Skincare that caters to deeper complexions, often referred to as melanin skincare, isn’t necessarily a new frontier – well-known brands like AMBI, Blk Opal and Palmers, have maintained lasting stains on bathroom shelves of black mothers and grandmothers for decades. More recently, brands like Topicals and Hyper! Skin has become the staple of the younger generation of black skincare consumers.
As the world has recently shone a spotlight on the various ways black people are disenfranchised (remember the summer of 2021?), new and established multicultural beauty brands have received critical support that has catalyzed growth. aggressive and diversified call options for the very first time. Even black skincare influencers have seen increased engagement in their content — many have built entire platforms out of posts that sift through what darker-hued consumers should and shouldn’t use on their skin. From a bird’s eye view, this seemed like the desired outcome.
But the rise of messages specific to skin tone has resulted in overwhelming amounts of (sometimes misleading) information, leaving many consumers wondering. What does melanin skin care actually mean and therefore is it even necessary?
To answer the most pressing questions on the subject and set the record straight, TZR enlisted some of the best experts in the industry who have a wealth of knowledge in the treatment of melanotic skin.
Do we need melanin-rich skin care?
Most melanin-based skin care products enter the market on the premise that black and brown skin have unique needs that other products are unable to adequately address – a general perspective that all experts in color skin do not share equally. “It’s a complicated problem,” says Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Specific Beauty Skincare. “For general skin care like cleansing and moisturizing, most brands are suitable for all skin types. For problem-focused needs, you’ll most likely benefit from a brand that focuses on skin of color because their formulations address our most common issues.
Proprietary products for darker skin may not always be necessary, but the body of research to date suggests that formulas that double down on advanced pigmentation, treat inflammation and repair the skin barrier are especially beneficial for darker skin types. black and brown beauty consumers. Hyper! Skin founder Desiree Verdejo always references these tent pegs when developing the product. Following the viral success of Hyper!’s Vitamin C Brightening Serum, the Hyper Even Fade and Glow AHA Mask was intentionally built around an active ingredient that stands out for its ability to effectively treat dark spots without irritation. “Mandelic acid is a milder acid that’s less likely to hyperpigment and is also anti-inflammatory, so it’s ideal for the multiple issues our community faces,” she explains. “The goal is what’s best for our community and its needs, but melanin skincare isn’t exclusive. Positioning and centering melanin-rich skin doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. not good for others, it just means that this category deserves attention.
There are a few downsides
Other experts worry that while there are some special considerations with darker skin, such as a propensity to develop hyperpigmentation, the current state of the category leaves consumers of color vulnerable to harmful misinformation. “The differences between skin tones are not so much how you treat it, but how skin conditions present themselves,” says Kahina Jean-Baptiste, esthetician and beauty content creator. “The idea that there is something very, genetically different further alienates black people, especially dark-skinned women, and encourages otherness. We see it in the SPF conversation. When dark-skinned people think they don’t need [sunscreen because they are inherently different]it becomes dangerous.
Overemphasizing genetic differences risks putting the industry on a slippery slope, but research at identified a handful of unique characteristics that are relevant to product formulation. “When I think of skincare for darker skin, I think of products that treat dark spots and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “We definitely have more active melanocytes, which means any injury or irritation is more likely to induce pigmentation disorders, so you can’t be too aggressive.”
Hyperpigmentation is a stubborn skin condition to treat and poses costly product testing issues that some brands choose to forego altogether. “The disappearance of a dark spot in [lighter skin] is different than in [darker skin],” she says. “The number of skin-colored patients included in a study directly influences the true effectiveness of the product on different skin tones.” Dr. Woolery explains that other clinical disparities may not have data. strong, but still deserve recognition.” Some studies have found that colored skin may have more [water loss] and the lower ceramides which are essential lipids for the skin barrier. This does not mean that you have to buy a special moisturizer, but we may have a predisposition to have drier skin.
The problem goes beyond the products
Intentional attention to colored skin also has a great impact on professional care. “There are some nuances that you really need to understand when it comes to melanotic skin. For example, many skin conditions can present differently in darker skin tones,” says Dr. Rose Ingleton, board-certified dermatologist and Founder of Rose MD Skincare Eczema is more common in patients of African and Asian descent, but it looks quite different from lighter skin types, leading to higher rates of late or misdiagnosis. Education about deeper skin tones can help close this gap and directly improve the quality of care.
“While we are still a long way from true equity in dermatology, we have come a long way,” says Dr. Ingleton. “For example, laser hair removal was banned for darker skin types because the technology was not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between melanin in the skin and melanin in the hair. This is a very important distinction to make because using the wrong laser can leave serious scars. Now they have smarter lasers that can be used on darker skin tones.
Lifestyle factors offer another perspective on melanin skin care. Understanding cultural norms and behaviors can inform how a brand speaks to consumers of color rather than the types of products created. “Our overall efforts must be focused on the essentials,” says Jean-Baptiste. “Sun protection; more hydrating routines instead of stripping soaps; moving from shea butters to humectants. We need to find a way to introduce healthy skin habits in a way that’s more accessible to black consumers.
It all depends on the representation
Although the data confirms that there are some ethnic variations, consumers should be wary of brands that exaggerate facts or invalidate specific ingredients based on skin color. The continued growth of melanin skin care should genuinely meet consumer needs rather than create new problems. Special skin considerations aside, the beauty industry has historically ignored multicultural consumers in formulation, representation, and marketing, making the need for a shift in focus evident.
“Melanin-rich skin has been an afterthought concern in the beauty industry for a long time,” says Dr. Ingleton. “We need to be clear that many skincare products that aren’t specifically created for melanin-rich skin can still work and are safe for melanin-rich skin, but we deserve to be seen and celebrated. So I think it’s great that more companies are starting to center our community.
At this point, if your motivation for buying melanin-rich skincare is to support black representation in the skincare community, it may just be a matter of making a conscious effort to buy products owned by black people or to consult black dermatologists and aestheticians to support their efforts in the industry.