Over recent years many dermatologists and other medical professionals are reporting that a large number of patients with darker skin are choosing not to wear sunscreen, allowing skin cancers to form as well as causing their skin to be damaged through the daily bombardment of UV rays.
For many years now two things have been often considered common sense, that people should wear sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher and that dark skinned people don’t need to wear sunscreen. The issue here is that these two seemingly common sense ideas are in a very definite disagreement with each other.
To understand why, first of all we need to understand what the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of sunscreen actually means. The SPF of a sunscreen is a measurement that indicates how effectively the sunscreen protects the skin underneath from harmful UV rays. An SPF rating of 30 means that only 1/30th of these rays will actually reach the skin when the sunscreen is applied appropriately. This means that just by wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 you can block out over 96% of the harmful UV rays that can cause both cancers and an aging appearance.
Medical research throughout recent decades has determined that the ‘magic’ melanin found in the skin of darker skinned people only provides a protection similar to that of SPF 15 sunscreen – allowing in twice as many UV rays (2/30ths) as the recommended 30 SPF would. With this in mind it is now pretty easy to see how the two earlier statements that a SPF 30+ sunscreen is required to protect the skin and that dark skinned people don’t need to wear sunscreen can’t both be right and that in order to fully protect your skin, dark skinned or not, you need to wear sunscreen.
A problem that I know many of my darker skinned friends have faced when trying to protect their skin during the harsh Australian summer is simply finding a sunscreen that works for their skin. Many sunscreens just aren’t designed to work well on darker skin and leave a white cast after application that makes it look like you haven’t quite grasped the fact that you’re meant to rub the sunscreen in after you put it on. The good news is that many sunscreens are now available without zinc oxide and titanium oxide, the two compounds that cause this disastrous look, and by avoiding these oxides when searching for sunscreen you’ll be able to protect yourself from the sun without looking like a clown.
It truly is a shame that so many dark skinned people are under the illusion that they shouldn’t be regularly wearing sunscreen because of their skin colour as daily use of sunscreen is one of the easiest ways to keep your skin looking young and, of course, cancer free.