Black Don’t Crack! The science behind black skin, aging gracefully #Flawless


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The phrase “Black Don’t Crack” has been a staple in the African American community for years.  

It is used to describe the tendency for black women to retain their youthful appearance, even in advanced age. It is our little way of thumbing our noses at anyone who may think that we are less beautiful than our fair-skinned counterparts. Like yeah, you might think you are cute now, but give it a few years and you will be looking like an old leather boot. The aging process seems to go a bit easier for people of color; the phrase has even began to gain popularity outside of the black community.  

Angela Bassett caused a Twitter frenzy last week when a photo of her on her 56th birthday surfaced. She was #Flawless. Her skin glowed and her body was tight. Her famous arms were shown off in a sleeveless, low cut top. Angela rocked a sleek, long hair cut with bluntly cut bangs. This woman looked so amazing that one could safely assume, by the looks of it, that she was not a day past 30.

Later that week, the Emmy’s red carpet brought out the black Hollywood babes. 

Viola Davis, 49, looked absolutely stunning on the red carpet. Her body is insane! Her arms were super toned and her skin looked smooth and velvety. 

Halle Berry, 48, and Nia Long, 42, also slayed the red carpet. Mind you, both of these women gave birth in the last year and half. Their curves were tastefully shown and faces as beautiful as ever. The overload of Black beauty at 40+ called me to ask the question: Does Black really not crack? #TheyWokeUpLikeThis

Black women have seemingly defied gravity as they age. The likes of Nia Long and Halle Berry show minimal signs of aging even well into their 40’s. Some say their access to high-end skin care and skin treatments is their secret to aging gracefully. 

I beg to differ. We all have those older aunties or even grandmothers who have not really aged in the last decade. 

Can you recall how your mother looked when you were in middle school? Does her skin and features look much different now? Exactly! Everyone wants to know why we stay looking so fresh, while they look like they have lived every year of their lives twice.  Here is what science has to say about it.

Melanin! Darker skin has more melanin. It is what gives us our beautiful, rich, color and darker skin produces more melanin than lighter skin. The body also produces melanin in order to protect the skin from ultraviolet rays. The sun’s UV rays damage the elasticity of fibers beneath the skin’s surface. This is the primary cause of wrinkled, dry and tough looking skin. Fair-skinned people have less melanin than African Americans, so they have less protection from the sun’s damaging rays.  As a defense mechanism their body attempts to produce additional melanin, but this often results in age or liver spots. Basically, Mother Nature has given us a leg up when it comes to aging gracefully. Not only does our skin contain enough melanin to naturally combat the damaging rays of the sun, but we are also protected from age or liver spots because our bodies are not forced to over produce melanin to protect it.  In the end, we get wrinkle free, supple and refreshed looking skin well into our golden years. 

Here are some other benefits to having Melanin rich skin: Melanin targets and destroys free radicals. Free radicals are the cause of widespread damage to human cells. In an article written for “The Sun and Your Skin” website, Diana Clarke, the website’s founder, wrote about melanin’s role in scavenging free radicals, preventing the skin damage they can cause. 

Another advantage to having more melanin is that people of color are less susceptible to developing skin cancer. The rate of skin cancer among African Americans, though significant, is lower than the rate for Whites. Melanin in the eyes, in the iris and choroid, helps protect them from ultraviolet and high frequency visible light. People with gray, blue, and green eyes are more at risk for sun-related eye problems. People with brown or dark eyes see better in high-glare situations. That makes perfect sense to me. Since we come from Africa, which is a sun-soaked continent. 

Research suggests that because melanin is found in our cells, organs and brain that it is what makes black people more athletic and more creative. Our physical and mental health has also been attributed to melanin. 

Check out “Melanin: What makes Black People Black.” It is a concise read that gives you information about melanin and its effects on African Americans.

—Follow Shelby on Twitter at @bronze_bombSHEL and email [email protected]

  • Shelby Ivery Christie Scene Editor