Sunscreen is the most important step in your daily skincare routine. I always tell clients everything we work with in the salon and the products they use at home will not give them the optimal results if they are skipping this essential step, especially considering the climate we live under!
Applying sunscreen is non-negotiable irrespective of the weather forecast or your skin tone. UV (ultraviolet) rays are present even during those cloudy days, which is why it’s recommended you apply your SPF even during those grey days as well. Contrary to popular belief, black and other people of colour do need to apply sunscreen as much as those of a fairer complexion. Though the risk of skin cancer is much lower in African skin compared to white skin, black skin is still equally vulnerable to the other side effects of the sun’s harsh rays.
What UVA & UVB?
Broad spectrum is what one should be looking out for when making the purchase of a sunscreen. Broad spectrum protection means protection from the two forms of Ultraviolet light that can affect the skin after exposure – UVA and UVB.
UVA has a longer wave that penetrates into the thickest layer of your skin, the dermis layer. This is what’s also referred to as the “living layer of your skin as it contains the blood vessels, collagen, fibroblasts, elastin and other cells which maintain the integrity and youthfulness of the skin. Damage to these cells results in
- Sagging skin
- Break down of collagen
- Dry skin
UVB rays have a shorter wave and are responsible for sunburn, which is the burning of the top layer of the skin. This leads to:
- Premature ageing
- DNA damage causing premature ageing can all be a result of UVB exposure.
Whilst melanin does protect against some UV rays, it doesn’t protect us against all. Sun burn does happen to us and our melanin is usually the reason why skin cancer is detected at a late and possibly fatal stage.
How To Choose A Sunscreen
The golden rule when choosing a sunscreen is selecting anything between SPF 30 and 50, what do these numbers mean? The PA rating is a system ranking sunscreens based on the amount of protection they can provide from UVA rays. It basically indicates the amount of time you can stay under direct exposure to the sun without getting UV damage, e.g. SPF 15 = 150 minutes burning. It’s recommended that you reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially when directly exposed to the sun’s rays. Factor 30 will block out about 97% of UV rays whereas SPF 50 will block out about 98% and give you a bit more time before experiencing sun burn.
No More Ashy Melanin
Sunscreens have gotten a bad rap for leaving a white, pasty film on the skin but with modern technologies, newer formulations have created more brown skin friendly sunscreens which blend in with all skin tones. Looking grey and ashy is no longer an excuse to not layer up. Physical sunscreens were responsible for that white residue as they contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. New physical formulations have been micronized by grinding larger particles sizes into smaller sizes that don’t leave white residues on the skin making it more aesthetically acceptable. Physical sunscreens protect the skin by sitting on top and reflecting the UV rays off the surface of the skin. This is where the term sunblock originated from however sunscreen and sunblock is pretty much one and the same thing. Physical sunscreens are ideal for sensitive and reactive skin so they’re a great pick if you are prone to irritation. Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by absorbing UV rays and generally have a more translucent finish. The absorption of UV can increase heat in the skin which may cause irritation on rosacea skin. There’s also combination sunscreens which have both physical and chemical properties.
Photosensitivity is caused by products and treatments which make the skin more vulnerable to UV damage. These include chemical peels, lasers, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), Beta Hydroxys Acids (BHA) as well as retinol. All these are very safe and effective in treating various indications however sunscreen usage is imperative to make sure that you get the best and safest results from these super ingredients. Post inflammatory pigmentation and scarring can occur in the case of photosensitivity without SPF protection. Black and brown skins are more at risk of hyperpigmentation especially when the skin is exposed to trauma and UV rays.
Sunscreen helps protect against UVA and UVB rays but it may not protect the body completely which, is why we do not recommended laying under the sun. It is possible to get a tan while using sunscreen even when ensuring to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. A tan is the body’s natural protective response to UV – evidence that there’s been skin damage due to excessive melanocyte (your pigment producing cells, responsible for your complexion) activity as a result of UV exposure.
Sunscreen For Every Skin Type
There’s a sunscreen for all skin types, oil free and matte finish textures for your oily and acne prone skin and cream-based SPF’s for dry skin as well as lotion like products for your combination skin. SPF in make up does not give you adequate protection as you do not apply enough of a cosmetic product to get the full SPF factor of the product. Layering up SPF also does not work, factor 15 in your foundation plus and factor 15 in your moisturizer does not give you SPF 30. It is also recommended that you use a stand-alone sunscreen vs a 2 in 1 product because the efficacy of SPF factor or moisturizing properties are lost when trying to combine these two products. You’ll always get the most of a product when it has a single function.
Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine, whether going about your day or enjoying the outdoors under direct exposure. There’s a product for every skin type and lifestyle. It is also important to note the sunscreen or sunblock do not prevent skin tanning or burning, exposure to the sun will brown melanated skin even more, but melanin is for Africa, the place of the Sun, melanated skin tolerates the effects of the sun better.
By Zukiswa Khoza.
Your skin is the largest organs on your body, it serves as the first line of defence against extrinsic factors such as toxins, bacteria and viruses. It also prevents water loss, regulates our temperature and gives us our sense of touch. Skin also reflects overall health as disruption to ones health may manifest on the skin as irritation and disease. This precious organ also gives us our skin tone, melanin (pigment) is produced by melanocytes and the density and distribution of the melanin will determine your skin tone.
Melanin Is For Protection
Black or brown skin has a denser distribution of melanin. The indigenous people of areas that have very hot climates generally have brown to black skin tones e.g. Africa, South Asia, Australia. One of the evolutionary reasons of our skin tone was to protect us against the harsh climates in these areas.
Dark skins have a slightly higher protection against ultraviolet damage but we are not completely protected. Ultraviolet damage is responsible for DNA damage of the skin, decrease in collagen and elastin which causes ageing, age spots as well as cancer. All these indications do occur in brown people but may take longer to manifest hence the term “Black don’t crack”.
Melanin And Sunscreen
With lack of maintenance and protection, our beautiful melanated skin can also succumb to the indications mentioned above. This is why it is important to avoid exposure to the sun for extended periods at a time and making use of sunscreen is very important. Newer formulations of sunscreen are less greasy and ashy making then suitable for brown people. Sunscreen should be applied daily, even on grey days. Reapplication is imperative when you’re exposed directly for long periods of time e.g.on the beach. Black skin friendly sunscreens can be found in ranges such as Dermafix, Lamelle, Eucerin. These brands cater for different skin types as well which is a major plus.
Hyperpigmentation, Laser Treatments & Chemical Peels
Hyperpigmentation is a common concern for people of colour. This may be caused by hormonal fluctuations (melasma), post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from acne or injury. Friction on area’s such as knees, elbows and inner thighs are causes of darkening in these areas. This is all completely normal. In previous years, the cosmetic world was not as inclusive to brown or more melanated skins. Treatments such as laser hair removal and chemical peels were a no go zone as they were too dangerous and risky for brown people. When brown skin is exposed to inflammation or heat, one of its inflammatory responses includes producing more melanin at the site of the injury which would result in hyperpigmentation or discoloration of the skin. Over time, newer technologies of lasers as well as better formulations of topical treatments have become safe for melanated skin.
Maintaining a healthy skin is prevention of damage caused by ultraviolet damage and using topical creams to treat hyperpigmentation. Be wary of any creams that promise skin lightening. Skin lightening is an unfortunate product of colourism and the sale of products promising skin lightening is illegal in the country – products are prohibited from making lightening, whitening and bleaching claims. Above the psychological effects of skin lightening, the physical damage to the skin can have devastating results. Skin lightening creams that are found off the black market usually contain ingredients such as mercury, steroids and hydroquinone which have very severe side effects on the skin. These include thinning of the skin (making it vulnerable to injury and scarring, redness, swelling, skin ulcers, exogenous orchranosis which is a condition linked to long term use of toxic bleaching creams which results in blue black patches on the affected areas. This condition is almost impossible to treat. Steroid acne is another side effect from creams containing steroids. Mercury may cause damage to your nervous system as well as kidney disease in serve cases. Skin lightening is extremely dangerous hence the prohibition of such products. The are no health benefits in lightening your skin. The sale of skin lightening creams is generally rife in unregulated environments as the demand is high, making black woman vulnerable to these dangerous creams
A popular skin lightening treatment that has gained popularity due to use by celebrities is Glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant found in the human body, but like most antioxidants, it does not occur in large amounts in the body. It works deactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which helps produce melanin. There are no clinical trials yet to test the long term use of glutathione.
Love Your Brown Skin
Your skin is beautiful irrespective of the shade of your skin. When treating it, your objective should always to have a healthy glowing skin which is possible to achieve regardless of your skin tone. There’s a wide variety of treatments which is inclusive to black skin . Make sure you protect your beautiful melanin with the daily use of sunscreen, treat conditions such as acne and hyperpigmentation with the guidance of a professional for the safest and best results. All skin has pores, some area’s which are darker than others due to hormonal fluctuations and friction (such as underarm and bikini area’s). This is all okay, it’s the characteristics of black skin, it does not disrupt your skin’s health or take anything away from your hygiene.
