Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Any dermatologist, esthetician, or skincare expert will tell you that sunscreen is the most important step of your skincare routine. But, there’s been a common misconception that Black people don’t need to wear sunscreen. And that’s so far from the truth!
For the vast majority of my life, I didn’t wear sunscreen unless I was on the beach or at a pool. Sunscreen formulas were (and can still be) awful, and I, unfortunately, used to think that my black skin would protect me from the harmful rays of the daily sun.
Although the risks of melanoma and burning are much higher in those with fairer skin, the misconception that those with more melanin don’t have to wear it at all isn’t true.
So, today we’re diving into the benefits of sunscreen on black skin.
So, where exactly did the idea come from that you don’t need to wear sunscreen if you have black skin?
While Black people need to wear sunscreen, some truth exists behind our melanin protecting our skin from burning.
FACT: Melanin gives the skin color and absorbs the sun’s damaging UV rays. In fact, black skin can have a natural SPF of up to 13 and filter twice as much UV radiation as fair-skinned people.
People with more melanin naturally have a higher amount of sun protection. But, it’s not enough, and sunscreen is definitely needed.
While studies show that people with darker skin tones are less prone to skin cancer caused by UV rays, studies also show that when we (Black people) do get skin cancer, we are more likely to die from it due to delay in detection or presentation.
This lack of awareness isn’t a myth from the Black community itself. It actually begins with the medical community.
Historically, the medical field hasn’t given black skin adequate medical care, and the field of dermatology is no exception.
In a Healthline article, Dr. Chesahna Kindred shares that “[A lot of the] funding and awareness [for research on the effect of the sun] typically excludes those with darker skin tones.”
There is research to also back up this disparity. In a 2012 study, 47% of dermatologists and their residents admitted to not being adequately trained on conditions in black skin. A 2014 study shows that Black people were prescribed sunscreen roughly 9 times less than their white counterparts after emergency visits. And a 2011 study found that dermatological clinicians were often less suspicious about sun lesions and other causes for alarm in Black patients than in white patients.
So, Why Do We Need Sunscreen? Here are the Benefits of Sunscreen on Black Skin
Some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, and I get it! Sunscreen is a boring skincare item.
But I’ll give you some tough love: If you don’t wear sunscreen, the rest of your skincare routine doesn’t matter.
Wearing sunscreen has many benefits, and it’s one of the keys to healthy, glowy, youthful-looking skin. Let’s talk a little more about why.
#1: sunscreen Protects You from Skin Cancer
Sun exposure is one of the major causes of skin cancer. And while black skin might have twice as much protection thanks to our melanin, research shows that black people are among the most vulnerable populations.
Part of the reason for these statistics is the belief that we don’t need sunscreen, so we aren’t taking the necessary precautions to prevent skin cancer. And most of us don’t even look for signs of skin damage until it’s too late.
FYI: Most skin cancers are treatable if caught early. That’s why it’s recommended to get a skin cancer screening annually, so you can help find cancer in its earlier stages when it’s easier to treat.
#2: sunscreen Protects you from Unwanted Sunburn & Sun Damage
Everyone loves a suntan (including me). I become a wonderful bronze complexion in the summer that I wish I could keep all year.
But did you know that the tanning effect isn’t really a tan? It’s actually a sign of skin damage from the sun. Your body is essentially producing more melanin to protect that previous outer layer of skin.
So, when you don’t protect your skin with sunscreen and get a sunburn, it’s the worst feeling. Seeing your skin red, irritated, and peeled is pretty weird (and painful).
#3: Sunscreen Protects Your Skin from Unnecessary Discoloration & Hyperpigmentation
Although black skin provides a little more protection from the sun, it’s prone to discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Sun exposure exacerbates that issue!
Hyperpigmentation is caused by the excessive production of melanin. It’s triggered by inflammation caused by acne, eczema, aggressive skincare products, genetics, and SUNLIGHT.
If you currently have dark spots, sunscreen will prevent the sun from increasing melanin production, which can worsen hyperpigmentation. And if you don’t currently have any dark spots, wearing sunscreen will provide you with a “shield,” preventing the overproduction of melanin.
#4: sunscreen Protects you from Premature Aging & Wrinkles
For the most part, Black people do age exceptionally well, and that’s due to the melanin in our skin.
Melanated skin typically produces and secretes more sebum, which makes our skin look hydrated, smoother, and plumper. Black skin also has a type of collagen that is less prone to sun damage, hence why there is a delay in signs of aging, like wrinkles.
But the sun can change all that! Sun rays penetrate the skin and cause an inflammatory response, slowing collagen production.
Collagen gives you the volume that keeps your skin looking plump and firm and keeps fine lines at bay. We naturally lose collagen as we age, but unprotected exposure to the sun can hasten that process. And who wants to rush to fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin? NOT ME!
So, who should be wearing sunscreen?
Anyone and everyone. Based on the reasons above, sunscreen benefits everyone.
When should you use sunscreen?
You should wear sunscreen every day, no matter the season. And yes, you should wear sunscreen indoors if you sit directly next to a window.
Finding a sunscreen that doesn’t make me look ashy can be somewhat challenging, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use it.
As you can see, sunscreen isn’t only about making your skin look amazing (although that’s certainly part of it!). Sunscreen is also essential to your health.
So, to my fellow Black and brown people, please fight against the myths we grew up with. Just because we have more melanin doesn’t mean we don’t need sunscreen to protect against sun damage and skin cancer.
Are you more ready to incorporate sunscreen into your daily skincare routine now than ever?