In her 30+ years of treating skin, Sonya Dakar has mastered her understanding and treatment of Black skin. “Treating Black skin is really misunderstood, and, as a result of not knowing what to do and a dearth of information, people end up harming their skin, causing damage, scarring, keloids and a whole slew of complications.” We spoke to Sonya to really help us understand the difference between Black and Caucasian skin and how to care for it. “There really is not enough education available to Black men and women and I want to help EVERYONE achieve gorgeous, healthy, glowing skin.”- Sonya Dakar
Q: What is most misunderstood about Black skin?
Sonya: The most common misconception is that because it’s darker than Caucasian skin it’s tougher and less sensitive.It’s exactly the opposite. Black skin is more delicate than my most fair skin clients.
The truth is that Black skin is thinner, can scar and develop keloids easily, as well as rip and tear when not handled properly. I’ve been treating black skin for over 30 years and seen so many clients come to me with scarring, keloids, marks, and other issues from being treated by professionals who do not understand Black skin. I will never forget when I saw a client come to me with little crescent marks all over her skin because she had skin extractions from a professional who pushed down so hard on her skin that she got marks from the estheticians nails. I am not here to put down any skincare professional, but want to help educate my clients on how to properly care for Black skin.
Q: How do you treat Black skin?
Sonya: Most of us are trying to manage and treat some type of skin concern at any point in our lives. Whether it is acne, aging, sensitivity, rosacea, sun spots etc… we look for solutions to heal our skin. But not all skin is created equal, specifically Black skin. Different levels of melanated skin require unique protocols, ingredients and products.
Q: Why is that?
Sonya: Let’s start with understanding Black skin.
The stratum corneum (protective outer layer of our skin that functions as a barrier between the deeper layers of skin and the outside environment, preventing toxins and bacteria from entering the body) is much stronger in Black skin. This is one main reason it does not develop wrinkles and fine lines as early as caucasian skin. Black skin also has increased cell cohesion. Black skin seems to age much slower, and not develop as many wrinkles and fine lines as cuasasina skin, mainly because of its robust barrier. Black skin has a stronger barrier than other skin ethnicities and colors which is cell cohesion, the primary characteristic of youthful and healthy skin. This may also explain the reduced potential for irritation in black skin from a variety of chemical stimuli.
Q: That sounds pretty amazing, are there any skin conditions more prominent in Black skin?
Sonya: On the flip side darker-pigmented skin can result in higher levels of hyperpigmentation compared with caucasian. Even though Black skin has the same amount of melanocytes (well known for their role in skin pigmentation) as light skin, it has a much greater tyrosinase (the enzyme that creates melanin causing pigmentation of skin) basal activity which can lead to hyperpigmentation, darker spots and uneven skin tone. Because of this Black skin is more susceptible to developing dark spots from pimples, bug bites and other mild lacerations. I work with my clients to create an overall even skin tone, and help them safely lighten their dark spots.
Q: What are some tips for Black skin?
1. Use sunscreen every day
I educate my clients of all ethnicities that we can all get photo-damage and photo age due to the sun, and different skin colors show it differently. Those with darker skin tend to show photo damage with hyper pigmentation that worsens over time on the cheeks and lower part of the face. An uneven complexion is the outcome of sun exposure in darker skin. Dark skin tones may be less likely to burn, though it does not mean Black skin does not get a sunburn, and SPF30 is a must.
Sonya’s Pick: Face Shield SPF30
2. Choose your skincare products carefully
When looking for skincare and specifically dark spot removers for Black skin and for hyperpigmentation treatment, the ingredients in the bottle are as, if not more, important than the ingredients NOT in the bottle. Stay away from harsh ingredients like hydroquinone and glycolic acid that are to hash on your gentle skin. Opt for lactic and phytic acids as well as natural skin brighteners like extracts of daisy flower and kalahari melon.
Because of melanin’s ability to defend against UV damage and sunburn, it also protects darker skin tones against the signs of aging like wrinkles, brown spots, and visible blood vessels. So, in most cases dark skin shows wrinkles and age spots a lot later in life.
Sonya’s Pick: Fade Away
3. Don’t pick your skin – EVER!
I preach this to my clients (no matter their skin color) all the time! Specifically with Black and darker skin tones this is even more crucial. Someone with light skin may have a pink mark that fades in weeks left behind from a breakout, and the same pimple on darker skin leaves behind a very dark mark (due to post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation) that is much harder to treat. That’s because darker skin is more prone to scarring and hyper-pigmentation. So what can you do? Wash skin with lukewarm water, apply a warm compress on a breakout for a few minutes and follow with a spot treatment.
Sonya’s Pick: Blemish Buster
4. Choose an esthetician who has experience with Black Skin
Not all skincare professionals understand Black skin and have experience treating it. Please choose wisely. Don’t trust your skin to just anyone.
Celebrity Trainer Qimmah Russo’s Sonya Dakar Routine
Sensi Wash – “this face wash makes you feel like your at the spa”. SHOP >
Flash Facial – “removes dead skin, makes your skin feel light”. SHOP >
Rose Gold Mask – “makes you feel so luxurious & hydrated”. SHOP >
Organic Omega Oil – “the key to great skin is moisture”. SHOP >
Detox Daily Moisturizer – “smells like lime, just really natural”. SHOP >
Lip Shield – “this feels succulent, like butter”. SHOP >