to fade my own hyper-pigmentation or reduce my breakouts, I found that many with rave reviews would make my skin visibly worse. To add to my confusion, I would scroll through reviews online to find before and after pictures of people with near-perfect skin who had achieved great results from products that just weren’t working for me. After much deliberation, I realised that I wasn’t receiving the same results as these people because I didn’t have the same skin as them.
So, I researched a little more into treating dark skin and after making small but substantial tweaks to my skincare routine, I finally saw progress. I’m a firm believer that sharing is caring so I have assembled a list of tips, with personally selected product recommendations, to help you along your skincare journey.
Select your actives carefully
Although alpha hydroxy acids work very quickly and effectively to renew the skin, at times I found them a little too much for my skin to handle, especially with daily use. Mandelic acid poses as a wonderful alternative as it is gentle enough for daily use and the molecules are large enough to not penetrate the skin as quickly as other acids, which in turn reduces the risk of hyper-pigmentation in dark skin. I found the The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid gentle enough to aid in evening out my skin tone and apply it before my moisturiser at night.
Cleanse your skin effectively
Understandably, the urge to strip our skin until it is squeaky clean often gets the best of us. This is why I am so adamant on oil cleansing, the first step in any cleansing process I select. But when I need some extra assistance, I will opt for African Black Soap, an ancient traditional beauty secret originating in West Africa. African black soap has been hailed to reduce breakouts by drying up the pimples and fade scars by increasing cell turnover, without altering your skin tone. It is often nicknamed ‘microdermabrasion in a bottle’ and because it is so powerful, should initially be used once a week and as your skin becomes accustomed, you can increase this to a maximum of two or three times a week. I use the R&R Luxury liquid Black Soap or the Akoma Black Soap Liquid, and always follow up with an intense moisturiser.
Use soothing ingredients to calm your skin
As inflammation is usually determined by redness, this is harder to see in darker skin tones and therefore, easier to ignore. Often we even feel as though if a product tingles or burns slightly, then it is ‘working’. This most certainly isn’t the case and lately, I have been sure to make a point of not using any products that make my skin feel this way. Instead, I focus on anti-inflammatory ingredients, and my favourite is oatmeal. A long-term staple I have always used is the Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion loaded with pre-biotic colloidal oatmeal and perfect for eczema sufferers. I also recently discovered their dermexa range with added ceramides, an absolute necessity for your moisture barrier, and have been loving their Aveeno Dermexa Emollient Cream.
Protect your skin
With so much emphasis on moisture and hydration, the importance of protecting our skin with an emollient is constantly neglected. The role main role of an emollient is to form a barrier on the surface of the skin whilst softening it in the process. Our skin is unable to repair itself with a damaged barrier and if you moisturise and hydrate without sealing this in, you will experience transepiermal water loss. The Eucerin’s Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm is an excellent product to use for this as it literally creates a non-comedogenic film over the skin. Alternatively, I can always rely on organic, raw and cold pressed shea butter or a balm such as the Vemel Wonder Balm.