5 Skincare Rules Every Black Girl Should Follow, According to Dermatologists

skin care for black women
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We’ve all heard the popular adage: “Black don’t crack.” And we’ve seen enough stunning photos of Angela Bassett (65?!) to know there’s some truth to the saying. But we’re curious about what gives darker-pigmented skin its youthful glow, so we spoke with a panel of experts to find out.

Meet the Experts

  • Dr. Alexis Stephens is a board-certified dermatologist based in Florida. She’s also the founder and CEO of Parkland Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery.
  • Dr. Camille Howard-Verović is double board-certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology, with a unique background in osteopathic medicine. She is also the co-founder of Girl+Hair and a skin partner with Ulta Beauty.
  • Rosemarie Ingleton is a board-certified dermatologist with over two decades of experience, specializing in cosmetic dermatology. Ingleton is also the medical director of Ingleton Dermatology P.C. and the founder of the ROSE Ingleton MD Skincare line. 
  • Whitney Bowe is a board-certified dermatologist and scientist based in New York, as well as the founder and CEO of DWB Beauty.

According to Dr. Stephens, that natural glow comes from melanin—the natural substance that gives skin its color. She explained, “Melanin is a true MVP. It’s a natural antioxidant and protectant. Melanin absorbs and scatters energy from UV and visible light to protect the epidermal cells from damage. It also works as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals and working as a barrier for your skin.”

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Another major plus? Melanin prevents aging by protecting the skin cells’ DNA. Stephens added, “Being melanin-rich definitely keeps your skin looking younger longer. Melanin also strengthens your skin by protecting the cells that produce collagen, and the more collagen you have, the stronger your skin will be.”

So, does this mean that Black women can scale back when it comes to their skincare routine? According to Dr. Camille Howard-Verović, a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of Girl+Hair, definitely not. She told us, “While the phrase celebrates the youthful appearance of Black individuals, it can [undermine] the importance of skincare and regular dermatological care. Everyone can benefit from proper skincare practices, even Black women.”

While there are common, universal tips that apply to people of all shades, we can’t ignore the unique needs of melanin-rich skin.  Keep reading for five expert-approved skincare rules that Black women should follow.

Skincare Rules Every Black Girl Should Follow

skin care for black women vitamin c

1.  Add Vitamin C to Your Skincare Routine

According to a study conducted by Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, deeper skin tones are more prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. When the skin gets inflamed from acne, it triggers the release of more melanin, leading to dark spots. And getting a lot of sun exposure can exacerbate the problem by making those spots even darker. Fortunately, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help with discoloration and reduce inflammation. 

As Whitney Bowe previously told us, “Vitamin C can prevent the overproduction of melanin in your skin, which manifests in several different ways depending on the triggers. Most commonly, it shows up as PIH or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which are marks leftover from acne, melasma, which is usually hormonal, or lentigos (aka sunspots) caused by overexposure to the sun.”

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2. Don’t Skip Sunscreen

Since people with darker skin tones produce more melanin, they already have some natural protection from the sun. “Those with deeper skin tones like myself actually have a built-in SPF of 13, whereas someone with fairer skin has a built-in SPF of three, which is why those with deeper skin tones are less susceptible to photodamage,” explains Dr. Stephens. “However, while melanin is magic, it’s not invincible. You still need to wear sunscreen [of at least 30] daily. SPF 13 is not enough to protect you from the harmful UV rays.”

skin care for black women cleanser
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3. Avoid Harsh Scrubs 

Did you know that darker skin is more prone to acne because of its thickness? And get this: Rigorously scrubbing your skin could make acne (and other skin conditions) worse.

Ingleton told Oprah Daily, “I’ve come to realize that some of my patients think that they can scrub off their acne, dark spots, and unevenness. In reality, physical exfoliation—manually sloughing away dead skin cells via formulas with granules or abrasive pads—is too harsh. In fact, it can even make skin conditions worse. To be clear, I see this tendency in all my patients, no matter their skin color, but the damage is more apparent in melanin-rich skin.” 

So, what’s the most effective way to exfoliate? Ingleton suggests using a chemical, granule-free formula.

skin care for black women moisturizer
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4. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

If you’ve ever looked down at your hands and grimaced at the sight of ashy white knuckles, you’re not alone. Per The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, it turns out that Black skin is more prone to dryness than lighter skin tones. This is because individuals with darker skin have a thicker Stratum Corneum, which is the outer layer of the skin. While this has its benefits (like more sun protection), this also makes it more difficult for melanin-rich skin to retain moisture.

Additionally, darker skin typically produces less sebum, a natural oil that’s meant to keep your skin lubricated. To combat the dryness, use moisturizers that are packed with hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

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5. Choose the Right Dermatologist

In other words, look for a dermatologist who’s knowledgeable about skin of color and has plenty of experience working with darker skin tones—especially if you’re looking to get an invasive procedure, like laser resurfacing or chemical peels. Per Oprah Daily, Ingleton said, “People with darker skin also have a higher risk of developing hyperpigmentation from intermediate and deep chemical peels. A good rule of thumb: Always ask your practitioner for before and after photos of patients with [a similar] skin tone [to yours], and whether the treatment you’re interested in has been tested on skin of color.”

If you're currently searching for a dermatologist, we highly recommend checking out the Skin of Color Society, an organization that has their own database of dermatologists who specialize in conditions that disproportionately impact BIPOC patients.

Their official website reads, "[Our mission is] to promote awareness of and excellence within skin of color dermatology through research, education, mentorship and advocacy. We are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the field of dermatology to advance patient care."

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...