Now that the sun is out and the temperatures are reaching all-time highs, it is important that we all protect ourselves and our skin from damaging effects of the weather. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona where it was 110 degrees in the shade, and never once did my parents tell me that I needed to wear sunscreen. It was assumed that being a girl of color, I couldn’t get sunburned or sun damage or skin cancer because my skin was darker—but of course I know better now that I am an adult.
I am not sure how I lasted several summers in the Arizona sun without any type of sunscreen or sun protection. We had a pool in my backyard, and I spent entire days being out in the pool swimming with my friends. I was in the sun all day everyday for the majority of the summer.
Two years ago, while being active all day outside, I experienced my first “known” case of sunburn—it was horrible. I had no idea I had sunburn until I consulted my physician. I thought the blisters and small bumps on my arms and face were “heat bumps” caused by me sweating heavily. I was advised that the bumps were my skin’s reaction to sunburn and was told that I needed to protect myself against damaging rays. I also had to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Yes, black people do get sunburn!
The sun does not discriminate, even if your skin is of a darker tone. You can still get skin cancer, sunburn, and other sun or heat related conditions. It is important that darker skin toned people wear sunscreen for protection against the sun.
My daughter is attending summer sports camp this year and will be outside for most of the day, so she will not be leaving home without her sunscreen. For her, I have chosen a “clear no-rub” spray that is waterproof and won’t come off in the pool. You just spray it on and it will protect her against sunburn.
Here is a list of the recommended SPF for your skin tone:
Albino.Tan type: none. Red sunburn with pain, swelling and peeling. SPF 50.
White.Tan type: as above. Great risk of freckles. SPF 50.
Fair.Tan type: very light after minor pink or red burns. Some risk of freckles. SPF 30.
Fair.Tan type: light. Slight risk of freckles. SPF 30.
Slightly dark.Tan type: dark. SPF 30.
Slightly dark.Tan type: dark, with less risk of sunburn. SPF 15-20.
Dark.Tan type: very dark. SPF 8-15
Black.Tan type: black. SPF 8.
Read more about this list HERE.
Essence.com also has a wonderful list of sunscreens recommending for people of color.
Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year, but it’s only fun when you are staying healthy and making sure that you are protected against harmful UVA/UVB rays.
Yes, darker skin tones do need sunscreen!
Aisha G of HartlynKids says
I remember the first time I got sun burn… it was in my twenties when I went to the Caribbean. Boy did I learn! Brown people burn. Now I shower my daughter with sunscreen before she leaves the house and only use foundation that has SPF!!
The Cubicle Chick says
Aisha, it’s better to have on too much sunscreen than not enough. Hoping that I set a good example for my daughter so she will continue use sunscreen regularly in the summer, even when she is older. 🙂
Terri K (@tkharmonic) says
This is a timely post for me. According to your list, my son has slightly dark skin. He tans really well, and really dark, but he does burn if I’m not careful, especially around his ears and face.
My skin doesn’t fit any of the categories. Looking at me, you’d think fair-skinned caucasian, but my genetic makeup is heavy on the Irish and the Native American, so I tan a dark reddish-brown, with some freckles, but don’t usually burn and when I do it turns to tan.
I use the same sunscreen as my son, SPF 30.
The Cubicle Chick says
Good for you both for wearing sunscreen, Terri. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way. Thanks for commenting.
Heidi Marley says
I have seen dark skinned who have had their skin tampered with due to exposure to very hot sun, and therefore there is no exceptional when it comes to using sun screen. Everyone needs to use sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun.
My recently adopted daughter is both African American and Caucasian. We just returned from a trip to Florida for some fun in the sun. I applied SPF 50+ to her the entire time, but she spent so much time in the pool it probably wore off. Her shoulders turned a near black color, and become very very dry. And at the end of the week she had what appeared to be darker skin peeling off lighter skin under her eyes despite having SPF 100 on her face. (I am Caucasian and very fair skinned!). I have no experience protecting dark skin from the sun-I just assumed her skin needed the same protection as mine. But her skin reactions are very different my own. Are her skin reactions consistent with a sunburn In dark skin? I had been thinking she may have a heat rash or had a reaction to the sunscreen.