One thing that stops Black women (and men) from accessing the best information, treatments and products to care for their skin is the number of myths and misconceptions about Black skin that litter the beauty and skincare world.
These create unnecessary fear and confusion, so it’s time to settle the matter once and for all.
- ‘Black skin doesn’t need sunscreen’
Yes, it does! The sun speeds up premature ageing and will make hyperpigmentation (darker patches of skin) worse, so don’t be a stranger to your broad spectrum SPF30 UVA/UVB sunscreen.
- ‘Black people can’t get skin cancer’
Black people can get skin cancer, including the type caused by the sun, albeit at a lower rate than white people, but that is not a hall pass to be less vigilant about sun protection.
Experts say that Black people are more likely to die from skin cancer because we spot the signs a lot later than white people, because we are not used to monitoring our skin for changes.
- ‘The sun charges melanin to keep Black skin black’
False. Melanin (the natural pigment that gives your skin its colour) isn’t produced by the sun and neither does it need charging. Over-exposure to direct sunlight without sun protection can lead to burns and hyperpigmentation.
- ‘Hydroquinone is bad for Black skin because it bleaches and lightens the skin’
Hydroquinone (a skin-lightening agent) is bad for the skin only when used incorrectly and without medical supervision.
It’s actually a great ingredient for solving hyperpigmentation concerns, but it’s unfairly got a bad rep because certain groups use it carelessly for bleaching and lightening their skin.
- ‘Black skin can’t have advanced treatments such as chemical peels, micro-needling or laser treatment’
This is incorrect. Black skin can successfully have all these treatments. Just ensure your practitioner is qualified and experienced.
Treatments are always improving, and some can be easily modified to suit Black skin, so don’t be put off.
- ‘Black don’t crack”’
We love to say this, but Black will crack if you slack.
Black skin is not immune from “cracking”, that is, fine lines and wrinkles; it just happens at a slower rate than white skin.
Black skin having more melanin is not an excuse not to look after it or not to protect it from the sun and other types of environmental damage like pollution. Apart from lines and wrinkles, discolouration is also a sign of ageing.
- ‘Black skin needs specialist skincare’
False. Black skin can use readily available skincare.
You just have to be conscious that there are some ingredients, such as tyrosinase inhibitors (tyrosinases are responsible for melanin formation; tyrosinase inhibitors are used for the prevention of severe skin diseases and also in skin-whitening creams) that work better for darker skin because of their interaction with melanin. On the whole, it’s skincare according to skin type just as much as skin colour.
- ‘Shea butter is the best moisturiser for Black skin’
Shea butter, and any butters or oils in their pure form, can clog your pores and will form a seal over skin, stopping it from getting rid of natural waste, sweat and toxins.
- ‘Glycolic acid is unsafe and unsuitable for Black skin because it causes hyperpigmentation’
Glycolic acid (a type of acid used to remove dead skin cells — often found in wrinkle creams) is both efficient and effective in exfoliating the skin and fading dark marks.
It is a complete misconception that it is unsafe and unsuitable for Black skin. You just have to select the right one, at the correct strength, and use it appropriately for your skin type.
Sadly, most problems that arise with glycolic acid are down to user error.
- ‘Mandelic acid is better than glycolic acid for Black skin’
False. Both are equally suitable for Black skin.
- ‘Black skin should avoid chemical sunscreens because they cause hyperpigmentation’
No truth in this.
Sometimes, like any product, some ingredients in chemical sunscreens may not agree with you and can result in a rash-like reaction that may cause temporary hyperpigmentation. It’s simply a case of trying another sunscreen.
This extract from the book Black Skin was provided by Jonathan Ball Publishers.