Did you know that one of the greatest weapons in your beauty armoury is your skin colour? Let it work for you in these 5 simple steps.
Work with what you have
“There are a couple of reasons why darker skins show the signs of ageing more slowly than other ethnicities,” explains Candice Gardner, education curriculum manager at the International Dermal Institute. “Firstly, the higher level of skin pigment – melanin – which gives the black, brown colour to the skin, is a primary factor in defending skin from UV light from the sun, which is the number one cause of skin ageing,” she says.
“And secondly, the skin produces a higher level of lipids – natural protective oils – which means the skin has a more compact and denser protective barrier to make it less prone to ageing dehydration and dryness than Asian and Caucasian skins.”
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
This is great news. But before you toss out your beauty booty, remember that while nature is on your side, we are yet to find a woman who doesn’t notice age-related changes in her skin eventually. “All skins regardless of ethnicity, will see a slowdown in repair and renewal, along with a decline in the number of lipids produced due to the slowing of our metabolic processes, which in turn means that skin starts to feel rough, look less smooth and appear dull,” says Candice. So if you are wondering where you left your stash of radiance, now is the time to think about complexion protection.
The first step? Work on upping your skin’s hydration levels by moisturising twice daily. Using any cheap and cheerful moisturiser is better than using nothing at all, but Candice also suggests staying clear of any products that contain petroleum or mineral oil. “These ingredients actually trick the skin into thinking that it doesn’t need to produce its natural oils, which frustratingly leads to even dryer skin when you stop using them,” she says. If you fancy a splurge, Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, is a brilliant buy to combat the first signs of ageing, or for sensitive skin try L’Occitane Shea Ultra Gentle Moisturiser.
And When The Sun Shines
Another common misconception is that having plenty of sun-protecting melanin in your armoury allows you to scrimp on sunscreen. Big mistake. “However dark your skin tone, there is still a margin for damage to be done and while the distribution of melanin does provide a good level of sun protection for black skins, it is never completely fool proof,” says Candice. For best results, guard against incidental sun damage by applying a separate layer of sun protection over your usual moisturiser rather than buying a moisturiser with an inbuilt SPF. Sun protection is designed to sit on the skin’s surface, while moisturiser is meant to be absorbed into the skin – so the combination of the two can hinder how they both do their job. Dermalogica Oil Free Matte Block SPF30, is a great choice for anyone who hates the ‘cloggy’ feeling you get from regular sunscreens, as is REN Photoactive Sun Veil SPF15.
A further bugbear to consider in your quest for complexion perfection is that while melanin is definitely a blessing in terms of sun protection and fighting lines and wrinkles, having large amounts of the stuff does have its downside too. “The more melanin pigment you produce naturally, the more potential there is for things to go wrong, often leading to discolouration – or hyperpigmentation – where the melanin production becomes accelerated or faulty, which is extremely difficult to reverse,” says Candice. “This is another major reason for wearing sun protection daily, as even the smallest amounts of UV exposure will significantly accelerate melanin production.” If patchy skin – or ‘age spots’ – already a problem for you, the sooner you get to work, the better. Book a consultation with your GP or dermatologist to establish its causes – the three major triggers of hyperpigmentation are UV exposure, hormones from stress, pregnancy or medical conditions, and trauma in the skin.
“Admittedly, correction is very difficult, but if it is possible to remove the causal factor, whilst consistently protecting the skin from the sun, you should be able to see an improvement of up to 70% depending on how long the problem has persisted,” says Candice.
Exfoliating a couple of times a week will buff away dulling dead skin cells which can leave skin looking patchy (we like The Body Shop Aloe Gentle Exfoliator, £9 and Liz Earle Gentle face Exfoliator), but if you need more help, the beauty counters are awash with ‘brightening’ or ‘ lightening’ products that claim to even out skin tone. Never be lured by the promises of under-the-counter creams containing hydroxyquinone – a skin-bleaching ingredient banned in UK cosmetic products due to its dangerous side effects – and instead stick to goodies from the major cosmetic houses. One of the best is Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, which has been proven to provide a 53% improvement in just 12 weeks, or try Guinot Crème Beaute Neuve.
Finally, another problem dark skin can delay – but not escape – is the dreaded droop! All skin starts to sag with age due to a decline in collagen and elastin, the natural fibres which give our skin strength and flexibility.
“Thankfully, this is an area where a good skincare regime can really help,” says Candice. “Look for products which contain retinol – vitamin A derivatives – or peptides, which mimic your natural skin behaviour and boost collagen and elastin production.” Try RoC Retin-ox Wrinkle Correxion Intensive Serum, or Palmer’s Night Renewal Cream, which contains both retinol and peptides at a bargain basement price. After all, you’ve been given a head start in the sprint against time, but that’s not to say you’ve run the race, just yet!