Sun & dark skins: what you need to know.

sun dark skin sunscreen

One of the biggest mistakes the people make is to think that sunscreen is unnecessary to black skin.  According to a 2010 study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 63 percent of African Americans have never worn sunscreen.  It is true that dark skins don’t burn easily because dark skin is naturally protected from the sun with its high concentration of melanin. But prolonged exposure to the sun can cause serious skin damages: premature aging of the skin, sunburn, dark spots or melanoma (skin cancer).  Here are the most frequent “sunny” questions for dark skins.

Is my dark skin naturally protected from the sun?

Yes, it is true that black skin produces a natural SPF of 13, according to physicians at the Skin Cancer Foundation. White skin has a natural SPF of 3. But this is not to say that black skin can’t burn, or worse, can’t get skin cancer.  Unfortunately, many people and even some physicians are under the impression that dark skins are immune to this disease. That is one reason people of color are diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages and potentially fatal.

What SPF do I need ?

Sunscreen (cream, fluid or oil) allows your skin to be exposed, minimizing risks.  These products contain chemical or mineral filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) protecting from UVA (those who grow old your skin) and UVB (those who burn your skin).  Sunscreen penetrates the skin and absorbs the UV’s or stays on the skin and reflects the UV’s.   SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is used to estimate the amount of UV radiation it normally takes to sunburn one’s skin with protective sunscreen, from SPF 10 (body) until SPF 50 (face, neck and shoulders).  You’ll choose a SPF depending on the darkness of your skin (light brown or Peul?), according your activity and to sun exposure duration (shopping in the morning or sport on the beach from 11am to 4pm) and the type of sunshine (in Europe or in the desert of Kalahari?).

How to avoid dark spots?

  • If you already have dark spots or scars, do never expose to the sun without SPF 50. The cells that regenerate scar multiply rapidly and produce more melanin.  Exposing them to the sun may cause hyperpigmentation.
  • If you are pregnant, avoid sun, because of your hormonal change, it may cause chloasma.
  • Some creams containing perfumes, essential oils, fruit acids can be photo- sensitizer. It means that – here and there – spots will appear or existing spots will become worse.
  • And, at least, if you use lightening products or if you have dermatologic treatment or laser hair removal: avoid ABSOLUTELY the sun!

Why do many sunscreens look gray on dark skin?

Many sunscreens can look gray on dark skin.  A higher concentration of active sun-blocking and -screening substances tends to make the solution tackier. Plus, these sunscreens are meant to stay on your skin and not come off, so they have to be adhesive. They include lots of « silicone polymers » and « acrylate polymers, » which make them more water-resistant but also stickier on your skin. Acrylate polymer substances are rubbery fixatives, also found in hair sprays that allow a sunscreen to hold up to water, sweat, and rubbing, but they work by forming a film on your skin. So prefer oils (for your body) or the latest micronized liquids (for your face) and avoid products with terminology like this on the label: « waterproof, » « water-resistant, » « sweatproof, » « sport ».  Prefer oils and lotions, more are now completely undetectable.

When and how to apply sunscreen?

Ideally, sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow it to be fully absorbed into the skin.  Apply generously the product on clean and dry skin to all exposed areas, especially the most sensitive and those that are tend to forget: ears, neck , upper back, above the feet.  Don’t forget your lips! Today you find lipsticks containing a sun protection factor.  Be careful, sand, water, the friction of the towels remove some of the cream. You should ideally renew the application every 2 hours (see every hour if you use products rather like liquid sprays or lotions).

My make-up and moisturizing cream contain SPF, is it enough?

Some makeup and day creams contain a sunscreen. They protect your skin and make your skin beautiful.  Don’t hesitate to put it on your face every day but don’t forget that their SPF is often low (15), so not sufficient for long sun exposure.

What about DIY sunscreen?

A quick Google search shows that many of the recipes call for various oils like coconut, almond, jojoba, rosehip and carrot seed oils. You’ll also find beeswax (often used as a thickening agent) and zinc oxide powder (the active ingredient).  According to New York-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, making and using your own sunscreen can actually promote sunburns, it is ‘effectively putting your skin at risk for melanoma.  Sunscreen companies invest millions of dollars formulating and testing sunscreens to ensure they are stable and effective,’ she says.  ‘Tests are conducted in the lab and on humans to ensure they provide broad-spectrum protection and that the ingredients remain stable and active when mixed together and exposed to heat and sun.’  Homemade sunscreens are natural (no ‘endocrine disruptors’) but their SPF is lower (20), it takes à long time to apply, it whitens skin slightly…  If you want something more natural, then, the chemical-free sunscreens these days are excellent. They are fragrance-free and non-toxic.

Some advice after sun exposure ?

Don’t forget to have a shower to remove excess product. Although, rehydrate the skin with a calming cream that treat sunburn and soften the skin.  Finally, remember that the products have an expiration date. After the date , the product loses its effectiveness.


>>>  Any brands and products to advise? Do not hesitate, leave us a comment, we expect your advice for an upcoming post !