Black Skin Aging Looks Different, Part II–Focus: Sun Damage

I almost never buy gossip and entertainment magazines. What for? That’s why God (or the Devil) invented TMZ. But I just could not help picking up, staring–NO; GAWKING–at the photo of America’s sweetheart, Goldie Hawn without make up in this week’s issue of US Magazine.

Geesh. She could be the star of one of those “Scared Straight” shows, if they did one on the dangers of boiling you skin with baby oil for that St. Tropez tan.

Now, let’s put this photo into perspective. Goldie is 66. Sixty Six. The rest of her body is in EXCELLENT shape, not just for her age, but by anyone’s standards, considering the majority of Americans are overweight.

Let’s also keep in mind that Goldie Hawn was/is a product of her time. Back in the 1960’s women tanned themselves, literally to death.

Goldie had to put in some serious time in the sun to live up to her name. But what you see in that first picture is not all natural aging. That’ photoaging–wrinkles, dark spots and loss of collagen because of prolonged sun exposure. Ninety percent of wrinkles are caused by the sun’s UV (ultraviolet light).

I bet some of you ladies are feeling a bit smug right now, thinking you’re safe from sun damage because you don’t lay out and because you have the extra protection of more melanin in your skin. Newsflash: You’re not immune to sun damage. While you may not wrinkle like a deflated balloon, sun damage weakens the collagen binding underneath the skin and cause it to sag. That’s why you sometimes see older black women with faces that appear to look like a candle melting.


Granted, loss of collagen is part of the natural aging process, but prolonged sun exposure hastens this, and will also lead to blotchiness and dark spots due to hyperpigmentation.

From the American Academy of Dermatology:

Long-term solar irradiation produces both morphologic and functional changes in affected skin. Because collagen is the major structural component of skin, any alteration in its production or degradation could have profound effects on cutaneous functional integrity.

Start Early to Protect Your Skin

If you mom didn’t slather the “scum scream” (as The Babster likes to call it) on you, know that it’s never too early to prepare yourself for looking good as a geriatric. Make sure your day time moisturizer has an SPF in it–no exceptions. You should even put it on if your in the house or it’s cloudy outside. Sun rays are relentless. Dermatologists all agree that sunscreen is by far the most effective beauty item you can use. Make sure your foundation also contains an SPF.

Wear sunglasses when you’re outside, like, all the time. Even and especially when you’re driving. The skin around your eyes is especially vulnerable to sun damage, from dark circles to all out crow’s feet. Since putting sunscreen on your eye area will result in “WTF did I do that for?!” syndrome, get some good glasses.

Get a hat collection. I have about 15 hats that I alternate with according to season. Not only do they provide me with an extra layer of sun protection, the hats sub as a protective style for my natural locks. Done, and done.


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