Do Women of Color Need Special Skin-Care Products?

In This Article:

It might surprise you to learn that darker skin tones do not require special skin-care products. Why not? Because skin color is not a skin type!

None of the research indicates that skin color has anything to do with the skin-care products you need. It's not that darker skin tones don't have some physiological differences from lighter skin tones; it’s just that those differences don't impact what products you should be using. Read on to find out what everyone needs for healthy, beautiful skin—regardless of its color.
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Skin Care is Color Blind

When it comes to skin care, skin is skin—no matter the color. Think of it like your diet: Regardless of our ethnic background, we all need the same nutritious foods (that supply antioxidants, fatty acids, protein, vitamins, etc.) to be healthy. The exact same concept applies to skin. Skin is the body’s largest organ which is why everyone’s skin needs the same ingredients to address dry skin, acne, wrinkles, sun damage, uneven skin tone, oily skin, rosacea, sensitive skin, and so on. All of these problems affect every color of skin.

Everyone’s skin also needs the same basics to care for it: gentle cleansing, sun protection, and state-of-the-art products for their skin type. It is also important to avoid problematic ingredients such as alcohol, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, lime, and natural or synthetic fragrances. Exposure to irritants always will worsen any condition on any color of skin.

What You Must Know

  • Always use a gentle, water-soluble cleanser (avoid bar soaps; they are too drying, can clog pores and cause skin to look ashy and feel dry).
  • Always choose products that are appropriate for your skin type (i.e. gels and serums for oily or combination skin; creams and lotions for dry skin).
  • Always use a well formulated sunscreen during the day (the most typical cause of uneven skin tone for women of color is sun damage).
  • Always use products loaded with state-of-the-art ingredients including antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and cell-communicating ingredients.
  • Always read ingredient labels or get product recommendations from The Paula's Choice Research Team’s reviews on Beautypedia.

How is African-American Skin Unique?

Although basic skin-care needs are the same for everyone, there are some issues that darker skin tones are more likely to experience. For example, African-Americans may be more prone to skin issues like keloidal (raised) scarring, pronounced hyperpigmentation, and ingrown hairs.

Research shows that the only real difference between African-American skin and Caucasian skin is the amount, size, and distribution of melanin (the cells which produce our skin’s pigment). Excess melanin accounts for the darkened or ashen appearance darker skin has when it’s irritated or sun damaged, whereas the same conditions would cause lighter skin to appear pink, red, or, if more melanin is present or stimulated, mottled tan.

Dark Skin and Sun Damage

Everyone’s skin color is created by the amount of melanin in their skin. More melanin means darker skin color; less means lighter skin color. Having lots of melanin gives women of color an added advantage when it comes to how their skin handles sun exposure and how soon the damage becomes visible. Essentially, the more melanin your skin has, the more natural defense your skin has against the sun.

Although the extra melanin is good news for those with darker skin tones, it doesn’t mean damage from unprotected sun exposure isn’t happening. Uneven skin tone, wrinkles, and slower healing time (particularly for scars) is primarily a result of sun damage. Even though it takes longer and more intense sun exposure for visible damage to occur on darker skin, sun damage is always greater on skin that’s chronically exposed to sun than skin that’s properly protected. All skin, no matter what color, can absolutely be damaged by the sun and everyone needs to reapply broad-spectrum sunscreen at regular intervals during long days outdoors, especially after swimming or perspiring.

Think Skin Type, Not Skin Color

Just to review, skin color is not a skin type, and skin type is definitely what should dictate which products you use. How you treat oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, rosacea, acne, clogged pores, eczema, skin discolorations, wrinkles, or sun damage is the same, regardless of your skin color.

Rather than get misled by slick marketing convincing you to buy products based on ethnicity, follow The Paula's Choice Research Team’s approach: Use products that suit your skin type and condition, not your skin color. We’ve even made it easy for you because our skin care reviews and recommendations at Beautypedia are all categorized by skin type!

The bottom line is that regardless of your skin color or ethnicity, everyone needs a skin-care routine that includes:

(Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, September 2010, pages 18–23; Journal of Dermatological Science, August 2010, pages 123–128; Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, April 2010, pages 24–38; Seminars in Plastic Surgery, August 2009, pages 168–172; Dermatology Nursing, July-August 2009, pages 170–177; Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, January 2007, pages 19–22.)


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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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