The Best Skincare Products for Women of Color, Period

There's no questioning the exponential growth of the skincare industry over the last decade. As editors, we see this shift in action every morning when we open our inboxes to find an utterly oppressive flurry of pitches touting the latest celeb-backed product lines, but even a quick scroll of your Instagram feed these days will turn up just as many images of face mask clad influencers as expertly art-directed outfit pics. Skin is most definitely in, and participating in skincare now means you need near-encyclopedic knowledge of acids, vitamins, and oils

In the midst of all this growth, information, and innovation, there's still a lot of confusion surrounding the specific skincare needs of women with higher levels of melanin in their skin. This is due in large part to vague and often incorrect catchall skincare terms like "suitable for all skin types," which still routinely discounts the needs of anyone outside the extremely Anglo control group to which skincare has always catered. But there's really no reason every single human who has the desire shouldn't be able to partake in a well-vetted skincare treat, and it's our goal to continue demystifying skincare for everyone.

To help women of color on their way to complete skincare literacy, we assembled a dream team of dermatologists to run through the ingredients that best serve the nuances of those with gloriously melanated skin. We tapped Chaneve Jeanniton, MD, ocular plastic surgeon and founder of Epi.Logic skincare; Purvisha Patel, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare; and Tanuj Nakra, MD, board-certified cosmetic surgeon and co-founder of Avya Skincare, who gave us their hit lists of the best ingredients that tan, brown, and black women should be prioritizing. Read on for the expert intel.


(Image credit: @fongminliao)

The Most Common Skin Concerns for WOC

According to Jeanniton, WOC are commonly charged with caring for some specific skin conditions. "My approach to skincare for women of color has two priorities: optimizing skin health and keeping hyperpigmentation at bay," she says. "Physiologically speaking, the skin needs of women of color are the same as anyone else: UV protection, reduction of oxidative stress, preservation of a healthy skin barrier and encouragement of cell renewal. But because of a heightened sensitivity to inflammation, issues of hyperpigmentation factor prominently into the considerations for this group."

Sounds familiar, right? Hyperpigmentation is likely the first skincare term you ever learned. "It can take a significant amount of time to restore the skin barrier once compromised. Given that skin of color can easily become sensitized and respond to insult with stubborn hyperpigmentation, a slow, steady and patient approach ultimately pays off in the long run," Jeanniton adds.

And Patel agrees. "Melanin is what makes the skin take on so many shades in people," she explains. "Melanocytes or pigment-producing cells get excited and larger when exposed to the sun. These cells are not evenly distributed in anyone on the skin, so some areas of skin when exposed to the sun get darker spots, such as sunspots, or darker areas after areas of inflammation (such as after a pimple)." 

The Regimen


(Image credit: @aysha.sow)

Must-Have #1: SPF

Must-have #2: Vitamin C

Must-have #3: Niacinamide

Must-Have #4: Retinol

Must-Have #5: Hyaluronic Acid

Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.