The phrase “Black [or Brown, depending] don’t crack” is probably one you’ve heard before — or even used yourself. A fact of life. It has always been true. As black women, we heard that good skin is a genetic trait that has been passed through our universal DNA. We also heard it once a week for our entire life as our moms sprayed on Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds like it was pest control.
Women over time have been manipulated by the beauty industry into buying things we don’t need or doing things that in the grand scheme of biology aren’t necessary (cough cough shaving). Women of color, especially, have had to conform to European beauty standards for generations. We changed our hair, lightened our skin, and did all kinds of things in order to keep up with the Joneses, but how did this one beautiful but somewhat stereotypical idea get passed down?
It’s the genes. Everyone in the world has melanin in their skin. It’s what causes any kind of pigment whether you’re fair and pink or deep and brown. We talk about melanin magic in the black community a ton. However, I’m willing to lead the charge in correcting ourselves because it’s actually eumelanin magic. Eumelanin is the specific type of melanin that makes dark skin dark. The more you have, the darker you are. Skin specialist and aesthetician Bianca Estelle explained in an interview with Broadly that because of it Black women “have a natural protection,” which she calls “the ozone layer of our skin.” Additionally, according to Estelle, darker skin can have more oil, which keeps skin looking great.
We talk about melanin magic in the black community a ton.
Also in the genes is the ability to take in sunlight really well. National Geographic reported that a 2014 study suggested that darker skin was an evolution of the people who lived in sunnier and warmer climates in order to protect them against UV rays. The thinking was that, maybe, all people once had pale skin, then everyone had dark skin, and then some had lighter skin again when they no longer needed as much protection from the sun. Now, we can also thank evolution for helping protect darker people from those pesky rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “people of color have a lower risk than whites of getting skin cancer. But, they still have a risk.” So, while there seems to be some real protection from the sun (which can cause accelerated aging), it doesn’t mean that you’re completely in the clear.
Think about the Gabrielle Unions, Nia Longs, and Bianca Lawsons of the world. Across the board, they’ve been playing young characters (successfully, might I add) for years. The average person doesn’t have all of the trainers and makeup artists and a fountain of free-flowing cash to throw into keeping it all together as more well-off celebrities do, of course. But there are things that we can do to help. We have to keep in mind that protecting our skin is key to keeping this idea of “Black Don’t Crack” alive. We can do these things pretty easily and that will help keep our genes on task.
We have to keep in mind that protecting our skin is key to keeping this idea of “Black Don’t Crack” alive.
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Drinking water is so important and not just when you’re on rent check week and you’re trying not to spend that much at that dinner with friends. We also have to wear sunscreen on the daily. Yes, young black people, you do need sunscreen. It’s been a long-standing myth that black people don’t need it, but I and the American Academy of Dermatologists are here to bring you the truth. These are tips that stand the test of time, aren’t major lifestyle changes, and don’t cost $65 at Sephora. At least, not usually.