There is a misconception that people with dark skin, especially Black people, do not need sunscreen when spending any amount of time outdoors. This assumption is based on some truth. Dark-skinned people have more melanin, which is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found on the skin’s outer (epidermal) layer. Melanin protects the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) to a point, which helps reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Because of this, people with lighter skin are more susceptible to skin damage from the sun and other sources of UV rays (like tanning beds). However, sun exposure can raise the risk of skin cancer in everyone, with or without a sunburn. Having a darker complexion only provides an approximate SPF (sun protection factor) of 13 . The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater daily.
Although skin cancer is less common in skin of color, it is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage in skin of color, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This can be deadly when the person has melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread quickly. Treatment for any type of skin cancer can be difficult in the late stages. Therefore, it is very important for people of color to take protecting their skin seriously.
Broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater should be applied daily to all sun-exposed areas when going outside, near windows or even when driving. Even on cloudy days, you should wear sunscreen. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, clouds block as little as 20% of UV rays. As you can see, proper application is important. Here are some tips:
- Don’t forget easily missed spots like the inner elbow, ankles, the webs of the fingers and the ears.
- Be generous with the application of sunscreen so that the SPF is effective. You should apply it 30 minutes before going outside to allow the sunscreen to bind with your skin.
- Reapply after every two hours when sweating or swimming. You should also reapply each time you towel dry your skin.
- Remember your lips. Get a lip balm that contains SPF 30 or greater and reapply often.
Comfortable and Flattering Sunscreen
A common complaint about sunscreen is that it is too thick and that it is not created with skin of color complexions in mind. Often, when properly applied, some sunscreens can leave an ashy white or gray pallor on skin of color, which can be unflattering and discouraging. Some sunscreens contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which can leave behind a whitish cast.
Thankfully, sunscreens have been developed that are lightweight and absorb easily into the skin while still providing the required protection from UV rays. There are a wide variety of lotions, gels, serums and other products that can protect you from the sun, even when you’re not planning to spend the day in the sun. You can even find cosmetics that include SPF. Whatever you choose, make sure to remember to always look for a product with broad spectrum SPF 30 or greater. Some basic sun-protection products for people with skin of color to consider include:
- Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30
- Bolden Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30
- Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30
- Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion WetForce SPF 50+
- Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40
- Neutrogena HydroBoost Water Gel Lotion SPF 50
- Neutrogena Ultrasheer Face & Body Stick SPF 70
It is important to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature. Just make sure to do so while protecting your skin and your health by wearing proper sun protection. With the tips above, you can protect your skin with confidence.