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The Importance of Sunscreen for Women of Color

By HERWriter Blogger
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Skin, Hair & Nails related image Photo: Getty Images

Women of color, usually of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent, are often known for their positive skin characteristics.  From glowing complexions to fewer wrinkles to youthful faces, these women are many times looked at with envy by fairer skin women.  

This is especially true in the summer months when Caucasian women are dealing with either preventing or treating painful and potentially dangerous sunburns and many women of color don't seem to have the same issue.

But, this idea of people of color not needing sunscreen is a myth.  No matter one's pigmentation or color, most doctors recommend that everyone wear sunscreen everyday.

Though the melanin present in darker skin does make it harder for the skin to burn, it does not totally protect one's skin from the drying and aging effects of the sun.  The harsh ultraviolet rays can damage the skin without ever causing a typical sunburn. 

Generally, people of color have a natural SPF of 13, meaning they can stay in direct contact with the sun for 13 times longer than Whites.  In addition to this "buil- in" sunscreen, people of color should include a sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 in their daily skin care regime.  

According to Brownskin.net, "sunscreens work by absorbing the harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays before they can affect the skin." The site went on to explain that sunblocks offer an even greater level of protection by creating a protective barrier over the skin that reflects the dangerous UV rays, and causes them to basically bounce off the top layer of the skin. 

And it is not just about the cosmetic reasons to wear sunscreen.  Sure, the sun damage can cause premature aging, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and even wrinkles, but it is the threat of skin cancer that should be of even greater concern.

On BrownSkin.net, Dr. Susan Taylor, a Harvard-trained dermatologist and internist, wanted to make sure women of color know about the real threat of skin cancer if they don't wear sunscreen.  

She wrote that people of color, with darker skin pigmentation, may have added protection against the UV rays of the sun, but that "those from African-American, Asian, Latino and Native American backgrounds usually have higher morbidity and mortality rates for several types of skin cancer than their white counterparts.  This lower survival rate is a direct result of late detection or misdiagnosis." Skin cancer in people of color is real and it can be deadly.

Wearing sunscreen should be a daily normal occurrence for women of color.  It will protect the skin many people rave about and can keep them looking younger and living longer.  


Brownskin.net. Web. 17 February 2012.  "Nurture and heal: Skincare tips for healthy skin".  

Brownskin.net. Web. 17 February 2012. "Skin cancer". 

Reviewed February 17, 2012
by MIchele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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EmpowHER Guest

Being a woman of colour myself and living in a sunny climate environment, I know the importance of sunscreen, but I was told women of colour don't need and should not use more than spf 30, I want to know how true this is, because I use above spf 45

February 19, 2012 - 10:09am
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