A guide to the best products that will help hydrate melanated skin, while addressing acne, enlarged pores, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and more.

By D'Shonda Brown
January 19, 2021
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As Black women, we're raised with the idea that "Black don't crack." While we're absolutely beautiful and age fine as wine, that doesn't mean that we should be careless when it comes to skincare and ignore the work that goes into keeping the natural glow of melanin. It's no secret that the winter seasons are a time for Black women to invest in protective styles such as braids, weaves, and wigs, but choosing the right skincare products is equally important.

Although Black skin is diverse—and needs will vary from person to person—there are key ingredients that could greatly benefit Black women in addressing skin concerns, including dryness, eczema, acne, and hyperpigmentation, says Elyse Love, MD, a dermatologist at GlamDerm in New York City. “Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are excellent ingredients for hydration; zinc and niacinamide are anti-inflammatory and soothe the skin; vitamin C, retinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid help with pigmentation,” points out Dr. Love.

For dry, winter months, you may want to make the switch to thicker creams, ointments and lotions for the body and use products featuring hyaluronic acid for the face to help hold moisture to the skin barrier, advises Boston-based dermatologist Karen Kagha, MD. And just because the days are grayer and shorter, doesn’t mean you can forego the SPF—80% of harmful UV sun rays can pass through clouds, so always be sure to apply sunscreen, says Dr. Kagha.

On top of swapping out some of your products, take short lukewarm showers, suggests Dr. Kagha, since long, hot showers tend to dry out the skin. After bathing, get into the practice of patting the skin dry and immediately applying a thick moisturizing cream to your slightly damp skin, which will help to lock in hydration, she adds. (Another pro tip: Setting up a humidifier in the home can also help to combat skin dryness.)

With so many beauty products out there, finding the right ones can be overwhelming. Luckily, we're here to give you the tea on the best Black-owned skincare essentials designed for BIPOC, to keep you glowing throughout winter—and beyond.

Best Cleanser: ROSEN Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser

Credit: URBAN OUTFITTERS

Fruits are a great hack for glowing skin—and that means putting them in your body and on your face! With a smoothie-like consistency, this face wash boasts active lemon, strawberry and raspberry powders to cleanse and tighten melanated skin. Not to mention, it also acts as an exfoliator, helping to brighten skin and get rid of those pesky hyperpigmentation marks. The Black-owned product has a near-perfect rating on Urban Outfitters for a reason!

"This cleanser is THE TRUTH! I live in Alaska, and struggle with dryness especially in winter months," said one five-star reviewer. "I've seen a dramatic improvement in my skin while using this product. It's helped with acne (without drying out my skin!) and evening out my skin tone."

Best Body Bar: Redoux Turmeric Botanical Bar

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This bestseller from Redoux has sold out over 10 times, so you know it must be good. The detoxifying cleansing bar features natural ingredients like olive and palm oils, turmeric, and rose clay to brighten and gently exfoliate dull skin—with reviewers swearing that it's safe for even sensitive types. Plus, the scent of sandalwood and ginger will have you and your bathroom smelling super fresh.

"This was my second purchase and I will definitely be a repeat customer," reported a shopper. "I love the smell and how the bar makes my skin feel. Soft, smooth, and refreshed. I have sensitive skin and most things irritate my skin but not this soap!"

Best Serum for Hyperpigmentation: Hyper Skin Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum

Credit: URBAN OUTFITTERS

Former attorney Desiree Verdejo launched Hyper Skin in 2018 after serving as the key visionary behind Harlem boutique Vivrant Beauty, which was the home to Black-owned beauty brands. Boasting an incredibly lightweight and scentless formula, this serum is packed with everything you need to fight hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone—including vitamin c, vitamin e, and active bearberry, turmeric and kojic acids. It's paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalates-free, so it's gentle on sensitive skin, too.

One fan on Hyper Skin's site wrote: "I’ve been using hyper skin vitamin C serum for about a month and I’m literally Obsessed!!!! My dark spots have faded drastically and the overall appearance of my skin is hella Bright and Glowy."

Best Serum for Enlarged Pores: Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum

Credit: FENTY SKIN

Queen Rih Rih has undoubtedly been conquering the beauty industry with Fenty Beauty, since the brand's official launch in 2017. Rihanna has created products catered to the versatility and diversity of Black women, and her skincare line hasn't disappointed in that department. This toner-serum combo targets pores, brightens and smooths skin, and eliminates unwanted shine. As for key ingredients, Rihanna incorporates a piece of home with the Barbados cherry—which adds vitamin C for brightening properties—cactus flower for hydration, and the Japanese raisin tree for detoxifying skin.

"I've been using this for about 3 weeks and OMG it's AMAZING! Love how it makes my skin feel and look - so hydrating and my pores look much smaller. LOVE IT!" raved a customer.

Best Moisturizer: Buttah Facial Shea Butter

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Founded by Dorion Renaud, Buttah has become a household name in the Black-owned skincare community. Made of 100% pure organic virgin shea butter from Africa, this facial cream nourishes, protects, and soothes your skin with each use. All you need is a dime-sized amount to trade in dry, flaky skin for a radiant, glowing complexion. (Pro tip: While you can use it during the day, reviewers say that this is thicker than other moisturizers out there, making it an ideal nighttime cream, too.)

