For women of color, summer skincare struggles are real. I cringe to think of the me of summers past, sweltering with an ashy face and legs because I couldn’t find sunblock that didn’t make me look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. My mother would heap scorn on my insistence that sunscreen was a staple: “Brown people don’t need sunscreen!” Thankfully the myth that people of color don’t “need” sunscreen is now busted. (In fact, they might need it more.)
Ten years ago, it was difficult to find beauty products, especially in skincare, that catered to the skin concerns of POC. Now that is slowly but surely changing. YouTubers of color, like dermatologist Dr. Vanita Rattan, have released a ton of videos in a treasure trove of information for POC skincare junkies. In fact, it was Dr. V who first verbalized why my skin is so different and how to take appropriate care of it as a person of color. She explains that in skin of color, the melanocytes—cells that produce melanin—are actually easily triggered. Hyperpigmentation and inflammation are therefore common skin of color concerns.
In light of this slightly alarming information, let’s look at some of the top summer skincare tips for people of color.
Ten years ago, it was difficult to find skincare that catered to POC, but YouTubers like Dr. Vanita Rattan explain why my skin is different and how to take care of it.
1. Wear Sunscreen!!!
Because those with higher melanin counts are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation, Dr. Alexis Stephens, another gorgeous woman of color whose expertise as a board-certified dermatologist shines through her videos, recommends that POC look for sunscreens that also contain blue light/visible light filters.
2. Exfoliate But Gently
Because POC are more prone to hyperpigmentation and scarring, Dr. V recommends gentle exfoliation. Exfoliation is a pillar of good grooming, and its results are all the more noticeable in our skin-baring summer outfits. However, steer clear of physical scrubs loaded with fragrance and essential oils as well as dry-brushing regimens. Dr. V says that these are harsh on the skin and can trigger inflamed responses. Gentle exfoliation is the way to go for better reflection of light and for a deeper penetration of actives. She recommends using exfoliants containing BHAs, which are especially ideal for bacne.
Dr. V also has an extremely helpful video on treating pigmentation around the bikini area—necessary for summer!
3. Dermaplane For an Instant Glow
Another practice Dr. Stephens encourages—which makes perfect sense in the summer when the sunlight illuminates every pore and fine hair on the face—is dermaplaning. Done right, dermaplaning removes vellus (fine facial) hairs and dead skin cells, polishing the face and imparting an instant glow. It also allows for better penetration of skincare and a smoother application of makeup.
4. Eat Your Way to Elastic Skin
The summers can get really dry and intense where I am, leading to painfully dry and itchy eyes. “Mature” Korean YouTuber Una is famous for her total body care lifestyle, where what she eats is carefully crafted to maintain her skin health as well as her body. She shares a recipe for a vegetarian risotto with a “cream” containing soy milk, which is intended to deliver vitamins to her skin from within.
She also recommends eating omega-3 supplements and carrots for eye health and using retinol-based eye creams to protect the delicate skin around the eyes.
5. Simplify Your Summer Skincare
April Basi is a cosmetic chemist who advises pursuing a simple skincare routine as you age. She notes that as we age, our sebum production decreases, which leads to increased risks of the skin barrier being compromised. Rather than slapping on seven to 10 products in quick succession, she advocates for paring down one’s skincare routine to no more than five quality products.
6. Keep the Retinol Low
Another tip I learned by watching April Basi’s YouTube videos is that people of color should avoid high-percentage retinoids, since it can lead to possible hyperpigmentation. April recommends sticking to a retinol with low percentages, and sandwiching your retinol between your serum and your moisturizer.