Aging: 3 Word Description
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘Black Don’t Crack’ and if you haven’t- here is your introduction!
According to the urban dictionary “Black Don’t Crack is a term used for the description of why African-Americans rarely look their age”. I didn’t need the urban dictionary to tell me that- I actually went there hoping the definition would at least set us up for some comedy and maybe satire if we were lucky. Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed.
Simply put, the entire reason as to why our mothers, fathers and even grandparents look so good for their age can be summed up in 3 words –Black Don’t Crack!
As satisfied as I am with the 3 word explanation, there is a little more to it than that.
Though the idea of a specialized aging process specific to African Americans has taken center stage in this colloquialism, but the process is actually relevant to a large population of people. Studies have shown that over time,darker skin seems to show less signs of aging than lighter skin, and because people with darker skin constitute a wide range of racial and ethnic groups, this concept is broad sweeping.
Your Skin Cells are in a fight to the death with the Environment
If you are lucky, you will get old, and when you get old you will look older, and if you don’t… well your’e a vampire.
Presently speaking, there is no way to get over on the aging process… well not yet, not that I know of.
Our skin is in a perpetual fist fight with environmental elements. Damage is caused to the DNA in our skin cells and through numerous mechanisms, our skin cells respond by trying to reduce, repair and protect against such damage. For instance, exposure to ultraviolet light (i.e. sun light, tanning salons) contributes to a decrease in the elasticity of the skin, leading to the development of fine lines, wrinkles and rough skin. As time goes on the body’s biological changes combined with the onslaught of environmental attacks will cause the skin to under go the physical changes associated with the aging process.
For some people, the Gods of the Aging Process appear to be kind and just… But for others… well…not so much.
Introduction to Melanin: The Darker Berry
The skin and aging discussion must include the skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is mostly responsible for the determination of skin color and increased melanin is associated with darker skin.
Studies confirm that increased melanin allows for better protection against the harmful effects of UV light.
Specifically, melanin has been found to play a role in preventing DNA damage from ultraviolet light and malignant transformation of skin cells. As such, it slows down the appearance of wrinkles and rough skin as well as liver spots that can result over time from the process of continued cellular repair.
My Oily Skin Chronicle- Diary Entry 1001:
Can you identify with being in a public setting only to feel the oils accumulate on your face? You know that you’re glistening because the person sitting across from you can see their reflection on your cheek and you feel like you’ve rinsed your face in a little Crisco….
*Smile and say cheese for the Camera*
This moment is usually accompanied with some internal panic followed by either a mad dash to the restroom or, if circumstances don’t permit, a desperate search- in the black hole that is my purse -for anything that might qualify as being part of the Kleenex family.
I then proceed to go through the highly untechnical and rushed process of firmly but swiftly blotting away the oil from my nose and cheeks hoping that in all my haste I didn’t leave little specs of white tissue sprinkled across my face.
*Smile and say cheese for the Camera*
Can’t relate? I’m sure it’s only me…
Smile and Say cheese for the Camera
In addition to rocking the glossy look at the most at inopportune of times, oily skin presents a number of skin challenges such as increased acne and increase infections of hair follicles and pores.
Oils in the skin are produced by glands called sebaceous glands, which produce an oily substance called sebum.
Sebum’s job is to keep the skin and hair moisturized. Elevated sebum excretion is associated with the production of acne.
According to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, black women secreted larger amounts of sebum when compared to Caucasian women. They further demonstrated that both increased amounts of sebum oil and higher hydration may contribute to a better skin barrier.
Generally speaking, darker skin is associated with oiler skin, but you don’t have to be dark to have oily skin.
Pro’s to Crisco Face
Playing up the downside of oily skin certainly came naturally to me- but there are definitely some worthwhile benefits.
You just don’t realize it until you are about 50!
As we grow older our skin becomes less elastic- think frozen rubber band. To combat this effect the oils produced can help the skin remain supple for a longer period of time by increasing skin elasticity, slowing down the wrinkling process and slowing the formation of deep-set lines.
Certainly this didn’t seem so wonderful when I was 15 with Mount Rushmore ready to erupt on my cheek, but now days I’ve got my fingers crossed that this oily skin -won’t fail me now.
In my own family, my mom certainly appears to be defying the aging gods.I just hope I haven’t bad mouthed my sebaceous glands so much so that they decide to show me who’s boss years later down the line!
PSA Dark people still get Cancer!
Even with the protective effects inherent to darker skin, a study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has suggested that dark-skinned people are not completely protected from the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Thus, excessive exposure to UV light will increase the likelihood of skin cancer, liver spots or wrinkling- regardless of the shade of skin.
So, please do not overdo it in the sun or tanning salon simply because you think you’ve got it like that. You don’t and cancer doesn’t discriminate.
The Wrap Up
The next time you hear the phrase ‘Black Don’t Crack’ know that there is certainly some truth to it- but not just because you are black. You actually don’t need to be black not to crack- though it can provides its benefits. What you do need is the combination of the protective effects of melanin and an increased production of skin oils that, together, protect against premature wrinkling and assist in delaying the processes associated with aging skin.
Tiffany Brunson earned a PhD in biomedical science and a JD in law, with expertise in molecular genetics, general public health, and legislative concepts. Dr. Brunson has authored several scientific articles, a poetry book and a children’s book series on science. She seeks to encourage and promote fundamental interest and understanding in the sciences. Aside from her day job in the field of health science, she is part owner of a boutique publishing company based out of Atlanta, GA. She enjoys science fiction, Greek and Roman history as well as vampire sagas. She has two adorable dogs, enjoys writing poetry and loves New York style pizza.