Like many Black women and men, I used to believe that because of my rich skin tone, SPF wasn’t truly a necessity. To add to that, my experience with sunscreen was always met with an unsightly, chalky, and near-purple white cast left on my skin. And while that may not have been a big deal as a child, frolicking on the beach or by the pool, when I became an adult I could think of many other things better than looking like a ghost while out and about.
But as I grew older I found that the need for UV protection far exceeded anything that I did or didn’t want aesthetically. Following a dermatologist visit as an early teen, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why my hyperpigmentation seemed to always get worse over time and not better. The first question the dermatologist, a fellow Black woman, asked if I was wearing sunscreen. When my answer was no, I was immediately met with an invaluable lesson that to this day, I carry with me in my daily skincare routine.
While yes, melanin-rich skin is, in fact, less prone to becoming sunburnt, it’s still incredibly possible, and the risk does exist. Furthermore, the risk of sun-induced skin damage such as wrinkles, sunspots, and worse, sun cancer, looms when the skin is not properly protected — no matter how dark or light. In other words, the phrase “Black don’t crack” is much more likely to prove untrue if there’s no sunscreen involved. And in situations like mine, the sun further exacerbates the effects of hyperpigmentation, a skin issue that overwhelmingly affects darker tones. That’s why, rather than my dark spots fading, my constantly exposing them to sunlight caused the pigment to continue to accumulate.
Anyone with hyperpigmentation can attest, getting rid of it can be a drawn-out and tedious process, so making the symptoms worse will inevitably result in more stress — stress that could simply be alleviated with the use of SPF. And before you ask, yes, even when there’s no visible sun shining or you don’t have plans to go outside, you still need your sunscreen. Not only is there the risk of the sun shining inside the home, but UA and UVB rays that emit from our phones, laptops, and other electronic devices can have the same effect on the skin.
The world of SPF can be large and confusing, so, where should you start as a person of color? The best bet is always a minimum of SPF 30, and it should be reapplied every few hours, especially when under excess sun exposure. And about that white cast? Luckily so many brands have made it easier for darker skin, creating clear formulas that still boast the same sun-protecting benefits. Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen with SPF 40 is completely invisible with a matte finish, which makes for an incredible lay under makeup. Kate Somerville’s UncompliKated SPF Soft Focus Makeup Setting Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen dishes out a sheer application that can be reapplied over makeup or bare skin, and we could never forget Black Girl Sunscreen, a brand dedicated to protecting dark skin from the sun, that has two incredible formulas made to protect melanin-rich skin without even a hint of white cast.
The summer is almost here, and for the first time in two years, it will be a season marked by more outdoor and in-person interaction. That said, the least you can do for yourself is give your skin the gift of protection. The science is there, the formulas are there. So what’s your excuse?