Love your brown skin.
“Why Do Black People Always Feel The Need To Be Excellent, Why Can’t We Just Be Ourselves?” by Nonhle Matsebula
This is a quote abstracted from one of my favourite films of 2019, Queen and Slim.
It is such a relevant question. I felt it needed to be asked to the Black community at this time of intensification of the Black Lives Matter movement and Buy Black movement. Why are we always thriving towards excellence? What does that even mean? We see this almost everywhere, especially during events that commemorate the performance of black people in one way, shape or form. You hear them say “Black Excellence” or caption their social media posts and statuses using that phrase or hashtag. Is #BlackExcellence a good and necessary concept or does it actually erode the equality we seek?
On the other hand, we are constantly reading reports about how black people have to work twice as hard as their Caucasian counterparts to get recognized, rewarded or promoted. And this is fact all over the world. And this seems to be normalized. Recent Twitter threads by Caucasian managers show that it is a culture that black subordinates are not expected to excel and in fact should not be encouraged or supported to excel.
“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.” Oprah Winfrey
So black excellence is a direct response to the inherent racism that black people face in all aspects of corporate or business world and beyond including in sports and the arts. Oprah Winfrey would be the first one to confirm that despite being excellent for decades as the leading talk show host in America with a global brand earning billions of dollars, her excellence has not shielded her from racism even now. I guess it is not too difficult to fathom what it means, black people thriving towards excellence in all that they do, becoming the masters of their crafts and leaders in that specific sector is not expected. But I just can’t help but think there is a negative aspect behind the term ‘black excellence’. I would hate to make a comparison between the black community and other communities because we do not all hold the same historical experience. It would seem only fair that we thrive for excellence after centuries that black communities globally have been suppressed and oppressed. It is only fair that we basically ‘yell’ into their faces that we are, in fact, thriving as a community even though it can be said that they wish we weren’t, considering all the measures that are still taken to ensure that we remain subservient to rest of the world’s communities.
Examples of the hurdles black achievers have to face are countless and can be downright discouraging. Look at Simone Biles, the American gymnast who has won more athletic awards than Usain Bolt and the likes, constantly has to face criticism because she is a black and female athlete. The same way that Serena Williams does too. So is ‘Black Excellence’ an even higher standard than excellence? To be black and excellent means we have to overcome so many more hurdles and challenges to achieve excellence, so we are doubly excellent? I believe so. Black excellence is a higher standard and should be celebrated until the playing field all over the world is such that all peoples have equal opportunity. But it is also exhausting!
But is there a negative side to this? A friend of mine who completely abhors affirmative action, who hates Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and does not understand #BlackExcellence asks why do we feel the need to inform the rest of the world that we are more than what they expected of us, that we are doing just as great as everyone else when they have been winning for years and centuries at our expense? There just seems to be some kind of approval and validation that we need from everyone else. Why can’t we just know that we are excellent, it almost comes across as if at some moment in our journey we doubted that we are great? Excellence and greatness should be inherent in us all. For example, a successful businessman or woman simply knows that she is the greatest, a humble sense of pride, she is the G.O.A.T in her craft. It’s a deep, innate and confident feeling that she has, and she experiences it on a daily. Others know she is great because her work speaks for itself. She doesn’t need anyone else validating this, she is doing her best and sharing her best with her clients. We thrive so hard to be excellent, but how excellent are we if it’s only a fraction of our community that is doing excellent things? The problem with the idea of ‘excellence’ altogether is that it is very competitive with a very narrow funnel allowing very few to qualify as excellent, it is not one through which the majority can feel that their best is enough. It is one that celebrates and normalizes that in life there ‘winners and losers’ I doubt that we would wave the excellent term around so commonly if this were a standard thing amongst everyone in our community, because we would just be right.
It’s as if we are always on a quest to prove the world wrong and how satisfying is that? Believing that all our lives, all that we do is to make a point, why can’t we just be ourselves, do our thing, excellent or not? How gratifying is it to have to always announce #BlackExcellence? I mean heck the Jewish don’t do it, and we know the Jews run most of the global economy, they aren’t out there punting #JewishExcellence, no one else does it, and they are excellent. It’s not to say that we should only do what other communities do, no, we should go about things our own way, but just not in a way that renders the majority of our community as ‘losers’.
