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If you are one of those who point out that you are black and don’t need sunscreen, I just want you to know that black people can, and do suffer from skin issues caused by exposure to the sun. In this post, I’ll show you why black people need sunscreen for real, why Blacks can suffer from sun exposure and how best to protect yourself.
How Do We Classify Black Skin?
Black skin is the skin colour/type we mostly find in Africans or their descents. The skin is typically less pre-disposed to the risk of skin cancer than other skin. It contains more melanin (more pigment) and is considered more UV resistant than others too. Also, it never burns and never tans when out in the sun.
Do Black People Really Need Sunscreen?
The answer is a resounding YES, Black people really need sunscreen. Melanin or not, everyone with any type of skin colour definitely needs a form of sun protection when they are outside in the sun going about their regular activities.
Why Blacks May Ignore Sunscreen
A lot of black people don’t think that it’s necessary to wear sunscreen. It is argued that the melanin in every black skin protects from the sun and the havoc it can wreak. Well, that may not be entirely true because sun exposure can lead to a range of conditions from hyperpigmentation of the skin to even skin cancer.
Yes, melanin may protect Blacks (Africans and those of African descent) from the sun’s rays more than other people, trust me, it only gives about SPF13-15 protection and this doesn’t block the harmful effects of the sun on the skin. We need at least SPF30 to begin to say that we are close to been protected.
Why is the sun harmful to Blacks?
It may interest you to know that the harm that sun exposure could cause can be abnormal melanocytes formed and distributed in the skin called dyspigmentation. Not to mention that the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun as a proven Carcinogen (the substance that produces cancer).
The sun contains ultraviolet rays that can penetrate the skin and damage or even kill skin cells. There are two UV rays that are of major concern – UVA (long wave) and UVB (shortwave).
NB: UVC doesn’t reach us on earth so we can bother less about it.
As UVC does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere we only really need to protect against UVA and UVB as these rays pose the greatest risk for sun damage.
What you should know about Ultraviolet-A (UVA):
UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer and can penetrate window glass. They directly damage DNA, contribute to skin ageing prematurely, and steadily destroy key substances in the skin that give it its firmness and elasticity. UVA rays are a leading cause of wrinkles and a cause of, or even major contributor to the development of every type of skin cancer. The shorter wavelengths of UVA also cause sunburn. They can cause tanning and so it’s best for you to avoids that as there’s no such thing as a safe or healthy tan.
What you should know about Ultraviolet-B (UVB):
UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. This affects the skin’s top/outermost layer, can damage the DNA in skin cells directly, cause skin cancer and sunburns.
This should be a major concern for Blacks as there is a lot of UV in the sunshine in Africa, especially days when the sun is highest in the sky.
How To Protect Black Skin From The Sun?
So now you know that you are not as immune to the sun as you’ve always thought, here are the best ways to protect yourself from the sun:
1. Use sunscreen often:
Whether you are indoors or outdoors, use sunscreen since UVA can penetrate glass. A waterproof sunscreen would also come in handy if you are going for a swim. You’ll need a good sunscreen that would provide very good protection from the African sunshine. I will also recommend that you go for a minimum of SPF30 when picking your sunscreen.
Don’t forget to reapply every few hours if you are outside during the day.
2. Avoid unnecessary exposure:
As much as you can, try to limit your exposure to the sun especially after Vitamin D time (this is usually before 10 AM). If there’s any reason you should be out in the sun past 10 AM, make sure to protect yourself properly.
3. Cover up properly:
When you are certain you’ll be going out and, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. In fact, an umbrella would come in very handy in most cases.
4. Protect the young ones too:
Not just you, try to keep children out of the sun until they are at least 6 months. Even when they have gone beyond that, limit the time they spend in the sun when it’s not necessary. They could easily fall sick by just playing in the sun for hours.
5. Look at your medications:
Certain antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, cholesterol drugs, acne medications, high blood pressure medications and other drugs can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. If you are going for an over-the-counter prescription, you may have to be sure they aren’t going to cause you more harm in the future.
6. Tell others:
Yeah, it’s a good thing for you to commit to a good sun protection regime. But where’s the fun if you do that alone? Make it your habit to tell your friends why they need the protection as the melanin in Black skin can only protect what it can, not necessarily make the skin totally immune to the sun’s rays. You can also share this post with them for further advice.
How to pick the best sunscreen for Black skin
Like I mentioned earlier, you need a very good sunscreen that can protect your skin properly from the African sunshine. Here are a few tips and recommendations you may want to consider:
- UVA protection in a sunscreen will help defend the skin against photo-ageing and potentially skin cancer.
- Zinc oxide protects against both UVA and UVB rays so look out for this in sunscreens.
- There should be chemical and physical filters in the sunscreens you’ll choose. The chemical filters absorb the rays while the physical ones filter it out.
- A mixture of UVA and UVB sunscreens are best. This is called a broad-spectrum sunscreen and can offer better protection all round.
Here are two of the best sunscreens for Blacks you might like:
If you have no idea which sunscreen is best for your skin, here are two of the best I will recommend that have got the qualities of a good sunscreen for black skin as earlier mentioned:
- CeraVe Tinted Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 30: This Sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection. It is a 100 % mineral filter based sunscreen, which is also known as a physical sunscreen. It reflects UVA/UVB rays to help protect the skin. And it is formulated with 3 essential ceramides that help restore the skin’s natural barrier and lock in moisture. Not to mention that it is oxybenzone free, paraben-free, fragrance-free and chemical filter-free. It is my best recommendation for black skin and it can be worn alone or under makeup as a tinted primer.
- Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Oil-Free, Non-Comedogenic & Non-Greasy Mineral Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 50: This face sunscreen lotion provides superior protection against ageing UVA and burning UVB rays to prevent sunburn. It is a specially formulated water-resistant face sunscreen made with naturally-sourced 100% zinc oxide and features Dry-Touch technology to help ensure it dries off with a non-greasy finish. It’s free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes and irritating chemicals so it’s gentle on black skin. The non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic and oil-free formula of this mineral sunscreen contains antioxidants to help protect against skin-damaging free radicals.
- Aveeno Positively Mineral, 100% Zinc Oxide, Non-Greasy, Sweat- & Water-Resistant Sheer Sunscreen with SPF 50: This sunscreen provides water-resistant skin protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. It is formulated to be gentle and non-irritating, easy to apply and is made with naturally-sourced 100% zinc oxide active ingredient and nourishing oat. It is a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula which is both sweat-resistant and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and has your skin covered so that you can enjoy the sun safely when outside. The sunscreen is hypoallergenic and free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates and dyes
For best results, apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun, and reapply at least every two hours while outside.
With that said, I do hope I have been able to convince you to look at sunscreen differently and consider adding it to your routine in order to properly keep your face and skin protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
Hey, if you ever get sunburned at any point, here is How to Soothe Your Skin when you Suffer a Sunburn
Go ahead and share your sun experience in the comment section.