If you missed the Black Skin Decoded event, the virtual coming together of 13 world-renowned beauty and skincare experts, along with the Black Skin Directory, GLAMOUR magazine and IL Makiage makeup, don’t worry, we’ve got you.

Not only useful to beauty professionals, the information-rich virtual event, saw the best in skincare facial aesthetics and the cosmetic surgery industry schooling attendees on what felt like everything concerning Black skin and our beauty needs while dropping much-needed science behind it all.

Men and women tuned into four invaluable hour-long sessions covering skincare, cosmetic treatments and a makeup masterclass with opportunities to quiz the experts.

To help you become your own beauty guru, over the next few weeks, Melan is treating our readers to the best bits. Each week we’ll flashback to one of the four sections of Black Skin Decoded, this week, starting with a mash-up of all things skincare. Hosted by founder of Black Skin Directory, acclaimed aesthetician, Dija Ayodele, along with aesthetic doctors Amiee Vyas, Ifeoma Ejikeme and Uche Aniagwu, dermatologist and author Anjali Mahto, and surgeon Mayoni Gooneratne.

The event was pure magic, so if you missed it, check out our highlights, starting with:

“The Skincare One”

How much should people spend on their skincare?

Dr Amiee Vyas (AV) – It depends on what your goal is and what your baseline skin condition is. When you’re looking at what you’re paying for – are you paying for something that’s more medical grade, are you paying for the research and technology that’s gone into something that’s proven to work, or are you paying for something that has lots of advertising and hype around it? In terms of where you should be investing – cleansers and SPF moisturisers – you don’t need to spend all of your budget. The middle ‘treatment’ section is where you can invest a little more…When you’re looking in the shops and every single product is screaming at you telling you it will solve all your issues, it’s worth doing some research. Ask yourself, what are the active ingredients in the product and how effective will they be for me.

Black Skin Decoded
Dr Amiee Vyas

Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme (IE) – You’ve got high street, cosmeceutical and then therapeutic, prescription-grade products. The problem with high street products is, you can claim anything, but those claims need to have scientific backing behind them. The difference between regular high street and cosmeceutical products is the scientific backing…The cosmeceutical group in the middle usually needs to be given with skincare. Because they’re so effective, it means if used incorrectly, you could actually damage the skin.

How do you prevent spots from scarring? Whether you pop them or not, they will scar! [A blemish on Black skin can last anything from two weeks to six months, Melan learnt]

Dr Anjali Mahto (AM) – Number one, don’t pick your spots. The second thing is, some people are genetically more prone to scarring and that might simply be because their skin heals in a certain way. Black skin has more [dermal] fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are cells that produce collagen and give your skin its support and structure. Because Black skin has more fibroblasts, not only does it mean it ages well, the flipside is, it’s also more prone to keloid scarring…A lot of it comes down to individual genetics.

Black Skin Decoded
Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme

IE – If you’re Black, you must have a tyrosinase inhibitor in your skincare routine. Tyrosinase inhibitors are a group of products that reduce the activity of pigment-producing cells. This isn’t going to bleach your skin, it will prevent hyperactivity of these pigment-producing cells.


  • Kojic acid
  • Liquorice extract
  • Oligopeptide-68
  • Alpha arbutin

IE – Use a low dose every day…Another thing you can use is Vitamin C. Use a low dose of 10% or less, that’s another thing that will reduce how long the dark marks stay and retinols…When using these three things together – tyrosinase inhibitors, Vitamin C and retinols – you’ll notice dark marks last more like one month.

AV – The only ingredient I’d add to that is niacinamide. It’s not strictly a tyrosinase inhibitor, but it inhibits the melanin pathway and the transfer of melanin. What’s also really nice about it is, it gives a moisturising and anti-inflammatory effect as well.


IE – If you’re placing these oils on your skin [coconut oil, coconut oil etc] you need to remember oils can be pro-inflammatory and if you have Black skin, inflammation equals pigmentation. If you’ve got this cycle and don’t know what you’re doing, go back and look at your products because that’s one of the main reasons you’ve got pigmentation that doesn’t seem to go away.


Does Black crack?

Dr Uche Aniagwu (UA) – No!… It doesn’t mean we should take it for granted though. A good skin routine is crucial. I know that because I’m someone who had to spend a good few years correcting my hyperpigmentation because I felt I was too black to burn.

Black Skin Decoded
Dr Uche Aniagwu

Dr Mayoni Gooneratne (MG)  – We pigment, that’s how we age! That’s how darker skin will respond to ageing and sun damage but it won’t be lines.


