Best Face Wash for African American Skin

Beautiful young african american woman using cosmetics cotton cleansing pad to remove make up from face.

All skin requires a consistent regimen to keep it looking its best, and African American skin is no different. African American skin does have some specific characteristics that make some products better than others. For example, common problems among African Americans involve dark spots or hyper pigmentation, post-acne scarring, dullness, and sensitivity.

Basic Skin Care Regimen for African American Skin

Every person should have a basic skin care regimen that includes cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and treating.  


African Americans will want to choose a cleanser based on their type of skin. If you have acne prone skin, you will want to use a mild cleanser so you don’t further irritate the skin. You may want to choose an over the counter product that contains the active ingredient benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial which helps reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. If your skin needs moisture, you may prefer a cream or lotion cleanser. New York-based dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross recommends gels and alcohol-based cleansers for oily skin. 


Not everyone, including all African Americans, needs to use a toner. Toners became popular with the three step kit of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer, but they may not always be necessary. Many toners contain fragrance, citrus, and essential oils which may be irritating to sensitive skin. However, if you do have acne prone skin, a toner with salicylic acid or glycol acid may be helpful.

A good toner should even out skin tone. It should lighten dark spots and make the skin look brighter without make-up. For a toner to work on African American skin it must be able to block some melanin production. A product containing niacinamide may stimulate microcirculation beneath the skin’s surface.


What are the best moisturizers for melanin skin? You need the right cream with the right nutrients and maybe one that contains some retinol to keep fine lines and wrinkles minimal. African Americans should look for a lotion that is non-comedogenic so it doesn’t clog your pores. Glycerin is another ingredient that will help decrease water loss on your skin or lock in moisture.

If the melanin in your skin becomes damaged or unhealthy, you may experience dark patches or hyper pigmentation in certain areas of your face. In that case, look for a moisturizer with cocoa butter to help even out the patches with consistent use.


Dark Spots or Hyper-Pigmentation

Dark spots may occur on African American high melanin skin when the skin overproduces melanin. Sun exposure and hormonal changes may trigger excess melanin production. In some cases, no treatment may be the best option for these dark spots or hyper-pigmentation. They may just go away over time. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, once a person removes the causes of the spots, the existing ones will fade over 6 to 12 months. 

If you are going to treat dark spots, choose a product that contains hydroquinone, azelaic acid, glycol acid, vitamin C, or a retinoid. 

If the over the counter treatment you are using doesn’t deliver results, you should see a dermatologist. A dermatologist has the knowledge and expertise to safely combine treatments to get results. 


Treating acne on African American skin requires care. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that the most effective products for treating acne on dark skin are those that include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids. 

Because African Americans have more melanin in their skin, the AAD suggests treating acne as early as possible to avoid dark spots.

Brands for African American Skin

There are many cosmetic and dermatologic brands specifically geared toward African American skin. These products have been developed specifically for high melanin skin.

Shea Moisture

Shea Moisture was started in Sierra Leone in 1912 with Sofi Tucker selling her homemade Shea Butter African Black Soap along with her homemade hair and skin preparations. Today Shea Moisture has a full line of hair, skin, bath, and body products well-suited for African American skin. It’s black soap product continues to be very popular and effective for African American skin by providing ultimate moisture and keeping the skin hydrated.

Marla Rene

Marla Rene is a natural skincare brand for women of color. She recognizes that there is no cookie cutter approach to skincare and offers an assessment to help each individual customize their skincare regimen. After you take your online assessment, a curated system will be developed, and a curated box will be put together to address your skin needs.

Base Butter

Base Butter believes in empowering women to reclaim and control the idea of beauty. Their mission is to create simple, honest products that work with real life and real skin in mind.  Some of their most popular products include aloe vera gel face moisturizer, deep pores cleansing cloths, and radiate face jelly.


Bolden is a brand built by black women that exists to embolden women, providing expertly-crafted, responsibly sourced and tailor-made beauty experiences. Bolden’s facial line includes a clear skin kit, clarifying cleanser, glycol acid toner, and repair serum.

The Afro Hair and Skin Company

The Afro Hair and Skin Company was founded by wellness and beauty expert Ibi Meier-Oruitemeka. Ibi is an advocate for holistic health and wellness in black women. Ibi researched and developed her line of holistic products over five years. The result is a line of products that eliminates all of the common toxins that she felt contributed to the undermining of black women’s health and well-being. Some of Ibi’s most popular products include Awaken Reviving Body Treatment oil, Nurture Gentle Cleansing shampoo, and Flow Perfectly Balanced Facial oil.


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