You know that saying, “Black don’t crack?” Well, only part of that is true. Black skin has increased melanin production, which better protects against damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun and keeps us looking younger longer. “It’s like winning the skincare lottery because you don’t really have to worry about wrinkles as much,” says Gervaise Gerstner, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in NYC. But black skin is not invincible and melanoma is still a serious danger. “It’s very important that all races wear sunscreen daily,” Dr. Gerstner says. Try the L’Orèal Paris Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Face Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Sunscreen and the Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray SPF 30. Both deliver long-lasting sun protection but go on sheer so you can avoid the layer of white that sits on your skin. WE RECOMMEND 17 Beauty Picks That Prove Orange Is a Good Look
2. Glycolic Acid
You know those annoying dark spots on your (otherwise flawless) face that you hate? Blame hyperpigmentation. While it can happen to anyone, black women are most susceptible to it, and everything from hormones to sun exposure and acne can trigger it. The safest way to get rid of it is to use glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid. The chemicals of glycolic acid work to expose the healthy layer of skin beneath the uppermost layer of the epidermis so all you (and anyone else) see is glow. This GlamGlow SuperMud Clearing Treatment contains glycolic acid and not only de-clogs and minimizes pores, but also helps to clear hyperpigmentation, scarring, and breakouts. Use it daily as a mask or spot treatment.
3. Face and Body Exfoliators
Black is beautiful, but when there’s a buildup of dead cells that dim your glow, it can make your skin look gray and ashy. This is why it’s super important to slough away any flaky, dead skin buildup on a regular basis by exfoliating at least once per week with a gentle exfoliator. For face, use the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Boosters Daily Scrub, which contains skin-polishing jojoba beads that will de-flake dry skin without over-drying, thanks to moisturizing vitamin E. For body, try Shea Moisture SuperFruit Complex Hand & Body Scrub, a sugar scrub that exfoliates your skin and contains shea butter to leave it super soft.
4. Ingrown Hair Treatment Pads
If you have curly hair, then you have curved hair follicles, which also means you’re more prone to ingrown hairs on your bikini area, armpits, and legs. As your hair grows back, it easily curls around and goes back into your skin, causing ingrowns. But when you shave away your body hair to prevent ingrowns, you’re left with small, dark bumps that aren’t a good look when you’re wearing a bathing suit or when it’s time to get naked. To keep your skin ingrown- and bump-free, try chemically exfoliating with glycolic and salicylic acid-laced pads that also contain soothing green tea. This combination keeps your pores from getting clogged, and keeps redness and inflammation at bay. Try Beauty Rx Ingrown Treatment Pads.
Ashiness is a telltale sign your skin is dry, but it doesn’t have to rob you of your radiance. “I like to tell my patients to avoid the white layer of ash on their skin by applying a moisturizer right after they’ve stepped out of the shower, while their skin is still damp,” says Dr. Gerstner. Much like a wet sponge absorbs moisture quicker than a dry one, your skin absorbs more hydration when it’s moist because your pores are still open. If your moisturizer (try Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer) isn’t keeping your skin ash-free, try mixing it with a thicker balm like Aquaphor. “Combine the lotion with the balm to make a thick putty, and then spread it all over your body,” Dr. Gerstner suggests.
6. Mineral Foundation
Imagine this: Your face makeup looked flawless when you left your apartment this morning, but when you whip out your compact to do a quick check before your lunch meeting, it’s morphed into an oily mess. Unfortunately, this is all too common. Black people often have more oil glands than people of any other race, and those glands can be larger in size and produce an unwanted amount of oil. Sounds familiar? Use a good mineral foundation (like this talc-free one from CoverFX) that absorbs oils and keeps skin looking fresh throughout the day.
7. Hydrating Hair Oils and Moisturizing Masks
Does your hair feel drier than the Sahara Desert? If so, you’re not alone. Dryness comes with the territory of having African-American hair, but it’s not something you should just shrug off. Not having enough moisture in your hair puts it on the fast track to serious breakage. To remedy your dry strand situation, try this suggestion from Tippi Shorter, Aveda global artistic director for textured hair: Moisturize your hair daily with oil from mid-lengths to ends and give it an extra shot of serious hydration with a hair mask at least once a week. Apply the Aveda Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil daily before styling (it’s super light, and won’t weigh down your hair or make it look greasy), and use a heavier mask, like Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask weekly. “This combination adds instant hydration, and leaves hair soft and shiny,” Shorter says. Also, remember to wrap your hair each night with a silk scarf or sleep on a silk pillowcase to keep moisture in, since other fabrics like cotton can zap your hair of its much-needed hydration.
8. Heat Protectant sprays
Regardless of whether your hair is relaxed or natural, putting direct heat on it too often can cause excessive split ends and severe breakage. If the daily use of hot tools has fried your hair, go on a heat-styling diet and cut back on the amount of heat you apply to your hair — or avoid it altogether. (I get it, flexi rods are annoying as hell to sleep on, but you can still get your curl on without the use of heat!) If you have to use heat, put your hot tools on the lowest setting possible and prep your strands with a thermal protector, like John Frieda Frizz Ease Heat Defeat Protecting Spray. This formula not only keep the heat from dehydrating your hair, it conditions and strengthens your strands, helps block humidity, and replenishes moisture.
9. Co-Wash and Scalp Soothers
If you have the itchiest scalp ever and can’t stop scratching, consider yourself one of many. “Dryness, itchiness, and dandruff are three of the biggest scalp problems black women experience,” says celebrity hairstylist Lacy Redway. But scratching your scalp with your fingernails and patting your head with the palm of your head isn’t the answer — you’re just making matter worse. You shouldn’t apply any hair grease to your scalp either, since it can clog your hair follicles, make dandruff even worse, and even halt hair growth. Instead, Redway suggests providing moisture to your hair to alleviate your dry, flaky skin. Try using Head & Shoulders Moisture Care Co-Wash when you suds up; it fights dandruff with zinc pyrithione and hydrating almond oil. Then, to alleviate any itchiness during the day, spray your scalp with Head & Shoulders Moisture Care Scalp Soother, which instantly calms an itchy scalp and helps hydrate.
As a black woman, the struggle to find the right foundation shade is real. “Black women have so many different, beautiful skin tones that it’s often difficult to pinpoint the right shade that matches perfectly,” says celebrity makeup artist Sam Fine. The easiest way to find your perfect match while shopping at the store? Hold the bottle up to your face and, when you find a shade that matches the best, use the tester to see if a swipe of it blends in with your jawline. “You’ll know the shade is right when it practically vanishes in front of your eyes,” he said. A brand that offers tons of shade options for black women: CoverGirl Queen Collection All Day Flawless 3-in-1 Foundation, which, regardless of your skin type, gives great coverage with a lightweight finish.
Considering that your knees and elbows withstand the brunt of friction caused by rough clothing, bending, kneeling, and having sex (what up, doggy style), it’s no wonder they’re a shade darker than the rest of your body! Good news: You can brighten up these deeply shaded spots by slicing a lemon and rubbing it over the darker areas. Then, slather on a heavy-duty hydrator like Bag Balm to seal in moisture.