It never fails. Every awards season, every major red carpet, the latest glossy magazine cover, and even a surprise fresh face Instagram post featuring a black woman around 40 and over, and I get the slightest tinge of anxiety. Have you seen Gabrielle Union lately? What even is Bianca Lawson? And don’t get me started on how Kelly Rowland shows up on my timeline making me feel inferior (she said with only a little sarcasm).
See, while everyone is swooning over the fact that Angela Bassett’s black simply refuses to crack, I secretly start to worry if and when mine will. I have aggressive forehead creases from years of not understanding men and their choices, and smile lines from feigning interest in my superior’s jokes and anecdotes. Meanwhile, Beyoncé is aging backward, prompting me to add retinol and eye creams to my shopping cart in hopes that I too will age as gracefully.
But can we be honest here? Don’t we all wonder in the privacy of our minds if they’ve had a little help? You don’t have to answer that out loud, but you and I know the truth. Aside from being wealthy, genetically gifted, and having access to the best organic foods, personal trainers, home chefs, and things the likes of our regular lives and paychecks have never heard of, does black actually crack? And if and when it does, what are the options?
Because black women are expected to age well, there’s a stigma associated with going under the knife.
I spoke to board-certified physician with specialist training in Dermatology, and owner of PolisheD Life dermatology practice Dr. Natasha Sandy M.D. to get the real tea, and brace yourselves. “Black does crack; it just cracks differently,” she says.
Some of the rumors are true according to Dr. Sandy. Skin of color is thicker. We tend to have more collagen and elastin to make the skin tighter and more melanin to protect us from the sun. Therefore, our skin doesn’t easily wrinkle and crack and fine lines are less evident compared to those with lighter skin. Aging definitely happens for us. It just happens later, is less evident, and occurs a little differently.
Bone density is a huge factor in the aging process for skin of color. Because we tend to have more bone density than other races, bone loss tends to happens at a slower rate. Eventually, that gradual bone loss creates a hollowness and loss of volume in our faces, which results in shadows that we often mistake for pigmentation problems. “The skin is like the curtain over the scaffolding,” says Dr. Sandy. While we do have more collagen and elastin than people who are lighter, we are still losing those components. So as we age albeit slowly, the skin hanging over those less dense bones is also looser.
Because black women are expected to age well, there’s often a stigma associated with going under the knife to get a little cosmetic nip and tuck. First of all, who cares? If you’ve lived long enough for signs of aging to appear, let’s hope you’ve also gotten the point of caring less about what others think. Second of all, there are non-surgical cosmetic dermatology options available to address the signs of aging. Let’s review a few.
There are legitimate pigmentation issues that occur as we age from sun damage and gradual loss of collagen and elastin. You can address these concerns using topical serums that include retinol, Vitamins C and E, kojic acid, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, and always sunscreen. However, there are more involved treatment options like micro needling with PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) and chemical peels. Laser resurfacing is another option for blemishes and acne scars; however, skin of color can burn from the use of those lasers so it’s not highly recommended.
“Culturally, black women are just more expressive with our faces when we communicate, so we get dynamic wrinkles over time,” explains Dr. Sandy. Dynamic wrinkles are like the ones on your forehead, where you’re using muscles to create facial expressions. “Those are the kinds of wrinkles where we’d use Botox, which is a neurotoxin that inhibits the relaxation of those muscles.” Other neurotoxins include Dysport, Newtox, and a newer option called Jeuveau that’s more ideal for skin of color.
“We tend to get heavy over the eyes, so the aforementioned neurotoxins when properly applied can actually give you an eye lift, so you don’t look as tired around the eyes,” advises Dr. Sandy. Women of color tend to complain more about dark eye circles. That’s in part because of a loss of volume and thinning skin that make the blood vessels more apparent since they’re closer to the surface of the skin. Dr. Sandy recommends a great eye cream that contains Vitamins C and K to help with visible blood vessels, and retinol to tighten fine wrinkles.
Due to the droop that we tend to experience from bone loss, fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, Radiaesse, and Bellafill add volume to the cheek area.
We often times mistake the dropping skin under our necks as excess skin, when in fact, it’s fat. Kybella is an injectable that dissolves that fat, giving you a tighter neck. Radio-frequency skin tightening is another non-surgical technique that uses radio frequency to heat the skin, tightening the existing collagen and stimulating more collagen production.
It is fully acceptable to allow your face to tell the story of your life as a black woman.
Ultimately, aging is a beautiful thing. Growing wiser, experiencing more life, and giving less effs are things to look forward to. However, if you, like most of us don’t want to look like what you’ve been through to gain that wisdom, there’s no shame in getting a little (licensed, professional) help. There’s also no shame in owning the smile lines from the joys you’ve experienced, or forehead wrinkles from the excitement of receiving surprise Cash App deposits.
It is fully acceptable to allow your face to tell the story of your life as a black woman. So to answer my (our) question, yes black does crack. How you choose to handle it is up to you, but whatever you choose, you’re still black and still beautiful and we will stan for you anyway sis.