Black skin can be beautifully radiant having its own special glow, however, this is not always the case and some may struggle to maintain a radiant look. We can all develop a good home skin care routine and you too can achieve that special glow.

"Healthy" is a buzz word at the moment but what does it mean for you? Is it:

  • Flawless completion

  • Blemish free skin

  • Soft and supple texture

  • Even toned complexion

  • Younger looking skin

Healthy means different things for all of us at different stages of our life, there is not a one size fits all, which is why it is so important to have a basic understanding of how your black skin works, enabling you to develop the best skin care routine possible for you at any stage of life.

My name is Corinne White I am a cosmetologist and when I was studying at the London Institute of Beauty Culture I had to conduct a research project for my finals. I was the only black student in the class and most lectures related to white skin. I decided that I would do my topic on black skin care and make-up, as there was limited information on the subject and I had a burning desire to learn more about black skin. In my research I read a paper from America, which said there are over 32 shades of black ranging from ivory to the deepest ebony. This article had a profound effect on me and shaped my work in the industry. Nowadays I think we are much more aware of these facts so you may not find that statement so surprising, but I mention this to reinforce the message that we are all individuals and we need to personalise our own home care regime.

The rich and diverse range of over 32 shades of black is produced by a substance called melanin, a pigment which is produced by melanocyte in the skin. Did you know that regardless  of your ethnicity  be it White, Asian or Black, we all have the same amount of melanocytes? The difference in skin colour is determined by three different melanin pigments, black/brown, yellow and red. Like a painting pallet, your unique skin tone is determined from these colours.

This pigment is the main reason for black skin’s durability. Melanin granules give black skin protection from the sun and the embedded pigment granules strengthen the structure and makes the skin dense. Melanin enhances its anti-ageing properties, resulting in black skin looking typically ten or more years younger than its counterparts.

   32 SHADES OF BLACK

 

    MELANIN AND YOUR SKIN

It is a well known fact that melanin determines our skin colour and people who are from hot climates usually have darker skin, to protect them from the sun - but what happens when people move away from their natural geographical habitats? Apart from the aesthetics of your beautiful skin colour, there are other important factors to consider and be aware of in order to maintain a healthy and beautiful skin.

Melanin-rich skin provides benefits such as:

  • reducing the risk of contracting melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer)

  • acting as an antioxidant which destroys free radicals

  • reducing long-term signs of aging (wrinkles, loss of elasticity and pigmentation problems)

  • inhibiting the growth of bacterial, fungal and other parasitic infections

Collectively these benefits contribute to a healthier more youthful looking skin.

Melanocytes

Melanocytes are specialised skin cells which are found in the basal layer. One in ten of these cells found in this layer are melanocytes, which embeds granule pigments into the skin. Melanin synthesis is a complicated process, in which the amount of pigment released and not the number of cells determines your skin colour. Eumelanin which contains the black and brown pigments in the skin has the ability to absorb ultraviolet light and the darker the skin the more protection gained. However it is important to be aware that you may need to apply sunscreen depending on your skin category. If you’ve been living in a non-tropical climate and you are black, you should be cautious and use sunscreen during extended exposure to the sun. This will give your skin protection until melanin pigments have been stimulated and deepened by the ultra-violet rays to give you the required protection. 

The Fitzpatrick scale is a recognised classification for human skin colour. Created in 1975 by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard dermatologist, as the way to estimate the response of different types of skin to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Take this quiz to find out where your skin  fits in this chart

Use this chart to see which category you come under then take the appropriate protection measures.

Many black people believe that they are not at risk of skin cancer but this is a misconception, it is more common in lighter skin types but a reality nonetheless. Bob Marley our biggest reggae legend died of skin cancer. A small spot developed under his toe nail, eventually  spreading  to  the  rest  of  his body leading  to the legend's  passing  in May 1981, A sad loss to us all.

Sunscreen

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone follow the same guidelines for sun protection. Apply 1 ounce of SPF 15 sunscreen every day to exposed areas before going outside, and reapply the sunscreen every 2 hours. However, to be safer, it’s more optimal to opt for factor 30 and above. Factor 15 has had a few debates over its efficacy.

Examine your skin at least once a month for moles, discoloration and spots, paying particular attention to your feet, hands and fingernails. I would like to add to this advice, by recommending that skin type 4 and 5 use sunscreen when going out in intensive sun and also when going abroad to hot and sunny climates.

Vitamin D deficiency

While black skin types in category 4 and 5 have the advantage of added protection from the sun, this can also be a disadvantage in relation to vitamin D synthesis. Black people who live in non-tropical climates can suffer from vitamin D deficiency, as sunlight stimulates production of vitamin D in the skin. However, due to the absorption of sunlight in darker skin types, not enough Vitamin D may be produced. The synthesis of vitamin D requires energy from sunlight to happen, but because darker skin tones absorb most of that energy, there isn’t much left to power the production of vitamin D in the skin.

This may be of particular concern for elderly people, who are not mobile and infrequently go out in the sun. Vitamin D is needed for strong bones and teeth and plays an important role in keeping diabetes, hyper-tension and other ageing ailments at bay.  In these cases taking a good quality supplement would be advisable. For supplements, you can take vitamin D2 or D3 but D3 is at least 300% more effective than D2, so that’s an easy choice to make. You can of course obtain it from your diet. Also sitting by a sunny window or going out in the garden for 20 minutes on sunny days would alleviate this. If you have any concerns please seek medical advice.

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