What Black Skincare Can Learn From The Natural Hair Movement
I love creating natural skincare products, and as a physician, I understand the science and research to know which ingredients to use for making effective products. But, I am still learning about the business side of creating a skincare line, and in the spirit I was able to meet with one of my inspirations, Lisa Price, the Founder & CEO of Carol’s Daughter. When I told her my goals for AbsoluteJOI – to create a skincare for women of color that celebrates and nurtures the unique features of our skin – she said…
“I’ve been wondering when will we do for Black skincare what we’ve done for Black haircare?”
As I reflected on that question, I realized she captured the essence of why I think we need a natural skincare movement for people of color. The natural hair movement has been great for helping us learn more about caring for our natural hair -- and helps us avoid using harmful chemicals. If we think about natural skincare in the same way, there are at least five lessons we can apply that will help us honor and naturally care for our skin with its unique needs.
Avoid Hydroquinone and Other Ingredients That Can Cause Us Harm
When it comes to ingredients, hydroquinone, a skin bleach, is for Black skincare what lye is for Black haircare. Many products designed for Black women contain skin bleaching chemicals. These ingredients are banned in Europe because of the side effects and health problems they cause for skin -- but they’re allowed to be marketed and sold to Black women in the US. Recent reports found that over 75% of products marketed to Black women contain toxic ingredients and many of the ingredients categorized as toxic were skin bleach and hair relaxer.
Unfortunately, products created for Black women are not usually designed with our skin health in mind but are designed to lighten or bleach our skin and use ingredients that can cause serious damage. While some ingredients can be safely used to treat specific hyperpigmentation issues, products with skin bleaching ingredients like hydroquinone should be used for limited periods of time and under the guidance of a skin care professional. The reality is, skin lightening is a major business that targets women of color, and the shift we need in skincare is to embrace our natural authentic shades of beauty and use products that support our natural skin tones, rather than try to change them.
Understand What’s Unique About Skincare for Black Women Then Work With It
There are four features that make our skin unique, and these remind me of what makes our hair unique.
- First, over 60% of us report having sensitive skin and we need a gentle approach to skincare. Just like we need to be gentle with our hair, we need to be gentle with melanin-rich skin.
- Second, our skin ages differently and our anti-aging skincare needs a specific approach. As we mature, our skin doesn’t initially show age with fine lines and wrinkles. Instead, we first show age with dullness and changes in skin texture. And just like we can’t wash our hair with drying shampoos designed for straight hair, we cannot use many of the skincare products for anti-aging that focus on wrinkles instead of dark marks and dullness.
- Third, our skin concerns are different, and women of color say that hyperigmentation is their leading concern, not wrinkles. This is similar to the unique needs we have for hair where our leading concern is breakage as compared to split ends and lack of volume.
- Fourth, every naturalista knows that hydration and moisture are great for your hair, and it’s the same for your skin. Even if your skin is oily, keeping it hydrated will help you look your best.
The Best Skin Care Products for Black Women Are Designed to Work Together
Whether you are team LCO or team LOC, you know that each product plays a specific role for healthy hair, and the order you apply them matters. It’s the same for skincare. At AbsoluteJOI we talk about three essential steps for healthy skin – cleanse, treat, moisturize – and within each step you can use more than one product depending on your needs. It’s also important to layer products that work with the natural pH of your skin and don’t interact to neutralize one another.
For example, we recommend using a toner after you cleanse to rebalance your skin and bring it back to its natural pH. This prepares it for serums and treatments that work better when your skin is slightly acidic. Common skincare ingredients like ascorbic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salycylic acid and others are much more effective and beneficial for your skin when used after a pH balancing toner. Products made with key ingredients really work well for melanin-rich skin, and the order you use them matters.
The Best Skin Care for Black Women is Skincare You Can Do Everyday Consistency Leads to Beautiful Results
No single product or treatment will give you overnight results for your skin or hair. However, using healthy ingredients, and beneficial selfcare practices consistently will give you healthy hair and healthy skin. Your skincare routine can be as simple or as complex as you want. But we advise to keep your routine simple, so you can do it every day. Consistency, a good selfcare practice and effective ingredients are all you need for healthy skin and hair.
Manage Your Stress and Health
In addition to the general guidance of drinking water and eating well for beautiful hair and skin, you need to manage your stress. Most of us have experienced stress that made our skin break out, and some of us have had serious stress that caused our hair to fall out. Since Black women experience unique stresses, we need to pay particular attention to this issue for inner peace, which helps our external appearance.
These are the five lessons that immediately come to mind for me.
Are there other lessons or practices you think we can use for natural skincare that come from natural haircare?
Please comment and let me know. I would love to hear feedback.
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