With the recent heatwave which has been blessing the UK over the past month or so, and has us feeling like we’re somewhere in the Mediterranean, people have been flocking to parks, outdoor pools, beaches and al fresco dining spaces in a bid to make the most of what seems something of a rarity in Britain, a ‘proper’ hot summer.
In this weather, which brings about such a care-free and relaxed mood, it’s almost easy to forget the potential dangers of sun exposure; risks which pose a similar threat to darker skin tones as they do to fairer skin.
To this day you hear it debated as to whether black people need to use sunscreen, with many confidently (and in fact irresponsibly) declaring that sunscreen is unnecessary for darker skin tones.
It is time to put an end to this myth.
‘People with naturally brown or black skin are less likely to get skin cancer, as darker skin has some protection against UV rays. But skin cancer can still occur,’ the NHS website explains. Cancer Research UK offer further insight into this:
‘Skin cancer is more common in fair skinned people because they have less of the protective pigment called melanin.
People with darker skin are less likely to get skin cancer. But they can still get skin cancer. Darker skinned people are particularly at risk of skin cancer where the body has less direct sun exposure. For example, the palms of hand and soles of the feet.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition where the skin makes no melanin at all. Albino people have very white skin and pale blonde hair. They're at higher than average risk of skin cancer because their skin has no natural protection against the sun.’
So, whilst there is a reduced risk among black people of developing skin cancer than among their white counterparts, the risk still exists and so the same precautions need to be taken when spending time in the sun.
This brings us on to sunscreen.
Despite what the dearth of brown faces in adverts for sunscreen products would have you believe, sunscreen is also for darker skin and should be worn during sunny weather. With that being said, a lot of these products have not been formulated with darker tones in mind and therefore, from a cosmetic point of view, aren’t quite as agreeable on brown skin. Well-known are the complaints regarding the white/grey appearance that many popular brands of sunscreen leave on darker skin.
Well, that is not a valid reason for not protecting yourself. Not only are there certain brands which do not produce this undesirable effect, there are now in fact certain products designed specifically for darker skin.
Introducing Black Girl Sunscreen, which – as the name suggests – has been created with the visibility of the formula on brown skin tones as a forethought. Designed by African-American Shontay Lundy, the product came into existence following Lundy’s own difficulty finding a suitable sunscreen. Described on the website as ‘a revolutionary sunscreen’ that ‘doesn’t leave a white residue on your skin,’ the creator says:
"My "aha" moment came from a feeling of being underwhelmed by the lack of products on the market for people of colour. I started looking for a solution and discovered that there were natural ingredients that could boost melanin production, offer proper UV protection, and be fully absorbed by our skin. BGS should be used as an everyday facial moisturiser as it addresses protection against UVA/UVB rays, damage to the skin and premature ageing."
Another sunscreen, although not created solely with darker skin in mind, but which has proved immensely popular and received praise for taking into consideration the diversity of consumers, is Supergoop. Creator Holly Thaggard, who made the decision to develop Supergoop after a close friend was diagnosed with skin cancer, says:
"I have absolutely always thought about our product line being widely accessible. Regardless of your skin tone or type, skin cancer is an epidemic.” She adds, “In my research, I've found that people with darker skin can feel like they don't need sun protection just because of false marketing. Black skin has a built-in SPF, but it's not substantial, and so it’s really important to create good products that blend in easily."
Here in the UK there are a number of sunscreen products which will help you get sun-kissed safely , minus the ashy appearance. Below is a list of just some which consumers have voted best for darker skin tones, all of which you can easily get your hands on:
Ambre Solaire UV Water Clear Sun Cream Spray
La Roche Posay Anthelios Face Extra Light Fluid 50+
La Roche Posay Anthelios Protective Oil SPF 50+
Vichy Idéal Soleil Hydrating SPF30 Protective Solar Water
Palmer's Eventone Suncare Lotion
Glossier Invisible Shield Daily sunscreen SPF 30
Bioderma Hydrabio Eau de Soin SPF 30
Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Liquid for Face SPF30
For more information about staying safe in the sun please visit the NHS website.