Do you remember a meme that went around a while ago with a black woman with gray hair and the caption read “black women be like I’m 105”? It was a great visual of the commonly held belief that black don’t crack. I once interviewed a candidate who, for some reason, asked me old I was. At the time I was in my late 30’s. She quickly blurted out “I hate black people”. I just smiled. Sidebar, while I knew what she was getting at, I still thought it was inappropriate at an interview and recommended against hiring her. I digress.
It seems that aging is not something most black women spend time thinking about, at least not in the same way white women do. In 2013 Allure magazine conducted an Anti-Aging survey where they found that black women feel they age the best when it comes to aesthetics or signs of aging. They polled 2,000 women and men on today’s perceptions of aging. Turns out 86% of African-Americans believe they age the best compared to 46% of white people. Here’s the breakdown:
- 64% of black women aren’t worried about the aesthetics of aging (wrinkles, dark spots, etc. )
- 81% of black women think they look younger than women their age of other races
- 65% of black women don’t and won’t consider anti-aging treatments or procedures
Another interesting finding is that most of the black female respondents thought sexiness for women fades at age 64, a good 10 years after other races. Despite the immense self-confidence of the respondents black women do seem to stand still in time when it comes to the common physical signs of aging, black women do age.
Our Biology Contributes To Our Youthful Looks
People of color simply have more melanin in their skin. Melanin, produced by cells called melanocytes, is what gives hair, skin, and eyes their color. But it also serves another purpose. Melanin protects us against UV damage. This is why people who live in areas with high volumes of sunlight tend to have darker skin. The reason we want to avoid UV light is because it contributes to the production of free radicals in our bodies and can contribute to cancer. The less melanin you have the more prone you are to the damaging properties of the sun. Melanin literally absorbs the UV light. Now this doesn’t mean that people of color can’t get sun burns. The lighter you are, the more susceptible you are to the sun’s rays. This natural protection from the sun reduces the signs of aging such as dark spots, wrinkles and general sun damage visible under UV lighting.
Another theory as to why black skin ages more slowly is its natural lubrication. Black skin tends to be more oily. Unfortunately it means that we are more prone to acne even into adulthood. Because the oil helps the skin retain moisture it wards off wrinkles that occur as the skin gets drier and loses its elasticity. A wrinkle is a place in the skin where the collagen and the elastin fibers have broken down due to UV light exposure, smoking, and through general aging. Having oily skin may naturally contribute to slowing the process of breaking down the skin’s connective tissue.
Lifestyle may also contribute to the slower external aging process. Black people tend to spend less recreational time in the sun, i.e. tanning. We rarely purposely expose our skin to tanning rituals out in the sun or in tanning beds. However, because of the belief that black people don’t sun burn we also tend to wear less sun screen. The rates of skin cancer for black people has fluctuated since 1999, but remains relatively flat and low. While white people lead all races by a significant margin. Let’s help out mother nature by putting on sun screen. I wear it. I admit, not every day because sun screen is thought to contain toxins that may actually cause skin cancer.
Internally Speaking, Black Women May Be Aging Faster
Externally we may be crushing it, but internally, not so much. Given that black women are suffering at high rates from obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease our real age is probably much higher than our chronological age. Who cares if you look great at 50 if your risk of death is higher than that of a 30 year old? Your real age can be determined with a combination of a physical assessment and a chemical assessment (blood tests). There’s a reason people are dying in their 30’s and 40’s from heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases when it was unheard of just 15-20 years ago. In fact, this generation of children have a shorter expected life span than their parents. That is the first time in recorded history that has happened. As a demographic black women may be facing extinction if the health trends continue in the negative direction, especially when it comes to breast cancer, heart disease, pregnancy and obesity.
Here’s How To Age Gracefully Inside and Out
Our insides need to start matching our outsides or we will be dying looking fierce in our 40’s and 50’s. It may seem overwhelming but there are ways to get started with creating ultimate health and wellness in your life. If you’ve tried everything but still not seeing results, it’s time to try something new. Learn how to make your brain your ally in achieving your biggest life goals. Our sister site, Transformation YOUniversity, shares how to combine the art of faith with the laws of science to create lasting results. In the meantime, do these things to age gracefully inside and out:
Know your numbers. Healthy people know their vital statistics. Visit a physician to find out your blood pressure, glucose levels, fitness capabilities, etc. You need to know where you’re starting to figure out where you’re going.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. This step isn’t about losing weight. In fact, exercise is a small contributor to weight loss. Exercise trains your cardiovascular system to move blood through your body efficiently. It also has great mood-boosting benefits and helps keep the brain sharp. Weight-bearing exercise helps to ward off osteoporosis and maintain your balance as you age. Moving also helps to keep those creaky joints at bay as you age and may even help slow progression of arthritis. Always visit a physician before you get started with a new program.
Be mindful, grateful and have fun. Black people, like most, are under extreme stress. Take time out to relax and focus on your mental health and having gratitude. This can be done through meditation or yoga. Black women tend to suffer from depression more than any other race. Understand the signs and symptoms and get help. Please don’t put off getting help because you believe it’s a white person’s thing or you aren’t praying enough. Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance that can be treated. No doubt that life is serious, especially these days. But please remember to have fun and enjoy the company of a good man, a good friend, and/or loving family. Laughter and a youthful mindset will do more to keep you young than any pill.
Get in your doctor’s face. Black women are among the most under-served and under-treated when it comes to healthcare. Often we opt not to visit the doctor, then when we need to we can’t get access. Or when we finally reach a physician they dismiss our symptoms or us completely. Be sure to ask the doctor as many questions as you need. And before you take that prescription for drugs ask what alternatives there are. Americans are among the most medicated people on the planet. Ask if physical therapy is available or lifestyle management programs. Take charge of your health, if you still have questions find out if there are healthcare advocates available in your facility.
Stay out of the sun. While our melanin protects us, the lighter we are the less protection we have. Wear sun screen if you’ll be out in the sun for long periods of time. Eat a diet full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Also use appropriate skin care products made for your skin type. Don’t use something that will dry your skin out while trying to keep potential acne breakouts under control. Consider products that don’t contain parabens and other toxins, they may be making you gain weight. There is no shortage of natural skin care products that are reasonably priced and available at Walgreens, Target and WalMart. African Black Soap is a miracle worker and you can get high quality for cheap. It treats oily skin, dandruff, and other skin issues. If you special needs be sure to visit a dermatologist or other skin care professional.
Treat your hair kindly. We tend to be hard on our hair – relaxers, coloring, weaves, wigs, etc. All of that can cause irreparable damage to our locks. Black women are starting to see increasing incidence of baldness and thinning hair. Our hair also contributes to our physical age. Hair has less protection than our skin. Adopt a hair care regimen that will keep your crowing glory growing and healthy. More women are going natural and abandoning the harsh chemical relaxers.
Let’s continue to the lead the way when it comes to aging gracefully externally and include getting our insides on the same path. Do you have anti-aging secrets you want to share, comment below. Share this post with your friends, loved ones and in your communities.
REAL TALK | REAL THINGS | REAL RESULTS