Yes, Korean Beauty Can Help With These 3 Common Black Girl Skin Problems
Melanin is beautiful, but hyperpigmentation is not. (Neither is eczema or ingrown hairs, for that matter.) But don’t worry — K-beauty is here to help these common black girl skin problems, thanks to its focus on sun protection, evening skin tone, and natural ingredients.
The beauty and value of melanin is finally coming to the forefront in an industry that has historically ignored its existence. Many will agree that Fenty Beauty’s 40 shade foundation range was the catalyst for inclusion: The brand reportedly racked in over $72 million in its first month and made Time’s 2017 best inventions list.
It’s about time that brands noticed women of color. African-American women spend about $7.4 billion annually on beauty products, 80% more money on cosmetics and twice as much on skincare products than the general market. By 2021, the total Black spending power is estimated to grow to an astounding $1.5 trillion.
Korean beauty brands are beginning to take the hint that black women are worth the investment. Innisfree launched a 14 shade line of cushion foundation last year that is markedly different from the traditional limited beige shade range targeted at ethnic Koreans. Although K-beauty has a long way to go for inclusive makeup, it does win in one category: skincare.
The South Korean beauty industry is renowned for its emphasis on creating powerful skincare products that effectively correct a wide range of concerns. Black women have three major troubles: pigment changes, eczema, and ingrown hairs. To help us break down each condition and what can help, we talked to dermatologist Dr. Carlos A. Charles, the founder of Derma di Colore in New York City, who specializes in the treatment of darker skin tones. His expertise paired with our K-beauty arsenal is the perfect formula for flawless black girl skin. Let’s get started.
Hyperpigmentation and Hypopigmentation
“Hyperpigmentation is an overproduction of melanin leading to dark discoloration on the skin,” says Dr. Charles. “This can occur from a number of factors including from any form of trauma to the skin, after rashes or acne that cause inflammation, or from excessive sun exposure. In darker skin tones the cells that produce melanin or pigment known as the melanocytes are more robust and active. Therefore, they can produce darkening of the skin or hyperpigmentation.”
Hypopigmentation, on the other hand, is the loss of melanin or color in the skin, says Dr. Charles. “This can occur in several settings, such as from conditions that affect the melanocytes and from various forms of injury or trauma to the skin.”
What can help:
To minimize hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation, Dr. Charles recommends keeping your skincare routine as simple as possible: a retinoid, an antioxidant serum such as vitamin C, and the daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen containing moisturizer.
“The daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen containing moisturizer that’s at least SPF 30 or greater is important to prevent worsening of hyperpigmentation,” explains Dr. Charles. “Sunscreens containing the physical blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are extremely effective.” But because sunscreens with these physical blockers can leave a white cast on darker skin tones, Dr. Charles recommends hybrid sunscreens that contain both physical and chemical blockers.”
The K-beauty input:
Korean sunscreens are renown for their lightweight textures that never leave a white cast. There are tons to choose from, both with hybrid UV filters and with purely physical blockers.
Also, do not fear the word “whitening.” Products with this label are not synonymous with bleaching and will not alter your natural skin tone. On the contrary, “whitening” actually means “brightening” or evening out the skin tone. The whitening label on K-beauty products is your best friend if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation: They usually contain ingredients to fade pigmentation such as science-verified vitamin C and ginseng or dermatologist-approved brighteners like licorice and niacinamide.
A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream SPF 45/PA+++ is a K-beauty favorite for its completely transparent finish and lightweight texture. Village 11 Factory Daily Mild Sun Cream SPF 50/PA+++ is a hybrid sunscreen that also has absolutely no white cast and a moisturizing finish. For a brightening “whitening” product, SanDaWha Vitamin C Whitening Essence features the holy trifecta of vitamin C, licorice, and niacinamide to even out — not bleach — skin tone.
“Eczema is a condition characterized by recurrent itchy patches and/or bumps on the skin,” says Dr. Charles. “It has a strong genetic component and can appear at any age. Eczema can have various presentations in people with darker skin tones. It most commonly appears as a scaly patch on the skin. However, it can also look like fine raised bumps around the hair follicles scattered throughout the body as well as other presentations.”
What can help:
“Although eczema cannot be completely cured, it can be controlled,” says Dr. Charles. “I will typically recommend various topical anti-inflammatory creams to calm the active process of eczema. I will also recommend a fragrance-free regimen, including soaps, moisturizers, and laundry detergents, to minimize the frequency of flares.”
The K-beauty input:
Fortunately, many Korean products cater to sensitive skin with formulations that are free of potentially irritating fragrance, dyes, and alcohol. (K-beauty brand Truezyme specializes in EWG green ingredients in their line of body products gentle enough for the whole family.) However, dodging flare-ups involves more than the knowledge of what to avoid: It’s learning what to embrace, too.
People with eczema have a skin barrier that’s equivalent to a leaky faucet: It’s always losing water. A multi-step routine can incorporate many layers of nourishing, reparative hydration that helps to repair this faucet. It’s important to incorporate three types of ingredients throughout the routine to obtain optimal hydration: emollients, humectants, and occlusives.
Emollients soothe and soften the skin. Natural emollients such as jojoba, squalane, and sunflower oil are rich in fatty acids that help to protect the skin barrier. Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, attract water from the air or underlying layers of the skin. Occlusive ingredients, such as shea butter, create a barrier that seals in moisturizer. (Get a twofer with Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream, which features shea butter, jojoba, and calming guaiazulene, clinically proven to calm eczema.)
The bottom line: These ingredients are a winning trio, and you should incorporate some variety of each into your routine.
“Ingrown hairs occur when thick curly hairs grow into the layers of the skin,” says Dr. Charles. “This can lead to inflammation and bumps on the skin. If untreated, this can also lead to various forms of scarring. It occurs more frequently in people with dark complexions because their hair tends to be thick and curly, which is more likely to grow into the layers of skin.”
What can help:
Ingrown hairs often occur in areas where you shave, so how you shave can help alleviate this problem. “There are several techniques with shaving that can be helpful, such as shaving along with the direction of the hair and using a sharp blade each time,” says Dr. Charles. “Additionally, using emollient shaving creams to soften the hair can be helpful.
“However, ingrown hairs can still occur even with the most meticulous shaving regimen,” he continues. “Laser hair removal can greatly minimize the formation of ingrown hairs. Those with darker skin should be sure they are treated by a board-certified dermatologist that is skilled in treating darker skin with laser.”
The K-Beauty input:
Many people will tell you to exfoliate before you shave or wax, but you should really be doing it afterwards to avoid irritation. Applying a little salicylic acid can also help to prevent ingrown hairs. Be sure to use a soothing moisturizer to finish the process, like Le Cinq Hydro Intensive Body Lotion, which features only EWG green rated ingredients.
Has K-beauty helped you with some of your black girl skin problems? What other tips do you have? Share them with us below!