Leading black dermatologist explains how to protect your beautiful skin and melanin
Embracing our melanin is a movement.
But just because “black doesn’t crack” doesn’t mean our skin doesn’t need dedicated care and attention. As the seasons transition from winter to spring, it’s especially important to practice healthy skin care habits and treat trouble areas with effective solutions.
Dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jackson has cared for patients for more than two decades and spoke with theGrio.com recently about how to give skin of every shade the TLC it deserves.
TG: What are some ways that women can protect their hair and skin during the harsh winter seasons?
BJ: Hair is an extension of our skin. It can get dry and brittle in the winter months just as our skin does. Protective styling is a method of styling to prevent breakage, thereby encouraging growth. Simply put, hair should be detangled, moisturized and styled in such a way where the ends are protected, tucked in (think double stranded twists). As for skin protection, make sure to dial down the water heat, as we tend to take longer, hotter showers in the winter to stay warm. Even though they feel great for the moment, they will dry out your skin and ultimately make it itchy, which can exacerbate other skin conditions like eczema. Dial down that steamy heat to a comfortable warm (not hot) temperature and keep it to 10 minutes or less.
TG: What can women do to protect their hair and maximize their workouts without having to sacrifice one for the other?
BJ: Protective styling is a great way to accomplish this, however, I often have patients who work out and complain of breakage. It’s important to remove the sweat from the scalp, which can cause breakage without over washing. Infrequent washing can cause its own problems as well. There is a fine line between over-washing and not washing enough. Utilizing a “co-wash” product or practicing conditioner-only washing in between shampoos can help avoid over-washed and dried out hair.
TG: What is the best way for people to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
BJ: Hyperpigmentation is caused by inflammation (acne, eczema, friction, picking, irritating products /procedures and not using sunscreen). The best way to minimize hyperpigmentation is to avoid inflammation and/or treat the cause of inflammation (get the acne, eczema under control). You will never get rid of hyperpigmentation if you do not address the underlying cause. The best way to do this most efficiently is to make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist (www.aad.org) who can diagnose and treat your condition and teach you about triggers and management.
I see patients weekly who have spent weeks, months, and even years trying to self-treat or who have been treated by people “specializing in dermatology” who thought they were being treated by a dermatologist and are frustrated.
It’s very important to understand the dermatological alphabet soup — FAAD (means board certified dermatologist) which is very different from board certified physician specializing in dermatology. Every medical specialty requires certifying exams for that specialty. A board-certified dermatologist is an MD who has spent 3 years studying diseases of hair, skin and nails and who has passed rigorous examinations.
TG: Are skin creams or natural remedies better for combating skin problems like acne? How do you find the right combination for your skin?
BJ: It really depends on the problem, and often skin creams (moisturizers) play a role in the treatment plan but do not by any means constitute the entire treatment. For example — patients with eczema likely need prescription medications, which may be topical and oral, AND over the counter moisturizing creams. Natural products can be a blessing and a curse. Plant-based products can be irritating, and just because it comes from a plant does not mean it will not cause a problem. I often remind patients that poison ivy is a plant. Every treatment plan is a recipe requiring several ingredients to make it work.
TG: What can you do to combat dry patches of skin, especially on feet and around the hands?
BJ: Hands are tough because we all wash our hands throughout the day, use hand gels and allow contact with other irritants (paper, dish soap etc.). I recommend bringing your own personal supply of a gentle cleanser to your job and use that instead of the industrial strength cleanser in the bathroom and keeping a tube of moisturizer with you (by your desk, in your car, by your bed, in your purse) to use throughout the day. Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant lotion fits the bill by providing deep moisture and skin hydration with its unique formulation of 100% pure cocoa butter and microdroplets of Vaseline jelly. Bonus is it comes in a travel size as well!
TG: Even though we often hear “black doesn’t crack,” what kinds of skin changes can you expect transitioning from your 20s into your 30s? 30 into 40s? 40s into 50s and upward? What habits can you create to make those transitions easier?
BJ: There are many factors which influence the aging process, such as the environment, genetics, immune status, as well as personal habits like smoking, overall health, sun exposure, and one’s geographic location. With that said, skin dries out every decade and more so with peri/post menopause; therefore, skin care regimen should be adjusted to accommodate those changes. You shouldn’t use the same products at age 40 that you used at age 20.
Best advice to age gracefully: Don’t smoke, drink in moderation, wear sunscreen, exercise, reduce stress, eat a well-balanced anti-inflammatory diet (minimal processed food, sugar; high in antioxidants).
Your board certified dermatologist can also advise you with a custom-tailored plan to guide you through the decades to address any chronic skin conditions, screen you for skin cancer and address issues such as acne, rosacea, hyper-pigmentation, and hair loss.