I was 27 years old when I found out everything that I knew about my skin was wrong. For context, I’m 28 now and have been a skincare fanatic since I was about 14. That’s a long time to be getting things wrong. But unfortunately, it’s not uncommon, especially for Black women. Imagine walking into a drug store to quickly pick up your shade of foundation. You’re looking on the shelves and realize that the darkest skin tone is the color of your palms. So you try the next store, and the next store… and the next store, but none of them have a foundation dark enough for you.
The exclusion of darker complexions in the beauty industry is an example of passive racism that’s visible to us. Thankfully, it’s beginning to change thanks to brands like Fenty Beauty, IMAN Cosmetics, and influencer Jackie Aina. But that’s only because it’s visible; you can see that there’s a lack of diversity in shade ranges and voice your concern. With skincare products, the issue is more complicated because it starts with how products are tested in the research and development stage.
One common misconception is that darker skin requires more aggressive skincare products, but the opposite is actually true. Melanin-producing cells are usually more susceptible to the effects of inflammation and injury. So the darker your skin, the more reactive it will be to skincare products. This means that products that are too harsh for you could actually be making your skin worse. So, what’s a girl to do? Here are some things I’ve learned:
1. Do Your Research
Use social media for diversified skincare reviews. Look for people with a skin tone similar to yours, and ask about their skincare favorites. Or research BIPOC-owned skincare brands. Buying products from BIPOC-owned brands is a great way to invest in diversity and ensure that you’re getting products created with your skin tone in mind.
Shop our editors favorite Black-Owned skincare:
2. Invest in High-Grade Treatments
I had my first chemical peel just before COVID-19 changed our world. The results were incredible. I had never seen my complexion so flawless. I avoided chemical peels for years because of the horror stories I had heard from other BIPOC women in my circle, including things like skin burns, scars, and painful peeling processes. I spoke to my esthetician about that, and she said that many skincare providers automatically assume darker skin needs the highest concentration of products for the peel—that’s what was causing the damage. During my chemical peel, she made sure to use the gentlest formula so that I saw the results I wanted.
It was more than worth it. If you choose to get a chemical peel, take my esthetician’s advice and make sure you ask for the formula for sensitive skin or the lowest grade of acid. My first chemical peel was a VI Peel. After the seven-day peeling process and when I saw how different my skin looked, I had to research the brand. Lo and behold, the woman behind the brand was a Woman of Color.
3. Always Wear Sunscreen
I still can’t believe there was a time where people thought we didn’t need sunscreen. I was definitely one of those people, but now I can’t leave my home without SPF. Because melanated skin is more sensitive, it’s crucial that we protect it against the elements every single day. Yes, that means winter too. Not wearing SPF not only causes long-term damage, but it also makes your current skincare routine less effective. And thanks to brands like BlackGirlSunscreen, you no longer have to worry about a blue or chalky cast with your SPF.
4. Listen to Your Skin
The best bit of advice I can give you is to listen to your skin. You know you best. If something makes your skin feel worse, it’s not for you.