Is sunscreen needed for black skin?

Sunscreen, also known as sunblock or sun cream, is a lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays (ultraviolet radiation = UV rays) in order to protect the skin that is exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen, in effect, protects against sunburn and potentially prevents skin cancer. UVA rays are the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can lead to cancer. On the other hand, UVB rays cause sunburns. Many African Americans have been taught that we can tolerate the sun or the heat better than other races; however, black skin is not immune to skin cancer and sunburns. Though black skin is not commonly diagnosed with skin cancer, due to its deeper melanin content absent in most other races, it does happen sometimes. Skin cancer can be very deadly when it is diagnosed in African Americans. Sunscreen is needed for black skin, just as it is needed for everyone else! Sunscreen has been proven to prevent premature aging and skin cancer.

When should sunscreen be used?

It is a good practice to apply sunscreen every day. Exposed skin will need to be protected from the sun and according to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), it should not only be applied if you are planning on going out in the sun because the sun’s UVA rays can penetrate through windows. Sunscreen should be used on sunny days as well as cloudy days. Studies have shown that even on the cloudiest days, the majority of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds. Although it may not be as commonly mentioned, and the sales of sunscreens are not sky high during the season, you should even apply sunscreen in the winter months.

When and how should I apply it?

Apply sunscreen between 15 and 20 minutes prior to your skin’s exposure to the sun. Apply it more often if you plan to swim (reapply when exiting the water). Apply the sunscreen to clean, dry skin. 

How to Choose Sunscreen?

You will find that the creams work well, but are a bit heavier than a spray or lotion. If you have dry skin, the creams will be the best options for your skin. If your skin is oily, you may want to try a lotion or spray. Look for different sunscreens based on reviews by professionals. In choosing a sunscreen, it is good practice to pick a product that has an SPF of 30 or above. You may find that there are many products that you already use such as lotions or cosmetics that contain an SPF of 15. These provide some protection from the sun’s UV radiation, but the sunscreen will be even more effective when bought separately. You can apply sunscreen under cosmetics or lotions.

As always, consult with a health care professional for advice prior to treating conditions at home.