We’ve all heard the myth that black people don’t tan or that we don’t sunburn because our skin is already dark. I hope by now you know that’s dangerously false.

There are similar misconceptions about whether or not people with dark skin tones need to wear SPF or not. SPF measures how long skin covered with sunscreen takes to burn compared to uncovered skin.

It is true that people with darker skin tones don’t sunburn as easily as those with fairer skin colors because they have an increased amount of epidermal melanin, which provides a natural SPF. Some people with very dark skin have a natural SPF of 13, and filter twice as much UV radiation. However, at the end of the day, we’re all still susceptible to skin cancer, sun spots and wrinkles.

According to research from the University of Cincinnati, when discovered in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, melanoma—a malignant tumor —is usually fatal because they are not using sunscreen or they wait until it’s too late to see a doctor for dark spots. Health experts advise everyone, regardless of their skin color, to apply an SPF of at least 15.

I love to keep a caramel/bronze glow to my skin, so I always make sure that I lathered up in sunblock before laying out.

Here are some of the best sunscreen products to use:

Do you wear sunscreen regularly, and especially when tanning?

-Margaret Francois

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  • I learned the hard way! Great read! Great info!

  • stillskeptical

    While I agree lighter skinned black people should slather the sunscreen on…are you telling me the woman used in the pictures should wear sunscreen as well? I can’t believe it…and does only getting sunburnt put you at risk for melonoma? I have never been sunburned in my life but I do darken by the sun (everyone does).

    • Margaret Francois

      The woman in the picture should definitely use sunblock. Sunburn isn’t the only thing that puts people of color at the risk for melanoma, things such as family history play a role, but sun damage carries more weight. Melanomas tend to appear on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and under the nails amongst African Americans and people of African descent as well as other people of color. Physicians even recommend an SPF of 15 or more. The woman in the pictures above may produce a natural SPF of up to 13, but that’s still insufficient for healthy coverage, as physicians recommend SPF 15 or higher to protect one’s skin. She would still need to apply some type of sun protection to her skin to be safe.

  • ruggie

    At the risk of putting people of color at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, the medical establishment has promoted this anti-sun, anti-UV ray agenda in the interest of those with little melanin. Diseases linked to lack of Vitamin D are far more dangerous and life threatening than the tiny risk of melanoma, which is rarely deadly. Get the facts and please get more, not less UV rays and Vitamin D.

    • Margaret Francois

      I’m not affiliated with the “medical establishment,” but if anti-sun education is a ploy to put people of color at risk for Vitamin D deficiency, why isn’t there mass coverage of anti-sun damage that specifically targets people of color? Most of what we see in the media in the form of advertising and education doesn’t promote sun protection to people of color as much as they do our lighter-skinned counterparts. Although, people of color are less likely to develop melanoma than Caucasians, they are more likely to die from it. According to The Skin Care Foundation, studies have shown that the five-year survival rate for African Americans with melanoma is 59 percent, compared to 85 percent for Caucasians. That’s why this article is pertinent and relevant. Just because the probability of contracting melanoma is low, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t know the precautionary actions to take, so they don’t collapse into that demographic of people of color who contract it and die from it because they reacted too late or weren’t told how to protect themselves. Not sharing this information would deprive people of color from of having a snapshot of how sun damage can affect their skin and the preventative methods that can be taken to avoid it. I think you raise a good point by mentioning Vitamin D efficiency becasue it is something that people should be educated about, but this post was to give people of color something to think about in the realm of skin protection, not to blind them to other health issues.