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Spring and summer are coming, despite that fact that some of you may still (!) see snow when you look out the window.  Warm weather means flashing sleeveless arms, lots of leg, and sandals.  But if your elbows, knees and parts of your feet are 20 shades darker than your brown-hued skin, you’d better start taking care of it like…yesterday.  ‘Elephant skin’ at the joints knocks off Hot points.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that there’s new skincare technology that will work a lot better than a tub of Vaseline.

What’s ‘elephant skin’ anyway? “Skin on the knees and elbows tends to have a thicker dead layer of epidermis, called the stratum corneum. This is especially true if we constantly rub our elbows on the elbow rests of a chair or rub our knees from kneeling. The act of rubbing our knees and elbows also stimulates overproduction of melanin. Overproduction of melanin, combined with a thicker dead layer of epidermis, makes skin on the knees and elbows appear to be darker as it contains more melanin than skin in most other parts of the body,” says Dr. Felipe Jimenez, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Forget mechanical sugar or salt scrubs to do the heavy lifting job to get rid of dark spots.  Paula Begoun, cosmetics expert and best-selling author of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me!, recommends products with chemical exfoliants that contain glycolic (AHA), lactic (derived from milk), or her personal fav, salicylic acid (BHA, the active ingredient in aspirin).  One particularly effective product (full disclosure: I suffer from ‘elephant skin’ and am currently using this) Lumixyl, a dermatologist-grade topical brightening system.  The product was designed to treat patients with severe hyper-pigmentation on the face, but translates well to the thick dark skin on elbows especially.

During treatment of elephant skin, remember Rule Numero Uno: wear sunscreen.  Using any sort of chemical peel to brighten discoloration will have the opposite effect if not protected by the sun’s harsh rays.  Your best bet is to use the exfoliating products at night when your body is at rest to hasten the effects, and cover and protect in the morning.  But don’t be surprised if you skin starts to flake and feel a bit tender at the treatment area.  For relief, use a very emollient lotion, like a body butter.  (My personal favorite is Korress Vanilla Guava.  Yummy.) Lotion works best on knees and feet, but  if you need something more heavy-duty, especially at the elbows, try products that contain avocado oil or shea butter.  La Natura carries a Matcha Green Tea 100% vegan body butter that works both as a moisturizer and antioxidant.

Here’s to rocking the HAY-ELL out of tank tops, short-shorts and strappy sandles this year.

Christelyn D. Karazin is a health writer and co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race Culture and Creed (to be released February 2012), and runs a blog,, dedicated to women of color who are interested and or involved in interracial and intercultural relationships. She is also the founder and organizer of “No Wedding, No Womb,” an initiative to find solutions to the 72 percent out-of-wedlock rate in the black community.

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