You’ve probably noticed that the individuals with darker skin seem to have smoother, firmer skin as they age. Even though everyone has the same number of melanocytes (melanin or pigment producing cells), darker skinned individuals tend to produce more melanin. This higher melanin concentration imparts an SPF of around 13 compared to an SPF of 3 to 4 for lighter skinned Caucasians thereby helping to provide some natural protection against UV rays.
Melanin also has antioxidant properties which help to protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are harmful particles that may be generated upon exposure to ultraviolet rays and pollution and which can precipitate the breakdown of collagen and elastin – part of the skin’s supporting network. Over time, this can lead to fine lines, wrinkles and loss of skin tone. For these reasons, people with darker skin tones tend to have skin that is freer of lines and more toned.
Like lighter skinned individuals those with darker skin benefit from sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays. Contrary to what some people think, darker skin is susceptible to developing skin cancer. Because it is often diagnosed in the later stages (as compared to individuals with lighter skin) it is often more serious and deadly. Most skin care experts will advise choosing a product that has a minimum SPF of 30. Products including Anthelios sunscreens, Keys Solar Rx and Ombrelle sunscreens are effective ones to consider.
The addition of antioxidants including green tea, Vitamins C and E and retinoids (prescription only retinoic acid or retinol as found in Green Cream) can deliver additional skin benefits. Watch out for products and ingredients that can irritate skin leading to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring.