I grew up in a household where practicing self-care was paramount. For example, my mom would never let us out of the house before slapping a generous portion of sunscreen on our beaming faces. In my 20’s all these valuable lessons flew out the window, and I chose to rely on nothing but the nearest moisturiser I could find and good genes. Fast forward ten plus years, I’m much older and I can no longer afford to neglect my skin. That is how I met Dr. Nokubonga Khoza.

I first met her a few months ago, and I was immediately blown away by her genuine passion for skin care. After our first thorough consultation, I instantly knew I was in safe hands.

I recently sat down with the beautiful Dr. Khoza to have a chat about skin care. Not only do I feel we can all learn so much from her, but I know we’ll walk away with handy skin care tips to implement in our own lives.

Please tell us more about yourself (your age, partner, kids, and what you do for a living).

Born and bred in Durban (Umlazi). I’m a city girl with a traditional twist, and I’m married to a friend and a great father. We have two children, an 11-year old daughter and our 4-year- old son who runs our lives at the moment.

I am a specialist Dermatologist treating all skin, hair, and nail conditions in children and adults. My practice focuses on education, empowerment, and diagnosis. I love dermatology, it is such a broad and dynamic field, and it is always relevant. From being a physician to a surgeon, to being a pediatrician, an aesthetician (cosmetic dermatologist), I can be all these roles in one day.

I consider myself an introvert with a great sense of humour. I love the simple things in life. At any given time, I have four books in front of me, reflecting who I am. A religious/inspirational book, a scientific (skin) article, a heated novel and a cook/interior magazine. My reads reflect my mood. My best moments are spent on the couch, with a cup of coffee, catching up on scandalous TV series.

First things first, how do you keep your skin looking so good?

Well LOL. The Glow is in the night routine.

It’s straightforward. The secret is consistency and understanding what you are applying, when, and why. I use medical-grade skin care products, what we call cosmeceuticals. There is just way too much science in them for me to ignore.

Basically, for the face, I protect during the day, and I repair and restore in the evenings. For the body, I concentrate on hydration by using a good moisturizer. For my hair (a blog on its own), I focus is on protection.

What is your skincare regimen?

Firstly, let me tell you about the essential products in a good skincare regimen. In order of importance:

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Vitamin A preparation
  3. Vitamin C preparation

These 3 are the cornerstone of anti-aging and optimized skincare. I change my skincare regimen every season, specifically my cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens. I always stay on SPF 50, but anything SPF > 30 is ok.

So in the morning (My PROTECT Regimen):

Gently cleanse with Neostrata Exfoliating wash.

Apply Vitamin C + E antioxidant, Skinceuticals phloretin CF Moisturize with Neostrata bio-hydrating cream.

Sunscreen: I use anything SPF 50. On my shelf currently are Heliocare 360, LA Roche Posay Antelios Shaka Fluid and Eucerin Oil-control  dry touch.

My Tip:

*You can play around with the consistency of your sunscreen to achieve a particular finish. Some sunscreens really give you a GLOW.

I’ve recently introduced eye cream out of fear of eyelid wrinkling: Neostrata bionic eye cream plus.

In the Evenings (My REPAIR AND RESTORE regimen):

Gently cleanse with Eucerin cleansing milk.

Apply retinoid (Vitamin A): I use prescription-strength retinoid cream; however, over the counter retinols are ok. Moisturize, with Neostrata bio-hydrating cream.

*The real work is in the night routine. I add hydrating serums in the evenings. I swap between skinceuticals hydrating b5, HA intensifier or Cantabrias new Endocare Concentrate. **Weekly I exfoliate with Neostrata exfoliating pads.

*** Monthly only when my schedule allows, I may throw in a chemical peel.

Budget Tip:

*You do not need to spend lots of money on a cleanser and moisturizer. Keep these super basic.

What do you think is the biggest mistake we make as black women when it comes to taking care of our skin?

We don’t understand, we don’t question, we don’t act immediately, and we cover up. We over exfoliate, and we don’t wear sunscreen.

Most information about skincare is passed down and to complicate things; there are too many voices and opinions about what is right. Often these are misleading, and this is an entirely wrong approach to skin health.

We need to understand our skin types, its genetic code, and be able to predict its comfort zones. This goes beyond race or oily, combination, and dry skin variants.

We also don’t act immediately when we experience problems. Our first instinct is to cover up, which is excellent but often by the time we seek help, the situation is disastrous and is significantly affecting us.

My advice to all women when it comes to the skin is, treat it urgently as you would attend to a cardiac problem — black skin scars. Understand your skin type, understand your skin products, and when certain conditions start creeping in, understand your diagnosis. I am not a fan of blanket statements like I have pigmentation, blemishes, alopecia etc. When we speak like this, I know we have completely missed the mark, and we have to go back to the teaching board.

What are the top most common skincare problems you deal with in your practice? And how can we prevent them?

I see Acne and its related complications; Eczema and its related complications; Disorders of Hyperpigmentation and Hair-loss. These are my top four.

For Acne, treat all forms of Acne, no matter how mild, early, urgently and medically not with cosmetic products. Acne scars the psyche and the skin, the scars may be permanent. The same holds for Disorders of Hyperpigmentation and Atopic Eczema. When it comes to Alopecia/ Hair-loss, prevention is better than cure in African hair. Limit traction related styling. Once you notice areas of Hair-loss, your first stop should be the dermatologist, not the last. They are the only professionals trained to diagnose and treat scalp disorders medically. Stop oil and product hopping. There are more than 50 medical causes of hair loss, and in black women, we commonly see permanent/scarring types. TIME is HAIR and we consider Hair-loss a medical emergency in African women.

If you knew you were going to be stuck on a deserted island, what is the one skincare product you would take with you?

Hahaha!! A spray-on SPF 50 sunscreen of course. If you allowed me two products, I would add a Thermal Spring Water Spray. I love it! Dry skin burns more than hydrated skin.

They say black don’t crack. Do black women need to use anti-aging products? And if yes, when should we start?

Of-course, because black does crack if you don’t protect it.

No skin type’s immune to aging and sun damage. The difference is in the degree of severity. I am proud to be a black woman, and I marvel daily at the beauty and protective nature (to some degree) of melanin, it’s just glorious. While we may not get severe wrinkling (cracks) as we think, aging encompasses much more than that. It is the uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, rough texture, fine lines, dull and sagging skin.

Melanin is not enough to deflect the rays, prevent collagen, and elastin degeneration. So unless you protect and prevent, your black could crack.

Your best skin is in the 20s, it’s popping. This is a great age to start understanding your skin type and introducing a skin care routine that includes sunscreens, gentle cleansers, and moisturizers. Probably this is the best age to see a dermatologist too if you haven’t seen one. Its also the period when things start going wrong, skin problems start to occur because of poor product choices. From the early twenties, sunscreen use should be like brushing your teeth in the morning.

The visible signs of aging typically start showing in the late 20s to early 30s. To me, this is the time to introduce over the counter retinols to a night routine.

By mid-30s before 40s, if you are serious, I would say sunscreens, retinol, vitamin C plus chemical exfoliators should be religious.

What is the most crucial skin care lesson you want to teach your kids?

I want them to value who they are and to appreciate and be proud of their skin and its inherent behavior. They must always protect their skin from the sun. I want them to know they have only one skin in their lifetime. And therefore, to protect it, to seek help, to choose safe products and safe procedures and not just be influenced by trends.

Love B

For more from Dr. Khoza  visit The Durban Skin Doctor