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Dispelling the Myth: Darker Skin Tones and Sun Protection

It’s been a long held misconception amongst sections of BME communities that dark skin doesn’t require sun protection and the presence of melanin is enough to protect against the harmful effects of the sun, the development of skin cancer and premature ageing. In this exclusive blog post, Dija Ayodele, founder of Black Skin Directory and aesthetician, dispels some of the biggest myths and misconceptions around black skin and the sun.

MYTH: Black skin doesn’t burn in the sun

Black skin can get warm, peel and burn in the sun, similar to Caucasian skin. Geographical location, time of year and also the time of day can make a difference to how skin burns.

MYTH: Increased melanin in darker skin tones protects the skin from the sun

Black skin has an average natural SPF of approximately 13. Whilst this offers a small amount of protection, it is not enough and can vary depending on the depth of skin colour.

MYTH: Black skin doesn’t need to apply sunscreen

A completely false myth as black skin requires some degree of sunscreen just like white skin to protect from burning. Additionally, sunscreen is required for protection against premature ageing from UVA rays which penetrate much deeper into the skin and contribute to hyperpigmentation, lines, wrinkles and skin laxity. Additionally, Black people with mixed ethnic heritage with one parent or even grandparent with Caucasian skin may inherit the Caucasian propensity to sun sensitivity.

MYTH: Sunscreen makes you look like a ghost

Sunscreens haven’t always appeared cosmetically pleasing on darker skin tones, especially mineral formulations which contain Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide that can leave a white cast on black skin. This has proved to be off putting, even to people who want to heed the sun protection advice. Encouragingly, this is changing as more brands invest in technology such as nano particles to create more elegant and sophisticated sunscreen formulas in a variety of consistencies – oils, gels, creams, powders – that work efficiently across all skin tones.

MYTH: Black skin doesn’t get skin cancer

All available research indicates that black skin can and does get sun-induced cancer, as well as cancers which may appear to be non-UV driven, commonly found on the soles of the feet, the nail bed or in more obscure places like the buttocks. For decades, these myths have been widely accepted in the skin of colour demographic and have a direct correlation to the lack of awareness about sun safety and the higher skin cancer mortality rates amongst the black population.

MYTH: If you apply sunscreen you’ll become Vitamin D deficient

There is no definitive answer to this. Yes, darker skin tones take longer to produce Vitamin D from the sun but that doesn’t mean you should forego sunscreen completely. So if you have skin of colour and you’re regularly wearing high factor sunscreen, there’s a higher probability of a Vitamin D deficiency. So between March-October when wearing sunscreen, consider taking Vitamin D supplements. Your GP would be able to provide you with more advice.

My Top Five Sunscreens

Weightless, lightweight, easily absorbed, no white marks, comfortable on the skin and make-up applies beautifully on top. These are my favourite sunscreens for dark skin tones:

Epionce Ultra Shield Lotion SPF50

Heliocare 360° Colour Oil-Free Gel

NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF50

Murad Environmental Shield City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50

PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF45

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