What Causes Skin to Age?

In the natural skin aging process, collagen and elastin breaks down; the skin begins to lose elasticity, gets thinner, less plump and smooth and pores become more noticeable.

Tips for Mature Black Skin
Tips for Mature Black Skin: Keep mature skin moisturized.

What Are the Signs of Aging in Black Skin?

Dry Skin

Cell turnover slows with age causing dull, dry skin. The number of sweat and oil glands decrease and also leads to drier skin, as does the loss of estrogen through menopause.

This happens in all races, but mature black skin can become easily irritated and dry due to seasonal changes as well as products.

Skin Roughness

Black skin typically shows signs of aging in texture. The appearance of rough, bumpy skin is due to the decrease in proper cell turnover, as well as sun damage.

Sagging Skin

Another sign of aging in black skin is sagging (at the sides of the nose and down to the corners of the mouth, and on the neck).

Skin Growths and Discolorations

Some women might also notice benign skin growths, dark marks, white age spots, and discolorations.

Black Don’t Crack?

The good news: Signs of aging, such as wrinkling, show up at a later age in black skin. However, those with lighter skin tones are at greater risk for showing the signs of photoaging with fine wrinkles and sunspots.

Tips for Ageless Black Beauty

Before you click off your computer in disgust, there are ways to help slow the wrinkly hands of time:

The Sign: Dry Skin

  • To avoid dry skin, cleanse less. It might sound crazy, but cleansing less frequently will lessen the appearance of dry skin. As you get older, you will probably be perspiring less, so try to reduce bathing or showering to once a day. If this doesn’t seem doable, at least limit the amount of time spent in the shower and soaking in the bath. Use warm, not hot, water in the shower and bath and when washing the face.
  • Wash the face once a day. If you wear makeup, cleanse at the end of the day. (In the morning, just splash the face with water and skip the cleanser.)
  • For both face and body, avoid abrasive cleansers, opting for mild cleansers and products formulated for dry skin that will cleanse as well as moisturize.
  • Keep skin well hydrated, using the moisturizer with rich creams and lotions, applied immediately after washing to seal moisture in the skin.
  • Keeping the skin moisturized, whenever the skin feels dry, will help reduce itchiness and the appearance of fine lines. Just be sure to use products for your skin type and skin concerns. Keep in mind that as you age, products that used to do wonders may no longer work.

Related: More Tips for Dry Skin

  • Avoid Skin Irritation:
  • Sensitive Skin. Some women might find that skin can begin to become more sensitive as they get older. You may notice sensitivity to things that never bothered you before, such as fabric softeners, detergents, bleach and other irritants, as well as other things like wool.

Related: Is Your Home Bad for Your Skin?

  • Always test products before use. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends testing products even if they are labeled “hypoallergenic,” before using them on the face. Put a small amount on the inner forearm once a day for 4-5 days. If there is no reaction, it’s safe to apply on the face.
  • If a product stings or burns, discontinue use unless a dermatologist prescribed the product. In this case, check with the dermatologist to see if the reaction is normal. Irritated skin (dryness, itchiness, flakiness, peeling, etc.) can make the signs of aging more pronounced.
  • Don’t use too many products. Using too many anti-aging products, and therefore several active ingredients can irritate the skin.
  • Use products as directed. You may think using more of a product will increase the effectiveness or speed up the results, but because of certain active ingredients, you could do more harm than good. Using more than directed by the manufacturer can lead to clogged pores, blotchy complexion, redness and/or other problems.
  • Stop the on & off again relationship with products. It might not be the best idea to keep changing products too frequently, especially if you have sensitive skin. You don’t give your skin sufficient time to adjust.
  • Give products time to work. Some products can take from three weeks up to a few months (if ever) to show results.

Rx For Brown Skin

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The Sign: Bumpy/Rough Skin

  • Exfoliation can help. Use topical treatments and serums with retinol to increase cell turnover, humectants that contain glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
  • If deeper exfoliation is desired, chemical peels or microdermabrasion might also be helpful.

The Sign: Uneven Skin Tone

  • Uneven skin tone and blotchiness in the mature black skin can be due to long-term sun damage. Use sunscreen, as well as protective clothing, to prevent further damage and discoloration.

Related: Sun Safety for Women of Color and Is Your Sunscreen Really Protecting You?

  • If you have hyperpigmentation problems, consult a dermatologist to recommend a safe lightening agent to get rid of discoloration and exfoliating products (like glycolic acid or salicylic peels, creams and cleansers) to even out skin tone.

The Sign: Skin Growths

  • Benign overgrowths on the skin called skin tags (dermatosis papulosa nigra) found on the face and on the neck and on the body (seborrheic keratosis) can also develop as you age and tend to run in families. A dermatologist would have to remove these either surgically or cauterize them (burn them off).
  • If you are prone to keloids (raised scars that form at the site of an injury), discuss this with a doctor. It might be useful to leave them alone, or you could end up with scarring.

The Sign: Fine Lines & Wrinkles

  • Use moisturizers that plump up the skin. Eventually, you will notice that lines created by your expressions—furrowed lines from raised eyebrows, laugh lines, crow’s feet and squinting (from smoking or not wearing your glasses or the correct prescription, etc) aren’t going away.
  • Exfoliate the skin on a regular basis to encourage cell renewal, using products with glycolic (alpha hydroxy acid) or salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid).
  • Add hydrating serums to your routine, especially with antioxidants like Vitamin C. Follow with a moisturizer containing broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • Add vitamin A. In the evening use a good nighttime moisturizer with vitamin A (retinol).

Cosmetic Fillers and Surgery

  • For deep wrinkles, Botox and fillers can be injected into lines and wrinkles, but these methods are temporary fixes.
  • Other methods used to create younger-looking skin are chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing and facelifts. Just bear in mind that many of these procedures have adverse effects on people of color, so you will need to consult a cosmetic surgeon that understands and has done successful procedures on the skin of color.
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