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Jul 26, 2023

The Myths and Truths about Sunscreen and Melanin Skin

Are you taking care of your skin?
For so long I would never wear sunscreen. Honestly, I think it was just ignorance of not knowing the benefits and purpose of wearing sunscreen. You see as a young African American girl the question always remained, should an African American wear sunscreen?

It was this thought process that I believed that the sun wouldn’t affect darker skin tones. Honestly, when I think back to my childhood, I never really remember my parents educating me on the importance of sunscreen. As I got older I only thought about running away from the sun so that I didn’t get darker or tan. Little did I know that really being out in the sun for a long period of time wasn’t just about getting dark but more about the damage that would be done to my skin.

So why are sunscreen and melanin skin such controversial topics? It’s because of the common myths that you may have heard regarding sunscreen and melanin skin. Here are some common myths regarding melanin skin and sunscreen:

Common Myths Regarding Melanin Skin and Sunscreen:

Myth 1: The sun doesn’t damage anyone who has dark skin.
Truth: No skin color is 100% effective. According to The American Academy of Dermatology’s official position on sunscreen is that everyone no matter their skin tone, should wear sunscreen because anyone; regardless of age, gender, or race can get skin cancer.

A common misperception that you may have heard is that black people or people with darker skin tones don’t need to use sunscreen because of the melanin. It is believed that melanin creates this pigmentation that will protect you from the sun. No skin tone is fully safe from the UV rays of the sun.

Myth 2: Dark skin tones do not need sunscreen because of melanin.
Truth: Everyone needs sunscreen no matter their skin complexion, or whether they have melanin or not. No matter how dark your skin you are still at risk of getting sunburned or having skin cancer.

Myth 3: All sunscreens are the same.
Truth: Not all sunscreens are made the same. It’s important to know that there are two different types of sunscreens: chemical and physical.

Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and is gentler. Physical sunscreen gives you a thin layer.

Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and then releases them from the body.

So, where do I start?
The first step is understanding what sunscreen is and how it helps your skin. Sunscreen helps to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays (UV) which mainly come from the sun. It’s first important to start with a good sunscreen. A quality sunscreen protects the underlying cells from UV rays. UV rays are said to potentially cause skin cancer in any skin tone.

So which type of sunscreen should I use?
Physical Sunblock is good if you have very sensitive skin. However, chemical sunblock is more effective if you are swimming, playing sports, running, working out, or sweating a lot during the day.

So, let’s put all the myths to rest and know that it doesn’t matter what your complexion or skin tone is; Sunscreen is important for all skin tones. It’s time to start taking care of our skin.

Here’s to protecting that beautiful melanin skin!

By: Felicia. R. Hall @feliciarhall
Felicia is an educator and motivator at heart. Felicia is a Certified Athletic Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Run & Fitness Coach, RYT 200 Yoga Instructor, Educator, and a doctoral candidate. She is a small-town girl who loves running, nature, and helping others become the best version of themselves.