Whenever I hear the phrase “Black don’t crack” I see it as a term of endearment and a source of intrigue. It somewhat assures me that even when I’m in my 40s, and thinking about the inevitable sagging in various places, the unknown genetic makeup that ensures my black ‘uncrackable’ is on my side. And this got me thinking – why doesn’t black crack?
Is it due to the many years black people had to struggle to have our voices heard? Or perhaps we are just blessed extra.
It turns out, one of the major reasons why I might not have to worry about ageing too quickly is because of Melanin.
In case you don’t remember that complex diagram of the skin and its components, which we were forced to learn in Biology, here’s a refresher. Melanin is basically the sticky substance that performs a host of jobs in our skin. These jobs range from absorbing and distributing harmful UV rays from the sun, to dictating how light or dark our hair, iris and skin are (coupled with other factors like genetics etc).
Think of it this way – melanin is the reason why Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o is dark skinned and Ibinabo Fiberesima is light-skinned.
Now, this melanin doesn’t just come in 2 variants. There are many types and they pertain to different races. Asians have a yellowish melanin called the phaeomelanin, while black skin produces the darkest and thickest form of melanin, eumelanin. This is where our secret lies.
The skin ages in 2 ways – chronologically (which is inevitable; the numbers will eventually add up), and through photoageing. The later process basically relates to how much damage is done to the skin based on sun exposure. Believe it or not, the sun actually is responsible for a lot of the damage done to the skin like dark spots, wrinkling & fine lines, tan lines, roughness etc.
Since melanin is responsible for how much sun damage our skin is able to withstand, and is darkest and thickest in black skin, it automatically means the darker your skin, the higher your immunity is to sun damage and therefore ageing.
According to a study by Kays Kaidbey and his colleagues in the US, they found that a higher percentage of UV rays penetrate Caucasian skin while a lesser amount penetrates African-American skin, showing that photoageing is delayed in darker skin. The research also shows that individuals with darker skin start to show serious signs of ageing when they are in their 50s or 60s unlike those with lighter skin.
Right now you might be asking, “so what does this mean for light-skinned people”.
Well, individuals with lighter skin produce finer forms of melanin which may not have the capability to protect their skin from UV rays 100%. This is why sunscreen is imperative. Not only would it help light skin fight off the harsh effects of sun damage, it will also help reduce the pace of ageing.
However, sunscreen doesn’t just apply to light skinned- people. Even dark-skinned people can get Cancer and forms of skin damage if they are careless with sun exposure.
The moral of this story; whether you’re dark skinned or light-skinned take care of your skin by paying attention to it, protecting it and feeding it. This way your skin remains timeless even if you are light or dark-skinned.
***Disclaimer All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. BellaNaija is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site/column. BellaNaija is not liable for the contents of any external sites referenced. If you have concerns about your health, always reach out to your Personal Doctor or Dermatologist.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime/ Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)