Women are the majority sex on this earth and it’s a proven fact that no two or three of us are exactly alike. We thankfully come in many variations—size, shape, likes and dislikes, and for that matter, skin tones and types. Unfortunately though, the broad range of skin tones is still nowhere nearly as addressed by the mainstream beauty conglomerates as one would want to believe or hope, for that matter. Casting an “ethnic” celebrity as a spokesperson is a nice step forward, yet there are still many companies that don’t make the same investment into an olive-toned pressed powder as opposed to fairer shades. But enough about the challenges of finding the right makeup for women of color. True beauty is about your uniqueness—and having gorgeous skin is a powerful reflection of who you are. Besides, the healthier your skin is, the less makeup you need.
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New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Elana Jones spoke to Charlotte’s Book about her preferred skincare tips and cosmetic treatments for women of color. A woman of color herself, Dr. Jones relates to her patients through years of research, clinical training and continuing education.
The saying goes that proper skincare trumps all makeup application. Would you eat off a dirty plate? No way. The same rigor, by default, should apply to one’s skincare routine. Clean skin is healthy skin. Proper at home skincare is important, including gently cleansing your skin morning and night. Popular brand Cetaphil, says Dr. Jones, is one that could be a great default skincare item. “Both the regular cleanser and its oil control formula are gentle products that can be used by most skin types.” In addition, CeraVe, Aveeno and Neutrogena are other brands that have products that cater to the different needs of African-American skin, Dr. Jones explains.
Another key skincare must-have that many women of color pass up: a broad spectrum sunscreen will block the UV-rays that cause the melanocytes to activate and trigger more pigment. “Thus, it should be applied frequently. One ounce of sunscreen should be applied every hour. Ideally, if we spent 8 hours at the beach, we should use a complete bottle of sunscreen. So, yes they prevent and help to protect from hyperpigmentation,” explains Dr. Jones.
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According to Dr. Jones, one of the major considerations when caring for skin of color is that even minimal inflammation can cause persistent and prolonged hyper-pigmentation. Therefore, she explains, “It is important that care is taken not to pick at the skin. For example, picking at pimples and even tweezing hairs may lead to dark spots that can be difficult to treat.” Protecting your skin from the sun as well as keeping it clean and free of irritants is also essential to minimizing inflammation.
Gaining in popularity, several of the latest cosmetic treatments are now safer for women of color. The benefits: evening out skin tone and texture, improving radiance and spurring the production of collagen, which is what keeps your skin firm. What’s most important when considering a procedure, “is knowing who is doing the procedure and how comfortable they are with skin of color.” Just as important, is whether or not the clinician knows how to handle any problems that may arise. (Read Credentials We Abide By to learn more about how we select cosmetic dermatologists in The Book).
Superficial peels are the best for skin of color. In the appropriate hands, Dr. Jones tells us that glycolic, salicylic acid, Jessner’s and combination peels, such VI peels, can safely be used on skin of color. “Medium grade chemical peels, such as low strength TCA, can also be used, but again these should be done by experts in skin of color.”
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Some lasers, which are being incorporated into skincare routines more and more, are also safe on skin of color. The YAG laser can minimize acne scars, pigmentation issues, and perform permanent hair removal. Same goes for the increasingly in-demand non-ablative Fraxel laser, which also helps reduce dark spots, while boosting collagen production to reduce wrinkle depth and firm the skin. “Again, it is extremely important to go to an expert in skin of color when receiving a laser treatment. In general, ablative lasers, such as CO2 lasers, should always be avoided!” she warns Dr. Jones.
The bottom line: It’s impossible to generalize what peel or laser will work best on skin of color because there is a vast range of hues and ethnicities that make up the spectrum of women of color. Dr. Jones and numerous physicians agree that ultimately, the safest and most efficient way to care for ethnic skin is to consult with a board-certified dermatologist whom is comfortable in developing an individual plan for the specific needs and sensitivities of this demographic. The cosmetic health community will cater to the needs of ethnic skin, let’s hope the beauty conglomerates continue to evolve and offer more of what is needed as well.