Only six months in and 2020 is already a year for the history books. It has felt so surreal, with something new happening every day. We wanted to start this series, “The Beauty of It All”, on June 1st but like everyone else, our hearts were and are very heavy. Daily, we’re all processing everything that’s going on and trying to take action in our best way possible. Black people are so magical. We’re really IT, the blueprint; from our skin to our creative nails, our free-flowing hair, to our bodies which come in all shapes & sizes, we’re the beginning and end. This series is here to remind you how poppin’ we are, that resting is necessary, and also will highlight some things we may have been through. The skin is our largest organ, so let’s dive into it first!
During the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901, most European women were using powder and lead paint as a foundation. While doing this they were also bleaching their skin. Being fair skin implied purity. Slaves went through very horrific conditions but house slaves were of lighter skin complexions and not always required to do the field labor that the darker slaves had to. These ads above were both from the 1940s, a time where the idea of being a lighter-skinned black woman was still more desirable. “If you want to be pretty and popular, begin with your skin…” is the first line in the ad. Those few words alone would easily draw in a woman who thought she’d have a better life if her skin was lighter. Nadinola is created in Jamaica and is still around today but has shifted its products to helping deal with hyperpigmentation and melasma.
My grandmother was born in 1950 and still, today has the most beautiful, chocolate skin. She’s told me about the racism and colorism she endured as a child and young woman, especially when she visiting family in the South. I’m only twenty-seven and have seen colorism with my own eyes. In Elementry school, though we were young, I would see people make fun of the lighter-skinned kids but then the darker-skinned kids would be made fun of too; no one could win. Kendrick Lamar’s song, “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”, talks about colorism and the children who were born out of slavery in the most perfect way. Within the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a huge shift is recognizing the brilliance in darker skin. There’s still a lot of work to be done but as the black community, we are steadily embracing all skin tones. I love being a black woman and wouldn’t change that for the world. Our different skin complexions tie into our versatility and it’s unmatched.
There are some skin conditions that we as black people deal with on a much larger scale than white people; hyperpigmentation, cystic acne, and vitiligo are just a few. All three of these can easily affect your self-esteem. These pictures to your right are of me and I can be super honest and tell you guys I had my days were I felt so beautiful and other days when I’d look in the mirror and just sigh because I felt so ugly.
I have dealt with hyperpigmentation since 2018. Hyperpigmentation is an overproduction of melanin on your skin. It usually starts off as just a pimple and instead of the pimple completely vanishing, it leaves a scar and is often caused by over-exposure to the sun. I never had any issues with my skin before this. I never even had a pimple until my senior year of college. Years passed and all of sudden, more than likely stress, my skin went buck wild. I would already be stressed by life and then seeing a pimple arrive, knowing it was going to leave a scar, would stress me out even more. Finally, in March of this year, I knew something had to give! I purchased a lot of products from different clean brands and started narrowing down what worked for me. Thanks to Kira Nation, an esthetician I know/love and the founder of Full Frontal Beauty & Esthetics, I wear sunscreen every single day. I also have a very strict morning and night skincare routine that I make sure I never miss. Benzoyl Peroxide, BHA, and Retinol are just a few of the ingredients that have helped my skin, immensely. It has done a complete 180 and I can finally, confidentially look in the mirror and be happy.
The Worst Form of Acne
Cystic acne is another common condition that occurs more on melanated skin. There are actually about eight different types of acne; who knew? Cystic acne is the most severe of them all, with super painful and heavily inflammated cysts deeper in your skin than a regular pimple. Since they are so deep, your usual topical acne spot treatments won’t help.
Cystic acne can occur on any part of the body but it is mainly on your face, the chin, and the jawline era. Hormonal imbalances are usually the number one factor. You don’t have to be a teenager, going through puberty, to deal with hormonal imbalances. That’s something I once thought and was sadly mistaken. Our bodies, especially as women, are constantly changing and it’s just natural; shit happens. Luckily, *knocks on wood*, I haven’t had to deal with cystic acne in months and don’t plan on it any time soon.
Where and Why?
Face mapping is a guide that shows you where your acne breakouts may be stemming from. Okay, so you’re breaking out on your temples? Dehydration and the hair products, especially edge controls, gels, etc., may be what is triggering your skin. There are face mapping guides that are way more in-depth, providing each and every organ that may be involved, but this is a general break down. Checking this guide has been super insightful in helping to determine what I need to work on and/or look into so that my skin stays fresh and clear.
I remember being introduced to what Vitiligo was at a young age. My parents had a friend from high school who had it and my mom explained to me what this was. Vitiligo is a skin disease where melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, stop functioning, and die. This causes loss of skin color in patches all over the body. It not only affects the skin but can also change hair color and inside of the mouth. Autoimmune diseases and genetics can cause Vitiligo. Extreme sunburn, hearing loss, and changes in tear production/vision are a few other effects that it can have on the body. There is no cure but there are treatments like topical steroids and exposure to UVA/UVB light. None of these options are predictable, so they can only hope to help reduce the progress of melanin loss.
When I was in 2nd grade, there was a lady who worked at the school who had Vitiligo and I remember the kids always saying she looked weird. Being exposed to it at a young age, there was nothing weird about it to me. Yes, she looked different than most of us but it was something that was out of her control. I can only imagine the things people with vitiligo have had to deal with emotionally but yet and still they hold so much beauty! Now in 2020, with models like Amy Deanna and Curtis McDaniel and so many more, their beauty is shown and expressed loudly throughout magazines, ads, etc. This hopefully helps remind both children and adults that they are the bomb and no skin disease can and/or should hold them back from what they want to accomplish in life.
During this time, it is very easy to be focused on what’s next and how we can make a change in the world but the only problem is that we’re not giving any time to ourselves. We’ve felt a number of emotions, which in turn can affect our skin in many ways. Take this time to love yourself in every way possible. Do the things and activities that make your mind, body, and spirit feel good. Continue to treat your skin right and/or find new ways to make it flourish! With it being the largest organ, keep it moisturized, and don’t forget your sunscreen! Rest and recharge while on this journey of fighting for justice/change and kicking racisms ass. WE GOT THIS! WE GOT US!