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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.

Dr. Mona Gohara

Dr. Mona Gohara


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.



  • Julee

    These are great tips. I think the doctor gives steady advice for skin of all colors.

    September 19, 2017 at 10:07 am
  • I am glad you brought this up and are educating others! Sun protection should be taken seriously not matter the colour of your skin.

    September 19, 2017 at 11:26 am
  • Melanie E

    This physician sounds knowledgeable on the subject. There are so many things to consider when taking care of skin. It is always important to research skin care products before using them on skin.

    September 19, 2017 at 11:58 am
  • Jeanette

    Sun protection is something that everybody should do. I have known a couple people of the African-American background that have had melanoma. We take it very seriously in this household. We always have lotion on when we go out.

    September 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm
  • This is so interesting, I’m going to have to share this with my niece. I wouldn’t have even realized it would be different for colored girls to have certain cosmetic procedures.

    September 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm
  • Michelle Kneece Waller

    These are really helpful tips. It is great that you are educating others about the importance of taking care of your skin and protecting against the sun.

    September 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm
  • Ali || Veggies by Candlelight

    These are amazing tips, and even a great reminder for everyone to protect their skin. As well as taking care of the skin no matter the skin tone. I never knew that different skin tones could react so different to procedures, thank you for sharing this information.

    September 19, 2017 at 8:27 pm
  • Marysa

    So important to take proper care of your skin! I need to be better about protecting my skin from the sun. I am surprised when people think the sun don’t damage your skin just because it is dark.

    September 19, 2017 at 9:06 pm
  • Anosa Malanga VA

    I definitely agree with you, so many myths about skin color. Some says if you are very white you are prone to cancer and when too dark. I guess we really need to learn and have knowledge about it so we would know how to be able take care of our skin.

    September 19, 2017 at 10:30 pm
  • Censie 'Mumby' Sawyer

    Knowing this information is great. We have to be good to our skin. I have super fair skin so I know there are products that I should be aware of too. Great information. Will be sharing.

    September 19, 2017 at 11:03 pm
  • I have had many black girlfriends all though my life. My best girlfriend in my late 20’s and early 30’s knew taking care of her skin was key. Including SPF sun protection! I remember her teaching her daughter who I ended up raising for a few years after her mama passed. It was the hair care that stumped me lol. Needless to say I am so thankful that my friend dispelled any myths about black skin care or I never would have known myself. It makes sense though. Just because you have dark skin does not make you immune to the dangers of skin cancers and other harmful conditions!

    September 20, 2017 at 3:12 am
  • This is a very informative interview!! I didn’t know there were so many differences in skin concerns with darker skin than with lighter, I thought we all suffered in the name beauty for the same reasons…LOL! PS- I am also extremely jealous that people with darker skin are slower to show signs of aging. I love your blog!!

    September 20, 2017 at 3:20 am
  • Nikki

    Dr. Mona has gorgeous glowing skin, so I’m betting she knows what she is talking about! I think that all skin types need special love and care, and everyone definitely needs to protect their skin from the sun. I’m a big advocate of sun care. My aunt had skin cancer twice, then a few years later, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Too many people think skin cancer is no big deal because it’s easily cured, but brain cancer almost always comes from another type of cancer in the body, and more often than not, it’s skin cancer.

    September 20, 2017 at 7:30 am
  • There is so much useful information to glean from this interview.I had no idea just how many differences there were between skin colors when it comes to taking care of aging skin. I have a number of girlfriends with darker skin that I will share this post with – I think they’ll find it informative.

    September 20, 2017 at 8:01 am
  • I love beauty interviews! This was a very informative post for those with darker skin! Thanks for the info!

    September 20, 2017 at 10:47 am
  • Kathy

    This is a very good interview. A lot of great information here. It’s crazy how each skin type can be so much different.

    September 20, 2017 at 10:51 am
  • It is important to wear SPF every day. I try to remember to do this every day!

    September 20, 2017 at 10:54 am
  • Ruth I

    This is so informative! I have always believed those myths about dark skin. We should know how to take care of skin the right way.

    September 20, 2017 at 11:06 am
  • Julie Syl

    It is very important to use and wear Sun protection every day. Especially if we stare in the sun.

    September 20, 2017 at 1:07 pm
  • Sadie

    Sun protection is so important, for everyone. I’m glad I found this post to share so I can help bring the topic to light. 🙂 I am guilty of forgetting to wear sunscreen at the beach because it’s always cloudy. I learn a quick lesson when my skin is lobster-colored.

    September 20, 2017 at 2:40 pm
  • pnkgirl25

    It was nice to read this tips from an expert! The post is really helpful, thank you for sharing!

    September 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm
  • Betzy Carmona

    Thank you for sharing such informative content! I have to safe SPF is a must for me.

    September 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm
  • redheadmomblog

    This is blog post has so much information! I have fair skin and always try to use products with SPF in them.

    September 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm
  • Kristine Nicole Alessandra VA

    I enjoyed reading this post. I have learned a lot about skin care. It is a must to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun, regardless of skin tone.

    September 20, 2017 at 5:48 pm
  • Angela Milnes

    Oh wow, This is absolutely an awesome post I really love your tips and I should always wear a sun protection, Glad you share this important tips.

    September 21, 2017 at 2:49 am
  • Taking care of your skin is important! That is why I’ve always been adamant about skin care and sticking to a daily regimen. – HilLesha

    September 21, 2017 at 11:11 am
  • Karlyn Cruz

    YES! One of my friends actually told me she was going to go get her moles checked out and then said, “you don’t need it. It’s only for the really light skinned people.”


    Another thing I noticed is that people with dark skin tend to have more skin tags. I know that a consistent skin regimen is really helpful but I do know we each have our own problems when it comes to our skin. So white, dark … doesn’t matter. We all have our issues if we don’t take care.

    I do appreciate and love these tips though. Definitely good to know all that info about PIH!

    September 21, 2017 at 11:45 am
  • Seeking Neverland

    I agree. Sun protection is necessary no matter your skin tone. I am a fanatic about protecting my skin and stress this to my sister all the time haha.

    September 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm
  • Adaleta Avdic

    Sun protection is always important for everyone!! Your skin needs the protection regardless of skin tone.

    September 21, 2017 at 10:20 pm
  • Acup Ofassamtea

    That’s a great interview and you did awesome job asking so many important questions. Probably many I got to know today. Sun protection plays such a great role in our skin.

    September 24, 2017 at 11:39 pm

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