The Best Skin-Care Products to Hydrate Black Skin – Shape Magazine

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When it comes to nourishing and protecting your complexion, there are a variety of universal practices that are important — no matter what your skin type or tone (think: cleansing, hydrating, and exfoliating). But when it comes to caring for Black skin, there are specific needs that other races and ethnicities may not have to consider.
“We know that as humans, our genetics and skin are more similar than different; however there are some skin concerns that uniquely impact those with melanin-rich skin, including dryness and uneven skin tone,” says Caroline Robinson, M.D., a Chicago-based dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology. (
Some research suggests that transepidermal water loss (when water passes from the dermis through the epidermis and evaporates from the skin’s surface) may be higher and ceramide levels slightly lower in Black skin when compared to Caucasian, says Robinson. This leads to common skin conditions in the Black community, including eczema and extreme dryness, and that dryness or ash tends to be more visible on darker skin tones.
In addition to proper moisturizers, sunscreen is another important product that Black women — and all women, for that matter — shouldn’t leave the house without, says California-based dermatologist Adrianna Browne, M.D. And to be crystal clear, yes, Black skin needs sunscreen, too; the idea that Black skin naturally repels the sun is pure myth. “Sunscreen is crucial in reducing signs of aging such as pigmentation, wrinkles, and crepey skin,” adds Browne. And although skin cancer is less common in Black women, skin cancer prevention is important no matter your skin color, she says. (
Whether you typically have dry, melanated skin year round or tend to experience flakes during the winter months, shop the best hydrating skin-care products for Black skin below.
When it comes to Black skin and sunscreen, there’s usually one very obvious issue that pops up: the unsightly white cast that a lot of formulas leave behind — and that’s exactly what brought this formula into fruition. Unsun sunscreen was made for brown skin, so you don’t have to worry about any white residue. Also worth noting: It’s lightweight, made without harmful ingredients (no parabens, phthalates, or oxybenzone here), and includes nourishing ingredients like olive and coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter, as well as lactic acid, which sloughs away dead skin cells and promotes collagen production for a glowing complexion. Simply apply it and let it absorb into the skin for 10-15 minutes before applying other skin-care or makeup products.
One reviewer wrote: “I am so happy that I have found a mineral-based sunscreen that does not show up on my medium-deep (NC44/45 in MAC) skin. I have tried so many sunscreens but to no avail. I find this to be very hydrating, easily to blend (although it appears thick), and adds a nice glow to the skin.”
To buy: UNSUN Mineral Tinted Sunscreen, $29, dermstore.com
According to Boston-based dermatologist Karen Kagha, M.D., adding hyaluronic acid into your skin-care routine can really help reverse dry skin. Hyaluronic acid is one of the powerhouses of hydration since it has the ability to pull in and hold water. Not to mention, it makes skin look visibly plumper and radiant. This fragrance-free, hydrating serum combines the powerful ingredient with peptides and vitamin E to moisturize, smooth, and soften rough texture, lines and wrinkles.
“This product was recommended to me and it’s the one reason I don’t have dry, flaky skin anymore! It feels like silk going on and I can’t live without it,” shared a customer who identifies as having “ebony” skin tone.
Buy It: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, from $120, dermstore.com
Vaseline is one of those old-school skin fixes that has been passed down from generation to generation. (And some BIPOC derms even use it for slugging, an easy hack to help hydrate dry skin.) “This lotion is a great option for drier skin types because it contains micro droplets of Vaseline jelly, glycerin, and lipids to hydrate and repair skin,” explains Dr. Robinson. Walmart reviewers promise that it really works to moisturize dry skin, without feeling greasy. (
Buy It: Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion, $9, walmart.com
Incorporating a retinol into your skin-care routine can be tricky, because they can be harsh, drying, and super irritating if used incorrectly. Created by celebrity esthetician Shani Darden, this serum is a blend of a mild retinol (just 5 percent), lactic acid, and aloe vera (super calming!) to tackle all your texture and tone concerns sans irritation. Be sure to apply it in the evening, since retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, and follow up by a moisturizer. (
“The Texture Reform is a great introduction to retinol, especially if there are skin sensitivities. It also doesn’t dry out the skin like other products that may have similar ingredients. It’s a slow start where you build tolerance, but the results are there! I get congestion, flakiness, and tiny bumps especially on my forehead and nose. After using the texture reform for 30 days, my texture in my T-zone decreased, revealing a smoother texture. No more flaky and bumpy skin. My other skin-care products absorbed perfectly and my skin glows! Also, makeup application looks smoothly applied and even. Wearing sunscreen everyday is a must!!” reported one dark-skinned shopper.
