Why Everyone is Obsessed with Melanin Skincare
Historically skincare products have been manufactured to match a white market. Even though 40% of Americans are people with skin of color, a greater level of melanin. This is estimated to grow beyond 50% by 2045. Globally 80% of all people identify as having skin of color. That being said, the products made today are definitely not a “one size fits all.” Even today the majority of skincare products are geared toward white skin types; however, trends and movements like Black is Beautiful have worked to bring awareness and showcase the beauty of African American skin and all other skin types. Over time there have been huge amounts of research and trials to develop skincare products for all skin types and colors.
The Tea about Melanin
“Melanin-rich skin” or “skin of color” are both terms that cover the wide spectrum of ethnicities and skin tones. The Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype (FST) scale is used by dermatologists to categorize levels of melanin and its reaction to sunlight. FST 1 is very light skin that always burns and never tans. FST 6 is the deepest level of melanin-rich skin which naturally provides more built-in sun protection.
Skin of color typically refers to those within the 3-6 FST range. However, given there are lighter skin tones within populations of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and so many others, it is not always easy to measure skin tone in this way. Melanin is a naturally occurring substance in our skin that gives us pigmentation. Those with historical backgrounds of people more frequently exposed to UV rays, typically produce more melanin. Melanin is not only responsible for the color of our skin but also our:
- Pupils or irises of the eyes
- Stria vascularis of the inner ear
- Some areas of the brain, the substantia nigra and locus coeruleus
- Medulla and zona reticularis of the adrenal gland
There are actually a few different types of melanin that affect our skin color including eumelanin and pheomelanin.
- Eumelanin: This melanin is found in the hair, skin, and dark areas around the nipples. It provides black and brown pigment to the hair, skin, and eyes.
- Pheomelanin: This type of melanin is also found in the hair and skin. It provides pink and red colors and is the main pigment found among red-haired individuals. Pheomelanin is not as protective against UV rays.
When it comes to darker skin tones you might wonder if there is really a difference in appropriate skincare. The short answer is yes. Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Jessie Cheung says that “darker skin is more prone to stubborn hyperpigmentation and over-active scarring, including keloids, after any sort of trauma such as a pimple or a scratch.” and this only scratches the surface of unique skincare problems people of color face. Research has shown those with darker skin tones can have:
- A greater chance of dark circles within certain ethnic groups due to higher concentrations of melanin in the skin around the eyes.
- More stubborn hyperpigmentation or spots and uneven tone.
- More pronounced or raised scarring.
- Lower levels of ceramides (cells that keep skin’s surface smooth and hydrated).
- Tighter and more compact skin elements, which may improve resiliency against environmental stressors, including pollutants.
Each of these problems has a slightly different solution for darker skin tones. One of the most common issues is discoloration. While this is also an issue for lighter skin, it’s often more difficult to resolve in melanin-rich skin, requiring a combination approach using different ingredients. Azelaic acid stands out for its ability to target this concern in darker skin.
In addition, various types of concentrated vitamin C, arbutin, bakuchiol, retinol, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid each have research to back up their skin-brightening and tone-evening capabilities. Each of these ingredients works in a slightly different way and using a combination of ingredients might be the best approach.
Regardless of your skin color, sunscreen is essential to ensure uneven tones don't get worse. Even the best ingredients will not be able to remedy damage if you’re not protecting your skin from ongoing UV exposure. 30 SPF or greater is recommended for daily use if you are going to be exposed to the sun.
Another very common skin problem for those with darker skin is the appearance of acne scars. Like discoloration, the remedy for this ranges from exfoliation to chemical peels. Because the marks are more pronounced, again a combination of products might be the best option. Natural skin brightening ingredients are a great place to start and using them individually first is important. When you test a new product or ingredient on your skin doing a patch test to check that there is not a negative reaction is key.
BlkGrn’s FLOW Perfectly Balanced Facial Oil, this product is crafted for black skin by all black artisans. Its mission is to provide products tailored for people of color and use green ingredients to do so. They promote high-quality, toxin-free products and an overall message of health and wellness. This particular facial oil has black currant seed oil, hazelnut oil, and frankincense.
Hyper Skin’s Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum: another product manufactured for people of color by people of color. Focusing on hyperpigmentation and dark spots, this brightening serum features a combination of fruit enzymes, turmeric, bearberry, and kojic acid.
Black Girl Sunscreen: another company producing products for people of color by people of color. “Because we get sunburnt too.” This sunscreen features avocado, jojoba oil, cacao, carrot and sunflower oil.
There are so many new skincare products and businesses that have been created by people of color for people of color working to create products that address issues that “traditional” products did not. Supporting small businesses that adhere to green standards just seems like the smart move. Do yourself a favor, do the research and find products that align with your skin tone, morals, and personality.
Written by Kiana St Onge