Sunscreen: Yep, you need to start applying sunscreen now too!

Hand applying sunscreen

Why Sun Protection should be embraced for us People of Color (POC)

Let’s be real

Do you honestly include sunscreen in your daily skin routine?

For me to start by saying you should would be petty but…truthfully, I can’t really talk either. I just learned the benefit of sunscreen within the last few months.

my damaged skin from being outside and not using sunscreen

Although I am of a lighter complexion, I didn’t care about getting a little burnt shade of cashew nut until I realized that being careless was causing damage to my skin. I started seeing these cute little freckles appear above my cheeks and my esthetician was like “Torrie, these aren’t the cute freckles you think!”

Maybe we can start with the Why?

Why aren’t people of color taught or inclined to wear sunscreen?

Some reasons why we aren’t taught to use sunscreen are influenced by a combination of cultural, historical, and societal factors which include:

Misconceptions and lack of awareness: There is a widespread misconception that people with darker skin tones are naturally protected from the sun’s harmful rays. This misconception arises from the understanding that melanin provides some level of built-in protection. In reality, contrary to popular belief, melanin, the pigment responsible for the varying shades of skin, does not provide absolute protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Don’t get me wrong, to my understanding, while melanin does offer some inherent protection, it does not mean that POC are entirely immune to the damaging effects of the sun.

Historical marketing and representation: When was the last time you saw a commercial with a POC applying sunscreen? I think the last one I saw was on TikTok. It seems that historically, sunscreen along with many other skincare products have been primarily marketed towards individuals with significantly lighter skin tones. This contributes to my belief that due to this lack of inclusivity (as usual) in marketing and representation, also gives the perception that sunscreen is not necessary for POC.

Cosmetic concerns: Full face makeup is a hot trend right now! Does sunscreen actually complement makeup, especially on our color tones? Let me know in the comments! I don’t wear much make up but, if my edges are slick, trying to apply sunscreen is not happening. This makes me wonder if some people are hesitant to use sunscreen due to concerns about any residue on their skin or any residue not blending with their makeup.

What risks do I need to know?

The risky business with the sun and POC are that we are susceptible to multiple sun-related concerns, from sunburn, hyperpigmentation, and even an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Unfortunately, darker skin tones are more prone to experiencing uneven skin tone, dark spots, and melasma due to the overproduction of melanin triggered by UV exposure.

Additionally, statistics show that although the risk of developing skin cancer is generally lower in POC, and although can be influenced by various factors, including healthcare access, cultural beliefs, socioeconomic factors, and differences in tumor biology; when it does occur, it is often detected at more advanced stages, leading to poorer outcomes:

  1. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that non-white patients were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage melanoma compared to white patients.
  2. Delayed diagnosis: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer tends to be diagnosed at more advanced stages in people of color due to various factors, including a lack of awareness, misconceptions about skin cancer risks, and limited access to healthcare. This delayed diagnosis can result in more extensive treatment and reduced survival rates.
  3. Specific types of skin cancer: While melanoma is less common in people of color, certain subtypes of skin cancer, such as acral lentiginous melanoma, are more frequently found in individuals with darker skin tones. Acral lentiginous melanoma often appears on the palms, soles, and under the nails, and studies have shown that it tends to be diagnosed at later stages.

Ok, I understand we need to wear sunscreen but where do we go from here?

Well, now that you are educated, you can pass and share this education so the barriers noted above can be approached by more of us, and we can have access to more research, more education, more inclusive representation, and cultural sensitivity.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen:

Selecting the appropriate sunscreen is crucial for the most effective protection. POC should look for broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher is recommended.

Regardless of skin tone, it seems that everyone should incorporate sunscreen into their daily skincare regimen

Regardless of skin tone, everyone should incorporate sunscreen into their daily skincare regimen. For POC, embracing sun protection through the regular use of sunscreen is vital in maintaining skin health, and keeping that baddie status!

Key Terms:

UVA and UVB rays are types of ultraviolet radiation that come from the sun and can potentially damage our skin.

UVA rays- UVA rays have longer wavelengths and can penetrate deep into the skin. They are present throughout the day, even on cloudy days, and can pass through glass. UVA rays are responsible for causing skin aging effects like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. They can also contribute to the development of skin cancer.

UVB rays- UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and primarily affect the outermost layer of our skin. They are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and are more intense during the summer months. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns and play a significant role in the development of skin cancer.

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