How do we avoid hyperpigmentation?

MG – Wear an SPF. I think we’re really bad at that. We think because of the pigmentation in our skin we don’t need to use anything and that’s wrong. UV light affects you no matter what’s going on melanin-wise in your skin. That melanin is there to protect your DNA from UV damage, that’s what nature designed it for, and as we get older that melanin release becomes disorganised when you’re exposing it to a lot of UV…I always think of my melanin as ready to have a party. It’s like having little pigment cells ready with a rum and coke and all they need is a tiny bit of sun, heat, me over-rubbing with a cloth or being a bit casual with a [chemical] peel that will then send messages that the party has started, and those melanin cells are working and chucking out lots of melanin.

Black Skin Decoded
Surgeon Mayoni Gooneratne


  • Obagi Matte sunscreen
  • ZO Skin Health
  • Murad Invisiblur
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Fluid
  • Heliocare Advanced Gel

Remember, your sunscreen needs to be broad spectrum so protects against UVA/UVB and blue light emitted from your mobile and computer screens. Here’s everything you need to know about protecting your skin from the sun.


After wearing an SPF moisturiser all-year round, what’s next?

MG – The next step is to think about how to control pigmentation. Cyspera is one [ingredient]. Non-hydroquinone-based products are important. These are medical grade ingredients that reduce the expression of melanin at various stages. The production of melanin is multiple – there are 40-plus steps so you can stop that at various stages. Hydroquinone we know stops it early but as a result, with darker skin types, we see a grey, ashy, strange colouration.


Why does hydroquinone (HQ) have such a bad reputation if it’s such an effective ingredient against hyperpigmentation?

MG – HQ is great when it’s monitored and prescribed by a doctor or nurse prescriber, but you need to see your professional regularly. One of the side effects is it can irritate the skin and you can start to see this overall bleaching. It needs to be at a certain concentration. Four per cent is what is authorised and regulated to be used, but it’s a prescription-only product. HQ has a bad rep probably because it’s been found in lots of over-the-counter, market-based skin bleachers and it’s mixed with loads of other rubbish. When you put it with loads of other things, it offsets the benefits of HQ and it’s not regulated then – anyone can buy it.


Are Black women scared of advanced skincare?

UA – As a Black man, I’d say for the longest time, I was. I think my mother, my sisters – they are…but for good reason. There’s still a racial bias to the research we do within the beauty industry. Every so often, you’ll hear people say: ‘This treatment is good but may not be suitable for dark skin’. The reason why we say it’s not suitable for dark skin is because we haven’t yet invested the research to truly understand darker skin, so that apprehension about jumping into advanced skincare as a Black person, should be there. You should be apprehensive because we haven’t yet decided to build our knowledge on a cohort of people who have dark skin.

MG  – Don’t be scared [but] choose your practitioner wisely.

Black Skin Decoded
Dermatologist Anjali Mahto

When using anti-ageing retinols (a derivative of Vitamin A), does irritation equal hyperpigmentation?

IE – With retinols, you need to start with a low dose and start slow. If you have really sensitive skin, you need to look out for retinaldehyde at 0.05%. You can use it every day and night and that’s not going to cause any inflammation. If you’re going to start with all the retinols and retinol testers, you need to look for the lowest strength, start [application] once every three days and moisturise well. As long as you’re doing that, you won’t get pigmentation. If you’re acne-prone, you can wear even more.

AM – I think of Vitamin A as a good multipurpose ingredient. There are prescription forms of Vitamin A which are fantastic for treating acne, but they also give you some other benefits so for example, helping to shift pigmentation that might be left behind. I really like Adapalene or Differin for my acne-prone patients. For my patients concerned about anti-ageing or premature skin ageing and maintaining skin health – Tretinoin is an alternative I’d use.

AV – I’d just say support it [retinol] at other times of day with a good moisturiser and antioxidants to make sure you’re taking care of your skin barrier.


  • SPF = sun protection factor
  • Cosmeceuticals = Cosmetic products with active ingredients which can penetrate deeper into the skin. Stronger than beauty grade, so over-the-counter products, but not strong enough to be prescription grade.
  • Pharmaceuticals = Prescription grade products penetrate much deeper into the skin and will be prescribed by a licensed professional.
  • UVA or UV = Ultraviolet A rays are associated with skin aging
  • UVB = Ultraviolet B rays are associated with skin burning

Written by Vicky Gayle  – Follow her: @vi_gayle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.