Hydrate as you celebrate!

June is “African-American Music Appreciation Month”. It was started by President Jimmy Carter back on June 7th, 1979 as “Black Music Month”. It was renamed by President Barack Obama four years ago.

“I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music which is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans. “ proclaims President Obama.

African Americans have always had a hand in shaping the American sound. From gospel and Motown to bebop and blues, our story is wrapped up in the music we’ve made and love. We’ve written powerful songs of hurt, hardship, yearning and hope for a better day.  If you still aren’t convinced, take a listen to Stevie Wonder’s “Joy Inside My Tears” from the Songs in the Key of Life Album (1976). This song (and album) speaks volumes as to the feelings, struggles and triumph of the African American Community. 39 years later, this critically acclaimed LP is still considered one of the best EVER made. It’s preserved in The National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress which called it “culturally, historically or aesthetically signifiant”. With passion and creativity, African-American performers have channeled music into making change and advancing justice.

Since its inception, many venues, events and establishments have come into being to help the world praise black music traditions. As we celebrate, I want everyone to join in on the commemoration as we enjoy all the festivities, including outdoor concerts.

Naturally, being outdoors can bring oily summer skin as we battle the humidity and the heat. The first step in ensuring healthy brown skin is protection from the sun. If you follow these few skin care tips, you’ll be on your way to a shine and acne proof summer.

Though the average woman of color has a natural SPF of 13 (which means you can stay in the sun without burning 13 times longer than a woman with white skin), we still need to include sunscreen in our daily skin care routine for healthy skin. Sunscreens work by absorbing the harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays before they can affect the skin. Sunblocks create a protective barrier that reflects UV rays, causing them to bounce off the skin. For most women of color, a sunscreen with an SPF 15 (which means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer without burning) is sufficient, but if you have certain medical conditions, such as lupus, take certain medications, or have dark marks or skin discolorations, you may need a sunscreen with an SPF 30. If at all possible, look for organic products containing ingredients that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Why Organic? True natural skincare products are better for your health and the environment. They are produced without mineral oils, parabens, synthetic preservatives, artificial flavors, fragrances or colors.

Sunscreen Tips

    •    All women with brown skin should use sunscreen daily to protect our skin from the sun. We burn too! LOL

    •    Always apply sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure to the sun to allow our skin to absorb the product 

Create a protective shield.

    •    Use sunscreen generously on all exposed skin—face, neck and hands. Apply at least a shot glass full.

    •    Store sunscreen away from the sun and heat to prevent spoiling.

    •    Re-apply after vigorous exercise or swimming even if the product is labeled “water proof”.

    •    If a bottle does not have an expiration date, toss it after one year.

Sunscreen in foundation wears off after only a couple of hours so it’s best to apply sunscreen separately, under makeup, or in moisturizers that say SPF 15 on the label.

Another step to care for healthy brown skin is to nurture it. It is important to avoid irritants that may stimulate the production of excessive melanin. Ingredients in soaps, cleansers, toners, moisturizers, astringents, anti-aging products, and anti-acne agents to name a few, are possible irritants. The following is a list of potential irritants to avoid:

    •    Cleansers, toners or astringents containing alcohol, propylene glycol, fragrance, or dyes

    •    Moisturizers containing fragrance, lanolin, dye, alcohol or propylene glycol

    •    Sunscreens containing fragrances

    •    Makeups containing oil

    •    Alpha-hydroxy acid in high concentrations or at certain pHs

    •    Detergents and fabric softeners containing fragrance, dyes, or preservatives

Now that we are aware of ingredients to avoid in maintaining our brown skin, we can concentrate on proper cleansing technique. Many women with brown skin make the mistake of over-cleaning—cleaning the face, neck, elbows and knees too often or too roughly. But most skin care problems (acne, dark marks, clogged pores) are not caused by dirt, so there’s no need to use either harsh products or rough cleansing techniques. The following cleansing techniques will guide us:

1.) Cleanse the face twice a day (morning & night) to remove dirt, oil and makeup

2.) Avoid abrasive cleansers or cleansing products (puffs, loofahs), which can irritate brown skin

3.) Cleanse facial skin with the fingertips and massage gently in a circular motion

4.) Use products designed for your particular skin type: oily, dry, normal, combination, sensitive, acne-prone 

5.) Use a toner. It’s important to keep pores closed and skin cool by using a toner

6.) Go for a light moisturizer. Don’t make the mistake of skipping the moisturizing routine altogether as itsessential for the skin to remain hydrated. However, if your regular moisturizer is too oily, go for a water-based one.

7.) Ditch those soft drinks. Most people have the tendency to reach for an ice cold soda to quench their thirst on a really hot day. However, it’s important to remember that these drinks are full of sugar that is not good for the skin or the figure. Instead drink some water made with fresh lime, fresh fruit juices, or coconut water to stay hydrated. It’s also best to minimize the intake of diuretics like alcohol and caffeine as they reduce the water from our system.

8.) Exfoliate. More than the rest of the year, it’s really important to exfoliate the skin in the summer to remove dead skin cells and improve blood circulation to the face. Here’s a really simple organic recipe straight from the kitchen. Use one organic egg white mixed with 2 tsp of organic corn flour. Gently apply on the face. While massaging onto the face, use a gentle circular motionto exfoliate the skin and help the circulation of its deeper layers. Rinse using distilled room temperature water. Pat dry with a towel.

Bonus tip. Don’t forget to eat a balanced diet, work out for at least 45 minutes everyday and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

Finally, to properly care for brown skin requires knowledge of its unique structure and properties. Monthly self-examinations and protection from the sun are essential for the health of the skin.  Avoidance of products that irritate brown skin and lead to dark marks are essential.

So, as the summer months temperature rises, fortunately, our skin doesn’t need to take the brunt of the heat this season. As always, stay hydrated. Our body tends to lose a lot of moisture in the summer. So, it’s important to regularly replenish. Drink a lot of water which helps our skin stay soft. Enjoy the African American Music Month festivities. As always, whenever possible, use usda certified organic skin care products.

Zondra Wilson is a model and skin care professional. She is the founder of Blu Skin Care, LLC. www.bluskincare.info