By Emily Berryman
Forget re-mortgaging for the latest ‘It’ bag or splurging out on a designer wardrobe – bagging youthful, radiant skin has to be right up there on our wish-lists. The good news is that Mother Nature has been kind to us and even Dermatologists now agree on that. And f lawless-skinned supermodel Naomi Campbell once said: “Black Don’t Crack”. But while this means you can hang onto that enviable complexion for longer, it sadly does not mean you can stop that clock from ticking!
Work with what you’ve got!
“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.
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.
Waging war on fine lines and wrinkles? Thankfully you already have one of the greatest anti-ageing weapons in your armoury – your skin colour!
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.
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.