African American Skin Care

Contrary to popular belief, there is very little about African American skin that can be safely assumed which is why African American skincare is a combination of general skincare, individual skincare, and a few extras that may be specific to olive skin, brown skin or darker skin tones. While African American Beauty Therapy at Ethos Spa is based (for the most part) on the “individual” due to numerous factors ranging from diet and environment to different shades, hues and hormones, there are several minor issues that may affect some African Americans skincare regimens.

Whether its acne or eczema, dry skin or oily skin, psoriasis, or vitiligo-people from all different backgrounds can get these conditions. Some African-American skin types may encounter everything from small moles and ingrown hairs (men) to keloids and skin discoloration. These conditions can affect African-American skincare regimens.

Ingrown hairs or flesh moles may affect some African Americans more than others. In African American men with curved hair shafts, ingrown hairs, commonly referred to as razor bumps, may appear after a close shave. This condition can be easily resolved by shaving with safety razors, shaving less often, avoiding stretching the skin during shaving, and washing the face with a warm washcloth before shaving. This helps to loosen the hairs. If the condition is severe, which is rare, electrolysis is an option as well as hair removal chemicals or growing a beard.

Flesh moles are brown or black raised dark spots, resembling moles or flat warts, which usually appear on the cheeks. Everyone has at least a few moles and they may appear by the age of 20 as freckles at first. Freckles can develop into flesh moles and they can become darker or larger as a result of pregnancy or hormones (birth control pills) as well as exposure to sunlight. Flesh moles tend to run in families and they are not cancerous, but for cosmetic reasons some may opt to have them surgically removed. To prevent darkening or increases in size, it’s best to wear sunscreen every day and choose the type of birth control pill wisely.

While keloids can be found in Indians, Chinese, and even whites, they are found most often in people of African descent. The majority of these small, irregular shaped scar tissues develop as the result of a serious cut or scratch on the skin that has not been treated properly. When a deep cut or scratch hasn’t been treated properly, in some cases, the cut may turn into a bump. Again, if not treated, the bump may develop into a keloid. Keloids tend to run in families, but in rare cases, they may appear for no reason. Keloids are not life-threatening and there are several different treatment methods including injection of steroids into the keloid, radiation therapy, topical applications used to flatten the keloid over time, and permanent removal. To prevent keloids and any type of infection or permanent scarring, treat deep cuts and scratches immediately.

African Americans are blessed with natural protection against the sun and it is believed that the average African-American has sun protection factor (SPF) of 13. The result is fewer wrinkles, a lower incidence of premature aging, and a lower incidence of skin cancer. On the flipside, because African American skin contains more of the pigment melanin, this can cause skin discolorations or darkened areas resulting in picking the skin, harsh abrasives and scrubbing or cuts, and other injuries to the skin. In some cases, these darkened areas may take several months to fade, in others it may take years. To avoid this, refrain from picking the skin, treat cuts and injuries promptly, and always wear sunscreen.

There are literally dozens of different skin tones or shades among African Americans, but there is one thing that all skin has in common-the the need for sunscreen. Every African American skin care regimen should include sunscreen, no matter how light, medium, or dark you are. Having natural protection against the sun is great, but it’s still not enough. Not too sure about which SPF is best for your skin tone? Consider the following: if you fall into the dark to very dark category (Whoopi Goldberg, Bernie Mac, Seal, Wesley Snipes), an 8-15 SPF should be sufficient. If you fall into the fair to slightly dark category (Michael Michelle, Vanessa Williams, Halle Berry, Thandie Newton) a 20-30 SPF should be sufficient. For very light or very fair skin (Christopher “Kid” Reid from Kid n’ Play), an SPF higher than 30 up to 50 should be sufficient. If you’re unsure about your skin tone, check with your dermatologist to find out which SPF is best for you.

When it comes to African American skin care or any type of skincare, one of the single most important steps in a skincare system is cleansing. Everything from pollution and dust to moisturizers, make-up, and product build-up can clog the pores which can lead to acne, dull skin and blackheads. Finding the right cleanser may take a significant amount of trial and error for some and it may be quite simple for others. It’s best to know your skin type before shopping for a suitable cleanser.

If you have oily skin, it’s best to avoid cleansers that are overly “creamy” and if you have dry skin, it’s best to avoid cleansers that contain excessive amounts of alcohol. Combination skin can be tricky, but dermatologists recommend using products that contain Alpha Hydroxy acids which help to normalize the skin. Cleansers that contain glycolic acid such as Glytone have been proven safe for the vast majority of skin types, including combination skin. It cleanses and exfoliates without drying the skin and without the need for scrubbing agents. It is safe to use morning and night and it is highly recommended by dermatologists. Glytone can be purchased at just about any dermatologist office or you may purchase Glytone online directly from the manufacturer (Genesis Pharmaceuticals) at, 1-800-Glytone.

The use of toners and moisturizers depends on skin type. Toners are typically used for deep cleansing and they may help to reduce excessive oiliness, persistent breakouts, and blackheads. Moisturizers help to hydrate the skin. A general rule of thumb with African American skincare is “keep it simple.” If the skin is dry, moisturize, if it’s oily skip the heavy moisturizers. Use oil-based make-up for dry skin, use water-based make-up for acne-prone skin. Be aware of birth control pills, antibiotics, and medicines that increase sensitivity to the sun, wear sunscreen, and don’t pick the skin or ignore cuts, scrapes, and injuries. In the end your skincare regimen has to work for your skin. So choose your products and your system with care.