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Skin-Care Tips From Black Women Dermatologists

Docs unveil their personal skin-care stash

Woman in bathroom mirror applying cosmetic cream on her face
jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Doesn’t it seem like every dermatologist has flawless skin? We’re reminded of this each time we go to the dermatologist’s office, wishing we could have a peek inside their medicine cabinet to uncover their secrets. To satisfy your curiosity (and ours), we asked three board-certified Black women dermatologists to let us in on their daily skin-care regimen for smooth, supple and even-toned skin. The routines range from minimalist to super complex, and consist of both budget-friendly gems and splurge-worthy picks. Plus, the dermatologists give a few pointers to help you get that highly coveted, melanin-rich glow you’ve been seeking.

1. Wear sunscreen, 365 days a year.

Each dermatologist will tell you she won’t leave the house without a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, which can help protect your melanin from harmful UV rays. The result? A more even skin tone, and younger-looking skin. “Even if you don’t leave your house during the day, you have to put sunblock on, and you need to reapply … because we react to indoor and outdoor lighting, [as well as] the blue light from the phone [and] computer,” says Jeanine Downie, M.D., of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey.

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2. Tailor your skin-care routine to your specific needs.

“I like to be intentional when selecting ingredients to ensure that the product will deliver the results I’m seeking,” says Jeaneen Chappell, M.D., of Chappell Dermatology & Aesthetic Center in Dallas. This means not falling for the hype when new, trendy products launch — and not being a sucker for pretty packaging, either. For Chappell’s combination, acne- and rosacea-prone skin, she relies on topical antioxidants and hyperpigmentation fighters, such as vitamin C and niacinamide: “These are [also] great for reducing free radical damage from the sun,” she says. “I like to think of them as sunscreen boosters.”

3. Choose proven ingredients that get the job done.

Downie favors powerhouse ingredients, such as vitamin C, peptides, retinol (best applied at night) and growth factors — which can all help to increase skin elasticity, repair damaged skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Moneé Thomas, M.D., of Glow Dermatology in Houston, praises hyaluronic acid for its anti-aging, skin-plumping and moisturizing benefits, and her prescription retinoid for optimal skin cell turnover: “This stops my skin from looking dull, keeps my pores small, [reduces] oil production and actively prevents fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. However, products with high percentages of active ingredients in them should be used with caution to avoid possible irritation. This is especially true as our skin becomes more sensitive with age. “Everyone’s skin is different; what works for one person may not work for you,” says Thomas, who suggests consulting with your dermatologist to determine the best treatment plan for you.

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4. Be kind to your melanin.

Lightweight, non-clogging cleansers free of parabens, sulfates and other harsh ingredients, as well as reparative and protective creams and moisturizers are must-haves for all three dermatologists. If hyperpigmentation is your problem, say no to bleaching creams and identify the root cause instead. “Many times, patients focus on dark marks without properly addressing the cause of the mark, such as inflammatory acne,” Chappell says. “In this [case], I’d advise the focus shift to acne control versus chasing dark marks.” When it comes to exfoliating, moderation is key. “Once a week or so in the summer, I’ll use the Obagi Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask with 30 percent vitamin C to exfoliate,” says Downie. “I rub it in for three to four minutes, leave it on for about three minutes, and rinse it off well before 10 minutes because I have underlying eczema.”

5. Reap the benefits of serums and eye creams.

A moisturizer alone can provide amazing benefits. But applying serum — highly concentrated treatment designed to get deep into the skin — underneath your a.m. and p.m. moisturizers can target specific issues. It’s why most of the dermatologists have incorporated some type of serum into their routine, whether it’s a niacinamide-infused serum that treats dark spots, or a growth factor–based serum that rejuvenates the skin. Again, use products that contain high levels of active ingredients with caution. Additionally, you might consider investing in a good eye cream — an essential step in each dermatologist’s regimen. Look for eye creams rich in peptides (for fine lines and wrinkles), caffeine (for puffiness), vitamin C and niacinamide (for brightening) and hyaluronic acid (for hydration).

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(Left to right) La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash; Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40+; Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops; NeoStrata Intensive Eye Therapy; Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
(Left to right) La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash; Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40+; Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops; NeoStrata Intensive Eye Therapy; Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Target; Glytone; Dermstore; Target (2)

Chappell’s picks:

  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash ($15, target.com) 
  • Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40+ ($36, glytone.com)  
  • Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops ($34, sephora.com)
  • NeoStrata Intensive Eye Therapy ($86, dermstore.com)
  • Prescription retinoid (Over the counter option: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment, $15, target.com)
(Left to right) Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Fighting Face Wash; La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30; Dermelect Revitalite Eyelid & Dark Circle Corrector
(Left to right) Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Fighting Face Wash; La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30; Dermelect Revitalite Eyelid & Dark Circle Corrector
Target; Ulta Beauty; Dermelect

Thomas’ picks:

  • Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Fighting Face Wash ($8, target.com)
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30 ($20, ulta.com)
  • Dermelect Revitalite Eyelid & Dark Circle Corrector ($50, dermelect.com)
  • Prescription retinoid
(Left to right) Restorsea Reviving Cleanser with Vibransea Complex; Senté Dermal Repair Cream; Senté Illuminé Eye Cream; SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34; SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum; Isdinceutics Melatonik
(Left to right) Restorsea Reviving Cleanser with Vibransea Complex; Senté Dermal Repair Cream; Senté Illuminé Eye Cream; SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34; SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum; Isdinceutics Melatonik
Restorsea; Senté (2); SkinMedica (2); ISDIN

Downie’s picks:

  • Restorsea Reviving Cleanser with Vibransea Complex ($67, restorsea.com)
  • Senté Dermal Repair Cream ($164, sentelabs.com)
  • Senté Illuminé Eye Cream ($99, sentelabs.com)
  • SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34 ($70, skinmedica.com)
  • SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum ($295, skinmedica.com)
  • Isdinceutics Melatonik ($165, isdin.com)