As a black woman, I’ve always thought there is no valid reason to use/wear sunscreen. For one, Black don’t crack, and our skin absorbs the sun. Secondly, my family back home in Jamaica, has never worn sunscreen, so why should I and lastly, we have strong, vibrant melanin, so we don’t need it. Period!
Growing up, my mum would always double check two things I have/ or have done before I stepped foot out the door, a jacket/coat in hand (even in summer and over 18 degrees) and that I had moisturized and was smelling fresh – no time for ashy skin and B.O for the outside world to see/smell . But in all my years, I’ve never heard her say to make sure I wear sunscreen and any sorts of SPF to protect my melanin. Now, hearing black skin and sunscreen in a sentence is a weird combination, especially for generations older than us.
Yet, after having an insightful conversation with a friend, who is of a deep- melanated complexion, and a firm believer of black girls wearing sunscreen, I wanted to see what the hype is all about so did some research into this.
What is melanin?
So, to all my black queens reading this, our melanin is a natural pigment that regulates the colour of the skin, hair, and nails. Melanin is known for being at least 1.5-2.0 of a natural SPF values, enabling melanin to protect our skin from UV damage. Most of our brown and black skin can block UV light that equates to SPF 15, however, interestingly enough, this is not great amount to prevent the most threatening UV rays, called UVA radiation, to penetrate deep into the skin.
Although, black skin can absorb the sun, and is a natural protector from the UV rays, black people can get sun burnt, although it’s not as obvious as it may be with pale skin tones.
So, what does sunscreen do?
Sunscreen is known for reducing the risk of skin cancers and skin precancers, as well as helping to prevent premature skin aging, including wrinkles, sagging, fine lines, and age spots. In addition, sunscreen can inhibit hyperpigmentation. When black people are in the sun unprotected, they may see changes in pigmentation that can lead to dark patches called melasma, and uneven skin tone caused by sun damage.
It always best to SPF 30 and a board spectrum sunscreen to protect you from the harmful rays.
Why do Black girls need sunscreen?
There’s no secret that there is Health disparities in the black community, and dermatology is no different. Due to a lack of awareness by both the doctors and the black community, skin cancers are usually a late detection and diagnosed at a late stage. Skin cancer, also known as melanoma has a five-year survival rate affecting 65% black people compared to 91% for those who identifies as white, stated by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The type of skin cancer that affects our community most is Acral Lentiginous melanoma, which characterises as darkening around the skin of the palms, soles and underneath the fingernails – which is why it is important to check yourself every 6 months because we are not immune to getting sunburnt and develop skin cancers.
Studies also show that black people are four times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage melanoma and tend to succumb of its affects (death) at a rate of 1.5 times more than our white counterparts, due to being unaware.
Reminder: Skin cancers are usually treatable when detected early. So, let’s become aware and share what we’ve learned by reading this blog.
3 black-girl friendly sunscreen
Many reasons why black people may not be drawn to use sunscreen is because it’s not black girl friendly, meaning that there’s usually a white film that is shown on the skin, that can make you look ashy, due to the ingredients. So here are three internet and celebrity recommended black girl friendly sunscreens:
1. BODSHOP – Vitamin C Glow-Protect Lotion SPF30
‘A great moisturiser with no white cast, and a little goes a long way – keeps you glowing while staying matte’ says presenter Bisi Akins
2. SUPERGOOP! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 30, £15 (15ml), £30 (50ml)
‘No white cast, doesn’t smell like sunscreen, and has a really nice textured base for make-up’ proclaims Model and Journalist, Simran Randhawa.
3. Bioderma Photoderm Hand-Free Transparent Sunscreen Mist SPF50+ – £17 / Special offer £11.30
‘Favourite spray-on SPF. Incredibly moisturising and gives a health, glowly finish’ states Journalist, Sheilla Momana
So, as the sun gets stronger, and days get longer, maybe its worth trailing some sunscreen.