Are you delighted to have found the right moisturizer for your face, but are still in search of a product that keeps your body – your legs, in particular – looking fabulously hydrated? If so, you are in good and plentiful company. As women of color, we often experience grayness or an ‘ashy’ tone to our skin – especially in dry, cold climates.
Issues with body care for women of color are exacerbated by the fact that the body is generally more difficult to keep moisturized because there are fewer oil glands on the body, and clothing, hot showering and use of too-harsh soaps can steadily deplete the body of its natural moisture.
Most skin care experts will tell you that glowing, young-looking skin starts with exfoliation. It prepares the skin for maximum absorption of topically applied products. Whether you opt for luxurious spa treatments, over-the-counter exfoliators or homemade formulations, these tips will help you optimize results:
- Select sugar-based exfoliators. Sugar scrubs are far better for dry skin because sugar is a topical humectant that helps skin hold on to moisture. It is also a natural source of glycolic acid, which boosts firmness. There is some anecdotal evidence that coffee scrubs tighten skin and help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Salt-based exfoliators tend to be more drying. Avoid nut-based exfoliators altogether. A combination of sugar and salt can offer the best solution when combined into a body scrub.
- Exfoliators containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are effective on sun-damaged/hyperpigmented skin.
- Don’t over-exfoliate. Once every seven to ten days is adequate. And make sure that you actually need to exfoliate – if your skin is naturally supple, even-toned and glowing, you can skip this step.
- If you don’t like the mess of exfoliators, try body brushing with a soft, natural fiber designed for the purpose, or use a pair of quality exfoliating gloves.
- Don’t exfoliate your neck – Typically the skin is too delicate.
Recipes for those who like to Do It Yourself – Best Ingredients for Body Scrub Products
Try these homemade scrub recipes (mix ingredients together in to a paste, apply to body in the shower, massage gently for 10 minutes, and then rinse off with warm water):
Basic Body Scrub
2 cups organic cane sugar
1 cup carrier oil (e.g., olive, coconut, grapeseed)
5 drops of your favorite essential oil
Banana Sugar Body Scrub
1 ripe banana
3 tablespoons organic cane sugar or granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract or your favorite essential oil
Vanilla Coconut Brown Sugar Scrub
½ cup coconut oil
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
After exfoliating, you’ll need to treat your skin to an effective moisturizer. Increasingly, women of all races are (re)turning to oils to boost their skin care results. Oils can be used alone or mixed in with your regular creams, but be mindful that what works on the body is invariably too rich or thick for the face – especially acne-prone or sensitive facial skin. I always advise to keep the two regimes very separate.
The Best Body Oils for Moisturizing Dark Skin are:
Jojoba Oil – this oil mimics the skin’s natural sebum to great effect.
Rosehip Oil – a light oil, rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, plus Vitamin C. This is a favorite of many celebrities. It is also high in retinoid acid which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, while brightening skin. If your skin is particularly dry, you may find you will need to mix it with heavier oils.
Hemp Seed Oil – this is said to improve elasticity, and is especially effective in alleviating eczema and psoriasis. Best if mixed with castor or jojoba oil. Refrigerate for best storage.
Argan Oil – good for fine lines and dryness, especially on the neck.
Organic Coconut Oil – a moisturizing heavy hitter. Need we say more?
Flaxseed Oil – some dermatologists report cases of flaxseed oil healing eczema in 3 months.
Castor Oil and Olive Oil – well-known favorites, but best used with a light touch and mixed with other lighter, more fragrant oils.
Look for the purest and most organically produced versions and store oils in cool, dark conditions. I recommend performing a patch test (on the inside of your arm) before applying to your whole body.
A cautionary note: beware over-moisturizing. Controlled studies have reported a condition called TEWL (transepidermal water loss) which is caused by too-frequent use of moisturizers. A study on healthy volunteers used a moisturizer on one forearm three times daily for four weeks; the other arm was left bare, as a control.
Afterwards, both forearms were subjected to a patch test of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS: a common ingredient found in almost all soaps – so please read the fine print on cleansers and avoid wherever possible!) to test the skin barrier function.
The skin that had been moisturized skin three times a day showed significant water loss and increased susceptibility to dryness and irritants compared to the normal arm that went without moisturizer.
Ultimately, what you’re aiming for is a complementary skincare regimen – one that works in harmony with your skin’s natural hydration and oil-producing mechanisms. If you’re feeling unsure or overwhelmed by the choices, do plenty of research and consider consulting with a dermatologist.
That’s it for this week! As always …
Dedicated To Your Beauty