Beware sun! Not really, but still.
We love the warmth of the sun and the relaxing feeling after spending some time outside.
However, we also know that the sun can be dangerous, and in some cases, life-threatening. Unfortunately, people of color don’t usually have the same views. Here’s everything that you need to know about why people of color need to wear sunscreen.
The Sunscreen Myth
People of color, however, have a high level of melanin in their skin that provides a small barrier to the sun’s immediate dangers. There is a pervasive popular myth around this which has led many to believe that people of color do not need to wear sunscreen.
It is popular knowledge that melanin, the pigment responsible for darker skin tones, has a sort of “built-in” power, that it protects the skin from the harms done by the sun. However, this is not entirely true. Though the presence of melanin does reduce the odds of leaving the beach with a sunburn, it does not protect from the dire consequences of frequent unprotected sun exposure: skin cancer.
Here’s the thing about melanin. White people have it, too. As melanin matures it becomes either eumelanin (darker skin) or pheomelanin (lighter skin). Eumelanin outperforms pheomelanin when it comes to sun protection.
Instances of skin cancer are arguably higher in the white population, but this does not mean that people of color should ignore the dangers emanating from sun rays. For one, melanin distribution is not even all over the body.
Lighter areas of the skin, such as the soles of feet, underneath toenails and fingernails, and the palms of the hands are much more vulnerable than darker areas of the body and are often the places where a rare type of skin cancer can develop.
People of Color and Skin Cancer
A survey showed that 63% of African American participants said that they never used sunscreen, and this is a statistic that demands attention. Especially since there is evidence that populations of color are likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Even more concerning is the late stages in which it is often diagnosed, the five-year survival rate is 69% compared to a 94% survival rate among white populations. It is also important to note that skin cancer can occur without previous sun damage or sunburn. There are variants of skin cancer that are the result of genetic and environmental factors.
Though cancer is the most extreme consequence of ignoring the sun’s dangerous rays, aging and dark spots are another reason to lather up before going outside. With a high level of melanin, you likely won’t see these effects develop rapidly. However, if you continually expose yourself to the sun without sunscreen, years of this behavior will accumulate and dry out your skin, producing fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
Enjoying the summer months safely is crucial to maintaining your skin’s health. Not only do you want it to look good and feel good, avoiding the possibility of skin cancer at all costs is worth investing in some sunscreen that’ll minimize the risk.
Though people of color are less likely to experience a sunburn, they certainly can. And this extends to the risk of skin cancer and premature aging, which occurs as a result of prolonged and frequent unprotected sun exposure.
If you are a person of color and enjoy the great outdoors, it is recommended that you apply a UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to make sure that your skin remains healthy and protected.