Exfoliation and Black Skin


Exfoliation is something that most women worth their ‘beauty salt’ incorporate into their weekly beauty regime. –and with good reason, too! Besides the instant gratification of soft, smooth skin, there are other reasons for liking exfoliation. These as I have discussed before, include improving blood flow to the surface of the skin, buffing away dry patches, even skin tone and make up going on and sitting better, among other things.

However, as stated in one of my previous articles on exfoliation, there is such a thing as over exfoliation and the wrong way to go about it. Sadly, many women aren’t aware of this; because as long as they’re exfoliating, they’re happy! Darker skinned women in particular, need to be very careful when it comes to exfoliation, as darker skin is easily traumatised. If skin is traumatised and inflamed, all the hard work you’ve put into your skin care can very easily be undone in a short of time, because this could lead to heavily uneven skin tone.

Things For Women of Colour Can Do With Knowing.

  • Over-exfoliation in dark skin is very likely to lead to skin aggravation and ultimately, patchy pigmentation (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
  • Overzealous exfoliation causes skin to look and feel irritated and/or damaged.
  • What’s more, being heavy handed with your exfoliation can also disrupt your skin’s natural equilibrium, leading to the over production of sebum, which then results in break outs.
  • Studies have shown black skin to have a more compact stratum corneum; the outer layer of the skin is thicker basically, and this is essentially the amount of dead skin cells. This could explain why some black women may feel their skin is tough enough to take any amount of trauma through use of harsh products.
  • That paired with the fact that black skin tends to have larger pores and higher sebum secretion than other skin types, means it’s important to keep the surface of the skin as clean as possible to guard against break outs. However, it also scars very easily and means black women need to find that happy medium, to avoid inadvertently causing more harm.
  • Asian skin also needs to be handled with extreme care, perhaps even more so, as it’s been found to have a weaker barrier function, making it more it sensitive to external chemical elements. For Asian skin, just as with black skin, over scrubbing will not do at all as it will almost certainly lead to further weakening of the skin barrier and ultimately, scarring it.
  • Generally speaking, exfoliating once a week should be more than enough. It’s worth noting that skin cell turnover takes 20-40 days to renew itself, so using an exfoliator once a week suffices.
  • Use of loofahs, scrubs or microdermabrasion can irritate the skin and increase the chance post-inflammatory pigmentation.
  • Exercise caution with exfoliators with jagged edges as they can cut into skin and cause inflammation and irritation.
  • Consider new age exfoliators that do not employ any amount of scrubbing that are fast becoming very popular, not only for their gentle nature, but for their cutting edge efficacy in bringing about fantastic results. These use a gentle peeling mechanism to break down and lift away dead skin cells. They often contain fruit acids and are kinder on skin. But even so, they should be used according to instructions because lest we forget, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

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Do Black People Really Need To Wear Sunscreen?


There is the misguided and universal belief that darker skinned people don’t need to wear sunscreen as the melanin in their skin protects them from burning as well as skin cancer. If you ask many Black people if they wear sunscreen, many of them will readily admit to not seeing the importance. Some will even react incredulously, or even laugh at the “absurdity” of the question.

In reality, the idea that Black people do not need sunscreen could not be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, the following information is more accurate:

  • It has been medically established that although the darker the person, the less likely they are to get sunburnt; the melanin in a Black person’s skin only provides approximately 15 per cent of the required protection
  • Even though Black skin takes longer to burn, all skin colours do eventually get sunburnt
  • Black skin is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation; the formation of unsightly dark spots or patches on the face. I have in fact, experienced this first hand, and have had to battle the effects over the years
  • Once the uneven skin tone has formed, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the damage. Effective remedies tend to be very expensive; and far out of reach for most people, due to financial constraints and/or lack of knowledge about options available to them
  • Regardless of skin tone, UV rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage DNA skin cells. This damage may lead to skin cancer including melanoma, which in turn could lead to death
  • It has also been established that people of colour have a higher mortality rate with skin cancer because they are often not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced, making it more aggressive and harder to treat

Given how intensely hot it gets in Botswana, I believe that there needs to be a drive to educate people further about the hazards of UVA/UVB rays. People need to be made aware of the importance of wearing at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and wearing a hat or using an umbrella for further protection. I personally use SPF 50. It is imperative that you wear sunscreen whether it is hot or overcast, because the dangerous UVA/UVB rays can still penetrate through the clouds and cause irreparable damage. This is why people still get sunburnt on cloudy days. Even when you’re not leaving the house, it is advised that you still wear sunscreen indoors.

Sunscreen is the mainstay of my beauty regime. No day goes by when I don’t wear sunscreen. After my first shower of the day; come rain or shine, I lather the stuff on religiously. I have read over and over that even when it is overcast, UV rays can still have damaging effects on skin. I have previously developed heavily hyperpigmented skin due to not wearing sunscreen. It causes distress, knocks your confidence and can take years to reverse, if at all. This is the reason I always preach to anyone who will listen, about the importance of wearing sunscreen.

The bottom line is regardless of skin colour, texture or type; every single one of us needs to wear sunscreen every day. It’s a very easy step to incorporate into our daily routine, yet it could very well play a huge role in saving our skin health and indeed our lives.


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