For Colored Girls: Deep Down, Dark Skin
One of the biggest myths that exist today for us brown-skinned girls, is that we are immune to sun damage and premature aging – especially if you are really dark-skinned! That, my loves is a big fat lie! We are unique when it comes to beauty care, yes – but the same rules of cleansing, exfoliating, toning, moisturizing, treating (masks) and SPF apply to all skin tones.
To get to the bottom of the brown girl’s beauty regimen – I turned to Dr. Mona Gohara, assistant clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology in New Haven, CT. Dr. Gohara is a key promoter of skincare awareness, including sun safety and premature aging amongst us women of color, focusing on the chemistry and concerns of darker skin…
Sapphire Kharyzma: What is the basic skin biology of people of color?
Dr. G: There are three layers which comprise the human skin-the epidermis, the dermis and fat. Within the epidermis there are pigment producing cells called melanocytes; melanocytes produce melanin which is the substance that confers skin color. We all have the same number of melanocytes, regardless of complexion–the browner you are the more melanin you are producing. In short, melanin determines skin color. Melanin has many different functions in human skin. Most importantly, it provides inherent protection against the sun and is a natural antioxidant. – Dr. Mona Gohara (all quotes).
Sapphire Kharyzma: What are some of the common skin issues affecting people with darker skin tones? Are these issues different than people with lighter skin tones and if so, why?
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a condition which occurs more frequently in individuals with darker skin. It is localized skin darkening which occurs after trauma or inflammation. For example, when people of color get a pimple, for some reason melanocytes “rev” up and produce more melanin. As a result, when the lesion fades, the skin gets darker. The same phenomenon applies for cuts, bruises and resolving rashes. To treat PIH, you need to use an SPF of 30 or higher everyday, and give it time. Other remedies such as hydroquinones, retinol, glycolic acid, and chemical peels can also help speed up the process.
Melasma is another type of skin darkening that happens in individuals of African, Latin, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean descent. Patients with melasma notice brown or gray-brown patches on the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, chin or upper lip. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is thought that pregnancy, birth control pills (or other hormone therapies), and some medications, together with sun exposure, may trigger this disease. Again, judicious application of SPF 30, or higher, and fading creams which include hydroquinone, are best forms of treatment.
There are some natural alternatives that treat both PIH and melasma as well, including soy, coffee berry extract, and licorice root.
Sapphire Kharyzma: Does a darker skin tone mean skin is slower to age? What should every dark-skinned person include in their daily skincare regimen?
People of color have more melanin, which provides “built-in” protection against the damaging effects of the sun. Because of the high level of melanin, darker skin tones show fewer signs of aging. In fact, a medium brown African -American person has a natural SPF of 13.4, versus a fair skinned Caucasian who has a natural SPF of 3.4 Plus, since melanin is a natural antioxidant, it protects against free radicals—the damaging particles that attack collagen and elastin and cause wrinkles— people of color have a tendency to have smoother, firmer skin longer. To boost the protective effects of melanin, you should apply an SPF of at least 30 and a serum or cream rich with antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, coffee berry, kojic acid, and/or retinols.
Daily SPF of 30 or higher is a must for everyone because darker skin can develop skin cancer. Because some physicians and patients erroneously think that brown skin is exempt from this disease, this misconception lends to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. There is no question that people of color are less likely to become afflicted with skin cancer. Sadly, however, they are much more likely to die from the disease. Because skin malignancy is curable if caught early, there is no reason for an increase in mortality to exist.
Sapphire Kharyzma: What skincare ingredients should darker skin tones avoid? What should they look for and why?
You should avoid products that are abrasive or irritating since they can contribute to hyperpigmentation. Steer clear of skincare that contains the following ingredients: fragrances, alcohol, propylene glycol, lanolin, dyes, or alpha hydroxy acids in high concentrations. Also, avoid cleansing with a puff or loofah, which can cause irritation. Look for broad spectrum SPF with natural minerals such as titanium or zinc oxide and make sure your cleansers, moisturizers and serums have antioxidant ingredients like vitamin C/E, coffee berry extract, licorice root, and soy (to name a few). Retinols (vitamin A derivatives) can help improve overall skin health when used properly in small amounts.
Sapphire Kharyzma: Regarding cosmetic procedures, such as laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion, and fillers, are there any that you recommend for people with darker skin tones or any to avoid?
People with darker skin tones should be careful before having certain cosmetic procedures. Botox, and injectable fillers have been studied and proven to be safe and effective in combating signs of aging in brown skin. Although micodermabrasion and laser resurfacing are options for those with darker complexions, you’re more likely to have post inflammatory hyperpigmenation and scarring after these procedures. If you do decide to try one of these treatments, make sure your doctor is proficient in performing them on a non-Caucasian population, otherwise permanent skin damage may result.
Queens of Virtue was birthed through the desire to create a brand for multicultural women – to inspireHER, motivateHER, influenceHER, educateHER, empowerHER, and leadHER to make her passion and purpose, her paycheck. Travel has always been my passion and therapy, with beauty and style being my creative outlet. Originally, the brand was my blog – ‘Travel. Beauty. Style.,’ but I decided to plant seeds of expansion. I focused on becoming a certified travel consultant, but I wanted to create a platform where women can not only travel but connect through genuine togetherness. I did not want just another travel agency, so the brand operates as a DMC (Destination Management Company) and a DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) as well.
As a blogger I noticed that influencers of color were being left out of the “influence” space, especially in the luxury sector. Campaigns continued to go to black and brown destinations, yet the message appeared extremely whitewashed. So, I became the change I desired to see! No longer did I care to come to the table. I realized that my entire life, I was a master chef. I asked myself, why sit at the table, when I am the createHER of the Michelin 5-star menu? Coming from a Caribbean culture, raised in Brooklyn, NY – I knew that it takes a village! So, I built one.
The ‘She Rize” movement is all about the ‘Power in the Pack.” We are Women of Power, uplifting multicultural women, helping them to recognize their role by unleashing their Queendom that exists within. The brand offers resources within pillars of motivation – through coaching and mentoring – for small businesses and entrepreneurship development. As a woman, one of the hardest things to accomplish is being mentored and/or coached by other women. Not too many women take the time to be our sisters’ keeper. I remember looking up to Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, and of course, Maya Angelou. Their creative works gave me the inspiration and fuel I need to ‘rize’ when the world told me I cannot! “You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!” – Maya Angelou.
I work 1-on-1 with women aspiring to take their brands higher. For those who are interested in the travel industry, you will receive mentorship and coaching, in addition to training and job placement upon industry certification. In fact, you can expect my guidance and support throughout the entire process.
For the last decade, as a digital influencer, I recognized a void within the industry. The goal is to be the bridge that connects the not-so-invisible dots. Working with women influencers and creators of color, is my passion – as well as a privilege! This initiative works with top brands, professionals, and influencers/creators (by invitation only) to create content as storytellers! Throughout the year, this collective hosts exclusive FAMs (familiarization) and Press trips for influencers to experience destinations and events, saturated in luxury and style. I also create luxury campaigns in the Travel and Lifestyle arenas. The initiative also provides a luxury digital magazine for creators and influencers, by creators and influencers called ‘Shades of Beauty, Influence of Color,’ as well as a podcast series called the ‘Queen’s Qorner,’ training, courses, and virtual travel content – all launching soon.
The vision I have for Queens of Virtue continues to transform. I hope to impact over 1,000 women globally by the end of 2022, leaving a digital footprint of change and growth. By 2025, I hope to reach over 10,000 women. When I say impact – I mean to influence, inspire, empower, educate, lead – to shape in some way, helping HER to not just tell her story, but to manifest her dreams into a sweet reality. My goal is to have properties; Airbnb’s, resorts, and Inn’s in exotic destinations around the globe, in addition, catamaran(s), private jet(s) and thousands of sustainable women-led and owned businesses under my wing by 2030. I plan to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren. Queens of Virtue aims to be a household staple and world-renowned luxury lifestyle brand for decades to come.