Buy It: Shani Darden Skin Care Texture Reform, $88, sephora.com
While this item comes with a hefty price tag, hear me out on why it's worth the investment. Since Black skin is naturally drier, you'll want to steer clear of cleansers that make your skin squeaky clean and strip away your skin's natural oils. This foam cleanser is a 2-in-1 punch that cleanses and exfoliates to slough away dead skin, but it also features ascorbic acid, which hydrates, refreshes, and helps firm the skin. And unlike the brand's other cleansers, this was made with darker skin tones in mind, using ingredients to help reduce inflammation, which can result in hyperpigmentation. (
One reviewer with deep skin tonewrote: “It gently exfoliates the skin without being too harsh or grainy. It also doesn’t leave my skin feeling super dry after using it. It is one of the products in my daily skin-care routine that has helped me fade my dark spots.”
Buy It: Dr. Barbara Sturm Darker Skin Tones Enzyme Cleanser, $75, sephora.com
One of the most common skin concerns amongst the Black community is hyperpigmentation — and boy, can it be challenging to treat. “Prescription hydroquinone is highly effective when it comes to treating dark spots, but cannot be used for extended periods of time,” says Dr. Browne. “However, over-the-counter hydroquinone options can be used for 3-6 months, like the Ambi Fade Cream.” The trifecta of hydroquinone, vitamin E, and AHAs in this formula will smooth, lighten, and soften the skin to give you a more even skin tone in weeks. (
Buy It: Ambi Fade Cream for Dark Spots, $5, walmart.com
This facial oil can truly transform your complexion. A blend of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and rose canina fruit oil help to improve the texture and tone of the skin while encouraging cell renewal, so your skin keeps that youthful appearance without looking greasy. It's especially great for addressing dryness and fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation — prevalent skin issues in the Black community.
“I love this product. It has made a significant difference in the appearance of my skin. My face is soft moisturized and dewy all day,” said a customer.
Buy It: Urban Skin RX Hydranutrient Radiance Restore Oil, $36, dermstore.com
If you're searching for a basic moisturizer, look no further. There aren't many frills with this fan-favorite formula, but it's a lightweight and hydrating solution for even the driest of skin, thanks to superstar ingredients such as squalene and glacial glycoprotein. (
“This cream is so amazing,” raved a shopper. “It’s so lightweight but so hydrating, even for the eczema on my face! My skin type is normal, other than the areas I have eczema, and it’s absolutely perfect for both.”
Buy It: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $22, sephora.com
“Hydration is important for the skin barrier,” says Dr. Kagha. “I also think having a great moisturizer on board is important especially during drier months or when living in drier climates.” Enter this hydrating serum. Packed with hyaluronic Acid and vitamin B5, it leaves skin looking and feeling smooth and firm and it’s lightweight enough to be used all-year long. Plus, it’s earned over 4,000 five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers who say it’s a miracle for dry, dull skin.
Buy It: La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid, $30, amazon.com
If you’re living with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or psoriasis, you’ll want to reach for a cleanser that is free of harsh chemicals and fragrances to avoid flare-ups or irritation. This one is a favorite amongst dermatologists because it’s super gentle and can be used from head to toe. Walmart reviewers say that it’s incredibly gentle, leaves skin soft, and absorbs quickly and easily, leaving no oily residue behind.
Buy It: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $12, was $16, amazon.com
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