So i'm in the middle of taking an arabic exam that will surely add detriment to my class average when I look up upon recognizing a horrible sound. Is that the pitter-patter of raindrops against the window? I can't believe it! There was no sign of rain in New Haven as of an hour prior. Nevertheless, in a classic case of anapaphobia, I dash out of class, trying to outrun the raindrops as I make my way to my dorm room. I am not sucessful. To my disdain, the rain has ruined my 'do revealing the line of demarcation between my natural "pressed" hair and my bone-straight hair extensions.
Ahhh well. I pull out some Kay-Vel's, the best pressing creme ever, and turn up the heat on my electric straightening comb. Meanwhile I sit at my lap top and crank out a quick blog. In the midst of trying to figure out the intentions and logic really of my Sig-O (see "Fly Speak" for definition) I have been meaning to drop a little knowledge on blemish removal.
Now blemishes be they from cuts, scrapes, or acne scarring are tramatic for women of color because they significantly hyperpigment our skin and seem to last forever! I grew up with exzema, a skin disease that can go into remission but never truly goes away. In my adult age I have been able to control it beautifully but it is exacerbated by stress which is a daily reality for me. The stressful holiday season in particular caused a severe break out all over my chest and cleavage area. It was horrific as it left dark scars all over my smooth, almond skin. I was mortified. It was also around the time that my Sig-O and I began seeing each other and I remember wearing high knecks and button up shirts with knecklaces strategically placed to disguise the scarring.
Nevertheless, about a month later I was back wearing my v-necks. Scarring doesn't have to be the ruin of skin or of existance. It's not that difficult to treat, at home too. Most women are just misguided. Most lightening creams offered to women of color contain hydroquinone, a chemical that inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase and thereby restricts the production of melanin. That's right, "bleaching creams" don't literally bleach the skin. They reduce the amount of melanin, or pigment, that your skin can produce. Hydroquinone, found in popular products such as Ambi, does work but there are several caveats to be aware of. First of all, out of all the lightening agents, hydroquinone has the most severe effects if used for a prolongued period of time or on skin too sensitive to it. Furthermore, as it is a dangerous agent, over the counter products can only contain up to 2% hydroquinone which, to be honest, is not all that effective.
Hydroquinone is the most popular bleaching agent, but the least safe and the least effective. Other agents such as azelaic acid, kojic acid, and glabridin in adequate concentrations are more effective than 2% hydroquinone alone (thought kojic acid must be used in moderation) and will often be found in lightening agent in combination with hydroquinone. The best lightening agent on the market now is glabridin. It is the safest and the most effective. Glabridin is actually extracted from licorice and can be found in upscale lightening products such as Godiva, which I use and can attest that it is wonderful.
Please be aware, there is large market for skin lightening products directed towards Black women in Europe, America and the Carribean. Many of these products are cheaper, less effective, and very, dangerous. In fact, most lightening products that you may find in your local beauty store are banned in Africa for having negative, irreversible, potentially lethal effects. If you want a product that works, look for more expensive products that are marketed to other ethnicities such as Indian women, Asians, and Phillipinas (essentially any post-colonial society where there is an aversion to darker skin). This is a sad precaution to have to take but it is necessary. Manufacturers of these skin solutions are simply trying to sell a product. They have no concern about the health of their Black consumers.
Back to removing blemishes. The lightening agent is only half of the solution. The second process is chemical and mechanical exfoliation. Because the topical cream inhibits melanin production in the new skin cells, the goal is to remove old, dead, hyper-pigmented skin and encourage the fast production of new, healthy, and brighter skin cells. This is done in two ways. Mechanical exfoliation involves vigorously rubbing the skin with a pumice and loofah in order to slough away surface layer dead cells. This is good, but not nearly important as chemical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation involves the application of an alpha-hydoxy (lactic or glycolic acid) or a fruit acid (like vitamin C) to the skin. These products essentially kill the top layer of cells and encourages their rapid replacement. High concentrations of like substances are present in chemical peels. These products are also essential in skin resurfacing (such as removing irritation after a rash or acne break out).
If a woman of color wants to get rid of a blemish she must use a product or products that combine a lightening agent with a chemical exfoliant. The best is glycolic acid. Two products that I use and highly recommend are Black Opal's skin retexturizing complex which contains high levels of glycolic acid and other fruit acids for safe and rapid results and Avene 'Diacneal' which contains 6% glycolic acid adn .1% Retinaldehyde. This product is one of the best on the market but quiet expensive.
If you have blemish prone skin and/or you're trying to get rid of a scar you should also remember to wear sunscreen. I actually wear an SPF 15 on my face year round and increase it (45) in the summer. The sun stimulates melanin production so nothing will work if you don't shield yourself from the sun. Also, while many women of color don't believe that sun can damage Black skin, it can. Prolongued exposure to sunlight increases your chances of developing skin cancer and premature wrinkles and it darkens your blemishes and makes them more difficult to treat. The best beauty remedy is prevention. Begin wearing sunblock today! I recommend Aveeno's Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15.
Lotions and creams that contain shea butter and vitamin E are also a good way to keep hyperpigmentation at bay and quicken your skins recovery. I hope this was helpful. If you have any specific questions feel free to leave them in the comments.
Flyness and funk,