Do black people need to wear sunscreen? Do they need to be worried about skin cancer? These are both majorly important questions that seem to have created some confusion as of late. Here are the major reasons Africans believe they do not need suncreen.
Black Don’t Crack. There is a belief that the Melanin in Black skin naturally protects the skin from the sun and its UV rays, creating a barrier against the sun’s harmful effects, hence the saying “Black Don’t Crack.” On some level, this may be true. Continuous exposure to sun without providing an adequate barrier against harmful ultraviolet rays will actually cause your black skin to crack over time. You will begin to notice that your skin loses moisture that will then lead to fine lines and wrinkles. The bottom line is, black will surely crack unless you wear sunscreen.
More Melanin usually means less sunburn. Melanin is a natural pigment that determines skin color, hair, and nails, as Melanin protects your skin from UV damage. While darker skin does not burn as quickly, it is the damage you cannot see is particularly dangerous. Leah Donnella wrote for NPR’s ‘Code Switch,’ “I never really worried about protecting my skin from the sun. ‘Black don’t crack’ wasn’t a phrase I really heard a lot growing up. If anything, it was ‘black don’t burn.’” Black does burn, wear sunscreen.
People of color aren’t at risk for skin cancer. This is the greatest myths of all pertaining to the use of sunscreen. This myth may have come from the statistic that the Black community has a lower incidence of skin cancer. In fact, skin cancer can strike anyone. It’s caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which raises the risk of all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma, one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. What’s more, African Americans have the lowest melanoma survival rates of any other racial group in the country—with five-year survival rates at just 66% compared with 90% for white people.
Sunscreen leaves an ashy residue on black skin. This discovery is even a step in the right direction. “Mineral-based sunscreens does leave a white film on darker skin which often can be seen as cosmetically unacceptable. The ashy result also signals that the product was created with the intention of being applied on paler skin, which can blend in easier with white casts. Now companies such as Black Girl Sunscreen and Bolden Sunscreen are changing the landscape and making sun care more accessible — designed with darker skin in mind. These brands specifically focus on creating sunscreens that don’t cast ashy shadows.
The emphasis on the need to wear sunscreen is not sufficient in Africa and this needs to change. The next time you go out during the day and you feel the burn of the sun on your skin? That’s your cue to wear sunscreen. Ideally, use sunscreen indoors and outdoors with a minimum of SPF30. When choosing a sunscreen, a mixture of UVA and UVB sunscreens is best. This is called a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Did this help? Let us know in the comments!