Beauty has always been a focus of my life and my daily routines, and whether that is due to cultural pressures or genuine interest is something that is still foreign to me. But, what I do know is it’s something in which I have grown to have a strong interest.
However, it’s always been a bit difficult navigating the world of skincare and makeup while having darker skin.
I used to wear a foundation that made me look like a walking fire alarm because drugstore foundation brands have never heard of a Brown or Black person with skin that doesn’t have red or gray undertones (because clearly, there are so many dark women who are just itching to have a foundation that’s their shade but makes them look like they’re ready for their funeral). Over the past few years brands have been stepping it up, and with the launch of Fenty Beauty (♥), this movement for darker people to have foundation shades has launched even further than I ever thought I would see it go in the next decade.
My relationship with my skin has been … tumultuous, to say the least. It still is, and while my skin is far from perfect, I’ve invested much research and time into learning about skin, especially darker skin. My hormones are always out of whack, and I’ve struggled with acne for the past eight years. So I was obviously inclined to start wearing makeup as a way to cover up all the scarring that’s been left over from my past acne. While that has led to me to be a makeup enthusiast, at heart I will always continue to be a skincare junkie.
Speaking of scarring, let’s talk about it! Because nobody else will.
Scarring is naturally bound to remain longer on darker skin just due to the fact that dark skin has more melanin. Of all the skin types, the darkest are dark Asian skin (e.g., Indian, Sri Lankan or Malaysian), Afro-Caribbean and Black skin (generally African origin, but can also originate from West Indian/Caribbean people). Afro-Caribbean/Black skin has the highest melanin concentration out of any category of ethnic skin type.
The more melanin you have, the darker your skin, so your scars from past blemishes will be that much stronger. Inflammation occurs under and over the skin when you have a pimple, and the inflammation leaves a longer-lasting mark on darker skin.
Most skincare for dark marks is marketed toward whom beauty products have always been targeting: white women. Because they can inhale the mere scent of aloe vera gel and have their scars disappear, and we already know that this is not the case for darker people. I’m here to talk about what things work for us, scientifically speaking, and what things absolutely do not.
Number one on the list is extremely harmful yet extremely powerful to lighten dark marks: hydroquinone.
Hydroquinone, also known as devil juice, is a common ingredient used in skin lightening and bleaching treatments for darker women, as it is so powerful that it will penetrate the skin barrier to lighten up dark marks.
But, I beg you, please don’t ever use this. If your dermatologist recommends hydroquinone, run the other direction.
Hydroquinone, on dark skin, can often worsen dark marks; not only that, the ingredient can be toxic as it does have some carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. While the Federal Drug Administration has concluded it is okay in small doses (4 percent concentration in skincare products), it still can cause adverse reactions not just on a surface level, but internally provoke DNA alterations and mutations.
Hydroquinone is often seen as an easier way out just because of how fast it works, but the effects on your health in the long term are absolutely not worth it!
But I’m not just going to leave you with this as you go to mope and believe there is no way out to your situation, because that’s not true in the slightest.
One of the things that you can do to prevent your dark marks from getting even darker is wearing sunscreen. If you think you don’t need it because you’ve never gotten a sunburn, you’re so wrong. You’re not just wrong, you’re loathsome. Go wear your SPF, immediately. This isn’t even relating to just surface-level appearance, but skin cancer is a sneaky rat and SPF helps prevent skin cancer. You should aim for an SPF of at least 30, and some good ones that won’t leave an ashy/purple cast on your skin include:
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion with SPF 50 (for my dry skin girls!)
Number two on the list is glycolic acid. Another thing you can do to actively start lightening some of these marks is to use products with concentrations of glycolic acid on your face, especially if your skin is new to acids. A good example of a product with this ingredient is the Pixi Glow Tonic. It has a bit of a lower concentration than most products, which is why it’s a great way to build up tolerance to products with higher concentrations. Once you’ve built up tolerance, you can try using products containing ascorbic acid, the original form of Vitamin C, if you find glycolic acid concentrations don’t hurt your skin.
Number three on the list is Mandelic acid. If you have already used products with concentrations of acids on your face for a long period of time before (azelaic acid and salicylic acid are two of the most commonly used ones), or if glycolic acid irritates your skin, give mandelic acid a go! Mandelic acid is especially good if you have a richer skin tone, and has been shown to have less of an irritating effect. Remember with any of these products to always test on the corner of your face or your hand before plastering it all over your face; it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry with skincare.
Remember while these will take much more investment and time than hydroquinone, the long-term benefit is so worth it. While it is always better to go to a dermatologist than to listen to some college student, if you have a darker skin tone, it can be easy to get products that only irritate your skin further. So, make sure you know how your dermatologist works with darker skin. Research, time and diligence are your three keys to glowing and golden skin. Put the effort in, and your skin will reward you!