Many of us don’t think too much about signs of aging, thanks to the popular saying “Black don’t crack.” While it’s true that the melanin in our skin offers women of African descent some protection from damage from sun exposure — think wrinkles — there are certain conditions we’re more prone to that can dull our ageless glow. Here are five that you can look out for and do something about.
- Dark circles around the eyes isn’t just a sign you’re skimping on sleep to binge-watch Empire ahead of Season 5. It’s also a classic hallmark of aging in African Americans. While our skin may not be as prone as white skin to the damaging effects of the sun, we are not completely immune. These dark spots, called hyperpigmentation, are usually the result of exposure to UVA and UVB rays. To keep the dark spots at bay, wear sunscreen every day, even in the winter. Pairing sunscreen with a brimmed hat ups the coverage and the slayage. If you’re really troubled about existing hyperpigmentation, reach out to a dermatologist. She can look into treating it with creams, a chemical peel or microdermabrasion.
- Dark, thickened and velvety skin in the folds of the neck, armpits or groin, called acanthosis nigricans, can also occur on the cheeks and forehead. These dark patches often occur in people who are overweight or who have diabetes. But that means prevention may be within your control. Adopting a healthy eating and exercise plan will help you maintain a healthy weight that can help keep your skin blemish free.
- Those small, soft brown and black "moles" that crop up on the cheeks, around the eyes and on the neck usually appear during adolescence and become larger and more numerous as we age. The technical term is dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN). Since DPN is believed to be hereditary, there’s not much you can do to prevent it. You can, however, slow their growth by limiting your exposure to the sun by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen. The growths “can be gently removed by a dermatologist using a low-energy electric needle called a Hyfrecator,” says Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, N.J. Larger DPN can be removed surgically.
- Dull, dry, ashy skin is not just a sign we tried to moisturize with hotel lotion. As we age, our skin tends to lose surface moisture more readily. Keeping well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting beverages that tend to dehydrate, such as caffeinated drinks, can help. You should also help mitigate the drying and damaging effects of sun exposure by “wearing a sun block with an SPF of 30 or more every day, rain or shine, year round,” says Downie. And don’t forget to reapply it often.
- That “long in the tooth” look. Dental disease, such as receding gums, caused by gingivitis and periodontitis can add years to your appearance if left untreated. The resulting tooth loss can alter the underlying bone structure of your face, leading to hollowed cheeks, the appearance of jowls and a permanent, scowling expression. Along with brushing, floss every day (yes, every day) to help maintain healthy gums. And don’t skip dental checkups and routine cleanings.
Glow on, queen!