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How the Sun Can Impact Darker Skin Tones

It’s time to acknowledge, once and for all, that we should all be wearing sunscreen — regardless of skin tone, type, and texture. While it was once widely believed that melanin kept you safe from sun damage, that’s not (and has never been) the case. Experts say that there’s still a lack of public awareness that people of color, including Black and brown people, can still get skin cancer from sun exposure. The medical community is partly to blame for this; research has shown that white patients were nine times more likely to be recommended sunscreen by doctors than their Black counterparts.

Not only that, but sunburns can happen in skin of color. A 2018 paper found that 13% of Black people had experienced sunburn, while 30% of Hispanic people have had it. So, even if your melanin-rich skin never visibly reddens or burns, you still risk serious damage to your skin if you don’t slather on sunscreen. (Not to mention, the inflammation that causes redness can still damage skin of color, too.) Finally, having darker skin can predispose you to certain concerns, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. With that, here’s a breakdown of the sun’s impact on skin — and what you can do to keep it protected and healthy.

What sun damage looks like on dark skin

Sun damage looks different for people of color, explains DiAnne Davis, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist based in Dallas, TX, but that doesn’t mean you should skip sun protection. “People with melanin-rich skin may notice that their overall skin tone will start to become discolored or appear ‘not as even,’” after unprotected sun exposure, she says. Sun damage in deep and dark skin tones can also manifest “as discoloration or hyperpigmentation versus redness, and brown sunspots known as lentigines,” says Davis.

The myth of dark skin’s protection

“The thought process has always been that ‘Black don’t crack’ and therefore they do not need to wear sunscreen,” says Dr. Davis. “However this is completely false.”  While melanin does provide a very minor SPF, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher — which nobody’s skin can naturally produce. And, while those with deep and dark skin tones might not ever turn lobster-red, there’s some sun damage that specifically affects us that sunscreen can help us prevent. The moral of the story? Sun damage on melanin-rich skin, thy name is hyperpigmentation. 

Plus, there are more implications from sun exposure besides the sun itself. “Sunscreen not only protects Black and brown skin from overall discoloration, but in the event that someone gets a blemish and has dark spots left behind — also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation — the sun can cause those spots to darken or take longer to fade,” says Dr. Davis. Lastly, in addition to skin tone specific damage, she points out that fine lines and wrinkles happen to anyone exposed to UVA and UVB sun rays without protection. 

But What About White Cast? 

Historically, sunscreen hasn’t been the easiest to wear for people of color. Many of the ingredients in physical sunscreen such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are bright white in color — courtesy of those mineral-based actives — and leave a telltale chalkiness on deep and dark skin tones.

That doesn’t mean you have to eschew mineral sunscreen formulas. In fact, they’re some of Dr. Davis’s favorite formulas. You just need to know what to look for. “I love both [zinc oxide and titanium dioxide], so I recommend people look for sunscreens that have micronized formulations of the active ingredients to minimize the white cast,” she says.

The Best Sunscreens for Deep and Dark Skin Tones

When it comes to choosing her own sunscreen, Dr. Davis looks for blendability and texture — which means no white cast or greasy feeling upon application. Ultimately, she says, “the best sunscreen is the one that the patient is going to wear every day. So whether it is a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or a chemical sunscreen that may contain certain active ingredients — as long as they wear it every day, whether leaving the house or not, it is a win-win situation.”

With our Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50, we wanted to solve many of the problems that have plagued customers shopping for sunscreen — and, of course, offer something that actually works for everyone. To Dr. Davis’s point, we went with a strategic combination of chemical and mineral ingredients. Together, they offer the blendability of a chemical sunscreen—meaning no white cast—while still being gentle on sensitive skin, as physical sunscreens are.

We didn’t stop there, though. The formula also includes ingredients that help heal and minimize hyperpigmentation, such as niacinamide (which shuts down the production of excess pigment) as well as watermelon extract. Put together, they make for a sunscreen that’s genuinely suited to each and every skin tone. 

Pro tip: If you have existing discoloration or experience breakouts, pair the sunscreen with our Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum for a synergetic combo that helps prevent and treat dark spots. 

Keep reading about how skin concerns can


Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50


Glow Recipe

Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum


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