Melanin-rich skin in all its pigmented glory deserves its own category in skin care. While there are many benefits to a darker-toned complexion, like being less prone to fine lines, there are also some issues that are of top concern, like hyperpigmentation and eczema.
Between common misconceptions around skincare routines to the specific products and ingredients that work best, there’s a lot to know. That’s why we’re here to break down the best ingredient-based skin care tips for darker complexions so that you can keep your skin looking its best.
[SEE ALSO: 4 Reasons You Need to See a Dermatologist]
What is Melanin?
Melanin is a naturally-occurring pigment that gives the skin its color. It’s present in all skin tones and depending on how much melanin is produced the skin gets a lighter or darker tone.
Melanin-rich skin is characterized by very efficient melanosomes, the skin cells responsible for melanin production. This means that melanosomes in darker skin tones work more efficiently compared to those in lighter skin tones.
Although this extra melanin production provides natural protection from the sun, melanin-rich skin is prone to hyperpigmentation and scarring. Any type of acne, rash, scratch, or inflammation may trigger excess melanin production resulting in dark spots on the skin.
Keep reading for the best products and ingredients that will help protect and repair your melanin-rich skin.
Apply Sunscreen Daily
Let’s bust the myth that melanin-rich skin doesn’t need sun protection. Melanin is not enough to replace sunscreen. While it does provide some natural protection from the sun, melanin may not be able to protect against the sun’s radiation that causes sunburn and aging.
Be sure to apply a daily SPF 50 or higher sunscreen whenever you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time. Opt for a sunscreen with chemical UV filters, as they don’t tend to leave white casts in the same way that many mineral sunscreens do. For those looking to keep it natural, the good news is that more and more brands are paying attention to our needs and are creating mineral sunscreens that blend in with darker skin tones.
Don’t Forget to Moisturize
Dry skin is a common problem for melanin-rich skin. Because this skin type typically has a thicker outermost layer with fewer lipids and ceramides—which are the oils that keep the skin hydrated—melanin-rich skin is prone to overall dryness of the skin. When shopping for skin care products, don’t forget to search for hydrating formulas that contain glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. These will help to keep your skin moisturized, smooth-feeling, and healthy-looking.
[READ MORE: How to Get the Most Out of Hyaluronic Acid]
Exfoliating acids are great actives for improving skin texture, reducing oil production, and fading dark spots. However, not all exfoliators are created equal. Some of them are very potent and when overused can irritate the skin, and as mentioned above, melanin-rich skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation after inflammation. Instead of using glycolic acid, look for exfoliators like mandelic acid, lactic acid, or gluconolactone, as they are gentler on the skin. This will help to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Look for Antioxidants
Factors such as UV-rays, pollutants, and your lifestyle can create an excess of free radicals: molecules that can affect skin cells and cause aging, dark spots, and inflammation. That’s why it’s important to layer on skin care products that contain antioxidants. They are anti-inflammatory molecules that protect skin cells against future damage, as well as help to reverse existing damage caused by free radicals.
Since inflammation is something that anyone with melanin-rich skin will want to avoid, antioxidants are great ingredients for healthy, glowing skin. For example, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help reduce the appearance of sun damage and hyperpigmentation, while helping to slow down the effects of aging. Other great antioxidants that can be found in serums and moisturizers are resveratrol, Co-enzyme Q10, grape seed, green tea, and carotenoids.
Protect and Repair Your Skin
While melanin-rich skin can be prone to issues like hyperpigmentation and dryness, there are plenty of ways to keep your skin looking healthy. Stick with us as we go on our skin care journey together.