I guess I’m a bit wary of the fact that it may put children of the black community under unnecessary pressure, constantly thriving for excellence, to feel like they matter only when recognized by others. There are all kinds of psychological and mental health problems that arise with the pursuit of external validation. Does it mean that if you are not labeled as excellent that you are mediocre or perhaps disappointing to the community? Does it mean that your work is insignificant, if they do not deem it as excellent? That should not be the case.
Something about #BlackExcellence connotes acceptance and normalizes that the world and we ourselves as black people, consider people of African descent as less than. I really wish there was another or term we used to celebrate our progress. My argument is not a denial of the fact that people of African descent all over the world have to work twice as hard to earn what others earn, and that we don’t have equal access to opportunities that others have. Yes, we should thrive for greater heights all the time, but we do not have to do so at the cost of seeking external approval for our right to be seen as enough as we are. It’s a mentality that we should have with us at all times, we are great whether somebody chooses to recognize it or not. I am enough, I am great, period.
Have you seen a picture of your body from two years ago and thought “wow, my body was so fit and amazing”, however, at that time you didn’t think so and would found fault in all areas. That is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)! Or when you look in the mirror and see a skinny girl with sadness when in fact, your body is thick and healthy. That is Body Dysmorphic Disorder! BDD is a mental health condition where a person worries about their appearance and flaws. These flaws are usually not noticeable to others.
I’m sure you are wondering, what if I’m just insecure? And yes, that’s a valid question. There can be confusion between BDD and low self-esteem. BDD is characterized by being overly preoccupied with your flaws. It’s more extensive because the individual can be affected to the point of inability to function normally. it will have an impact on their emotional, social educational, or occupational welfare. Their behaviours will develop into obsessive actions such as checking their appearance 100 times throughout the day.
So how do you spot it? The symptoms of BDD are constantly worrying about certain areas of your body, comparing yourself to other people, avoiding mirrors or always looking into the mirror, finding ways to conceal your flaws e.g. baggy clothing, apply too much makeup, hairstyles which hide your face and self-harm. This disorder can lead to further mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. BDD isn’t considered an eating disorder, however, it can trigger anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating as it has to do with appearance. One might feel the need to eat more or less depending on what they are struggling with.
Vast studies have been conducted to get to the root of BDD, the causes are not specifically known. However, they can be associated with:
• Traumatic life experiences such as teasing, bullying, and abuse. These experiences could have taken place at any point.
• Genetics – having relatives with a history of BDD or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
• A chemical imbalance in the brain (usually associated with anxiety or depression).
• Unrealistic societal pressures or expectations of beauty standards.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder can be life-changing. It can steal joy and prevent one from living their best life. A person needs to have confidence in their self to feel good and overcome fears. Therefore, treatment is a must and seeking help get one to a place of good health. It is recommended that you visit a GP and from there you will be transferred to the appropriate specialist.
These are some of the different treatments that may be given to someone diagnosed with BDD:
1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
At the beginning of therapy, you will discuss goals and what you’d like to achieve from the session. CBT will help you change your mindset. Therefore, change how you think and behave. The therapist will help you identify triggers. You will then be given strategies on how to deal with the trigger and habits. It won’t be easy as it entails exposing emotions and feelings you might not want to confront. If you are a minor family therapy can be included, so that parents are well aware of the root of the problem.
2. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRI’s are a type of antidepressant. Antidepressants are effective if used correctly. One must be monitored when on them. It takes about 12 weeks to the medication to have an impact on your symptoms. You will take to take them for months before coming off. Nevertheless, coming off SSRIs has to be done slowly by the reduction of the dose. This is done to prevent withdrawal symptoms as it can be a side effect of stopping abruptly.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is actually quite common, many celebrities experience it. Kim Kardashian as admitted to BDD and has had numerous surgeries to ‘fix’ what she didn’t like. Michael Jackson is one of the biggest celebrities in recent history to suffer from BDD going to extreme measure to change the colour of his skin from black to white. And in South Africa we have seen an increasing trend of celebrities like Khanyi Mbau also bleaching their skin, this is also BDD.
Having a disorder such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder can take away from you. We all deserve to live full lives centered on fulfilling our purpose. We all deserve to be happy and comfortable in our skin because at the end of the day, the body we have is ours to keep forever. If you are dealing with this disorder, we want you to know that you are worthy, valued, loved, and appreciated.