Can Dark-Skinned People Blush? Here’s What Scientists Say

Can Dark-Skinned People Blush? Here’s What Scientists Say

Last Updated on August 12, 2023

Blushing is a cool trick that our body uses to openly display its emotional state. Now, this begs the golden question: Can dark-skinned people blush?

Let’s get right to it, shall we? Yes, people with deeper melanin can blush! But, why can’t we see it? Is it red? Is it pink? How long does it stay on? So many questions!

Our curiosity led us to find out the exact science behind it. So, we’re here to let you know all about it. By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll become a blushing specialist. Promise.

Defining ‘blushing’

Blushing has everything to do with Biology. In 1872, Charles Darwin—yes, the same guy who coined the “survival of the fittest” theory—described blushing as “the most peculiar and most human of all expressions”.

We all know blushing is a natural reaction to any embarrassing or nerve-wrecking situation that we find ourselves in. And, we actually can’t control it as it’s often not by choice.

You’d be surprised to find out that even scientists do not fully understand how blushing really works. Still, they’ve been able to piece together a couple of facts about it. So, let’s break it down.

How blushing works

Like we said, blushing is a reaction that goes hand-in-hand with the feeling of embarrassment. Our sympathetic nervous system (the part of our body that also controls our fight-or-flight response) controls this feeling.

So, when you sneeze loudly in a quiet room full of people, or trip and fall because you were staring at your crush across the hall (👀), or suddenly get ‘stage fright’ when giving an important speech or presentation, there’s likely to be a blushing reaction.

Dr. Tanya Azarani, an adult psychiatrist and psychotherapist in Brooklyn, said in an interview with The New York Times that blushing can happen when we feel ashamed, nervous, self-conscious or angry.

Here’s how it happens:

  • When we’re embarrassed, our bodies’ first response is to release adrenaline. The adrenaline hormone causes our blood vessels to dilate. It does this in an attempt to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery.
  • The blood vessels in our cheeks are wider and closer to the skin surface than other parts of the body. This is why our cheeks become red when there’s an increase of blood flow under the skin.
  • Besides a red complexion, you may also feel a sense of warmth under your skin thanks to the accelerated blood flow. If you ever feel this way, you just might be blushing!

So all in all, blushing is a cool trick that our body uses to openly display its emotional state. It just happens to occur on the cheeks!

So, can dark-skinned people blush?

If one of the body’s gazillion natural responses to stimuli is blushing, then technically anyone can blush—dark-skinned or not. But, if you were to look at the technical definition of “blushing”, it means to visibly turn red or pink in color. Melanated skin cannot visibly turn red or pink.

For better illustration, let’s equate the skin to an art canvas. If you were to paint reds or pinks on a light-colored canvas, the colors will certainly still show up as red or pink. But, if you were to do the same on a black or dark-colored canvas, the same colors probably won’t be too obvious. It’s the same with our beautiful dark skin.

So really, the answer to ‘Can dark-skinned people blush?’ is ‘Yes, but you seeing it depends on how dark you are’. If you have skin that’s on the lighter side of the melanin spectrum, you may actually be able to sport rosy cheeks when you get shy, embarrassed, or ashamed. In saying that though, there are actually people on the darker side of the melanin spectrum that turn a reddish-brown color when they blush. However, these are very rare cases.

This in no way means that dark-skinned people do not have the same nervous reactions that light-skinned people do in embarrassing or nerve-wracking situations. Black people do get shy, embarrassed, and bashful. But, the most physical reaction we may have in such circumstances that can be likened to ‘blushing’ is our skin getting warmer and brighter.

This makes it super easy for us dark-skinned people to conceal our shame or shyness and maintain an aura of confidence under any circumstance (cheers to our genes!). Like billionaire and global icon, Rihanna, said, “Don’t let them see you sweat.” And, we agree!

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