"Gave this as a gift to my mom for Christmas, and she loves it!," shared a shopper. "She said the smell is really mild and it leaves her skin feeling moisturized without the heavy greasy feeling some other moisturizers leave. Now I’m placing an order for myself!"

Best Gel Moisturizer: Base Butter Radiate Face Jelly

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For women of color, by a woman of color, this gel moisturizer is soothing, refreshing, balancing, hydrating and purifying—all things to look for in skincare products for winter and dry climates. For those who prefer lightweight gel moisturizers over heavy creams or thick balms, this product is the one for you. The dermatologist-tested facial jelly combines tea tree, evening primrose, lavender and aloe vera gel to restore, protect, disinfect, and boost elasticity in skin. This is especially good for oily or combination skin, since it won't have your face feeling greasy or overly shiny.

One reviewer said: "I have been using this moisturizer for a few months now, and it is amazing! I struggle with combo skin and this balances my skin beautifully! I have an active job so I sweat a lot at work, but this not only provides the perfect balance to keep acne away but also still nourishes my skin. Plus the GLOW! Dewy skin without the grease! It is now a staple in my skin care regimen."

Best Toner: Temple Zen Facial Cleanser + Toner

Credit: TEMPLE ZEN

Created by professional dancer and classically-trained choreographer Jashiro Dean, this 2-in-1 product cleanses and tones to fight acne and keep blemishes at bay. It's made with witch hazel, aloe vera, shea butter, and eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils, which together help to disinfect skin from pollution, environmental toxins, and makeup, and balance oil production.

"Love this facial cleanser," shared a customer. "I use it as a first step in my skincare routine and could not imagine my life without it, honestly."

Best Mask: Golde Clean Greens Face Mask

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Golde has the perfect mask to see you through your winter-skin woes. The powder-to-gel formula only requires a few drops of water to activate, which makes it more convenient than your fave DIY mask. Chock full of spirulina, mango juice, chlorella (read: an algae), and naturally-activated chlorophyll, it detoxes skin and gives you a real glow.

"I've only used it twice now, but my skin feels so nourished afterwards and it noticeably helps dry active pimples! (I have dry/dehydrated, very sensitive, acne prone skin). It smells natural and earthy. Super easy to apply and to wash off as well," wrote one shopper with sensitive skin.

Best Natural Sunscreen: Black Girl Sunscreen

Credit: BLACK GIRL SUNSCREEN

Black Girl Sunscreen is more than a product—it's a movement. As the founder, Shontay Lundy used her self-made story to inspire others to take risks in the beauty industry and beyond, especially as Black women. This sunscreen is infused with natural ingredients like cacao, sunflower oil, avocado and carrot juice to hydrate, moisturize, and prevent skin irritation and hyperpigmentation. Perhaps the best news: The transparent formula ensures it won't leave that infamous white cast behind after application, proving Lundy thought of everything when designing this product for darker skin tones.

A fan, who also called this "magic in a bottle" raved: "Buying sunscreen is usually a hit or miss for me but this one was certainly a HIT! I was so impressed by how moisturizing this product was that I almost forgot that I was wearing sunscreen. It doesn't dry out my skin or leave a white undertone. Great for the winter weather too!"

Best Tinted Sunscreen: UnSun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen

Credit: UNSUN COSMETICS

Another great SPF option, this baby was founded by Frank Ocean's mother Katonya Breaux, who has personal experience with sun damage. Katonya used her platform to create a line of sunscreens specifically for women of color, and without the harmful ingredients typically found in other sunblocks and everyday skincare products. This tinted pick gives you a dewy glow all while serving as a natural 100% mineral sunscreen primer and color corrector. Available in "Light/Medium" and "Medium/Dark," it features good-for-your-skin ingredients, such as lactic acid, aloe vera, fruit extracts, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

"Love this sunscreen! It feels good on my skin and love the coverage. A wonderful product that is sun protection without the white cast on your face - because ALL skin needs sun protection," a customer said.

Best Scalp Care: Briogeo Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Credit: BRIOGEO

ICYDK, skincare actually extends to the scalp. It's important that you not only pay attention to the skin on your face, but also the skin beneath your growing tresses—which can get neglected. From Black-owned skincare brand Briogeo, this shampoo contains charcoal to draw out impurities from the scalp and hair follicle, micro-exfoliators to remove dead skin and product buildup, tea tree oil to reduce irritation, and coconut oil to moisturize and zap dandruff. Bonus: Any hair type—whether your strands are straight, wavy, curly, or coily—can reap the benefits of this shampoo.

One five-star reviewer wrote: "Love this shampoo! It is something to use once a week maybe twice at most especially if you have sensitive skin," she wrote. "It exfoliates the scalp and refreshes the hair follicles from top to bottom. It has a minty coconut smell and feels cool and tingling."