Growing up with melanin-rich skin, I admit I rarely ever wore sunscreen. Whenever I was exposed to the sun, my skin would tan instead of burn, so I always assumed I did not need sunscreen. This is a misconception in the Black community, that darker skin tones don’t require SPF. I believe we mainly think this because our skin does not burn. After all, melanoma and sunburn are a lot more common in fair skin tones.
But I’m here to tell you that all skin, regardless of color, is impacted by ultraviolet UV and ultraviolet UB rays.
Why do some believe Black skin doesn’t need sunscreen?
The entire concept is a bit complex because melanin in darker skin tones does have natural protection capabilities. In fact, darker skin tones have a sun protection of up to 13, whereas lighter skin types have a natural SPF of 3.4. So in some ways, the notion that Black skin is already protected is true, but it is not enough. Which is where SPF comes in.
What sunscreen should be used?
With the amount of options out there, it can be tough to find a sunscreen that works on darker skin tones and won’t display a white cast after applying. But in general, there are physical and chemical sunscreens.
Physical SPFs are made from minerals, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and tend to create a white cast on skin. They work to reflect light, UVA, and UVB rays off the skin. Whereas chemical sunscreens have thinner formulations and absorb into skin, and when applied, there’s no cast.
Try Black Girl Sunscreen. It’s affordable ($10 – $22) and can protect the skin without leaving residue.
What are the benefits of wearing sunscreen for melanin-rich skin?
Chemical and physical sunscreens work to protect against photo-aging from the sun’s UV rays, like fine lines and wrinkles. With that being said, when Black people age, it commonly shows up as hyperpigmentation instead of the fine lines and wrinkles found in older paler skin. The fact of the matter is, sun exposure increases hyperpigmentation, and daily sunscreen protection will help to prevent this — helping to maintain an even skin tone.
Sunscreen protection also helps with skin elasticity and firmness. As we age, our skin tends to lose more and more elastin — the protein found in the dermal layer of the skin responsible for skin’s elasticity. This is the very protein that keeps your skin smooth and youthful. With greater exposure to sun, you lose collagen and elastin, which can cause sagging over time. Sunscreen will help the skin look fresh while maintaining the elasticity of your skin.
And lastly, probably the most obvious benefit, sunscreen for darker skin also protects the skin from UV rays. Again, darker skin tones can still be impacted by the many skin conditions that result from sun damage, cancer being the main one. Wearing sunscreen will reduce the risk of melanoma and sunburn.
Moral of the story, all skin tones, regardless of color, should wear sunscreen daily to prevent any sun-related skin conditions. Here are the best sunscreens for your skin type.
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