Do People of Color Need Sunscreen? Yes—Here's Why

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For many years, people of color were told they didn’t need sunscreen. These days, we know this is 100% NOT true. Dr. Vanita Rattan — a cosmetic formulator and the author of Skin Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to Beautiful and Healthy Skin of Colour — discusses this misconception and explains what to look for in skin protection. 

Dr. Vanita says that people with skin of color — which she defines as having skin that is more likely to tan than burn in the sun — were told they didn’t need sunscreen because of their melanin. 

“People with darker skin, usually those of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern descent, produce more melanin from their melanocytes [which are located in the bottom layer of the skin's epidermis],” she says. 

However, Dr. Vanita explains that melanin only gives you SOME protection against UVB rays — the ones responsible for burning — and NOT from UVA rays, the ones responsible for aging and the main culprit when it comes to skin cancer. 

She adds that because those with darker skin tones don’t always show visible sunburns as easily as those with fairer skin, there was a misconception that they didn’t need sunscreen.  

Dr. Vanita sets the record straight: “All skin types need sunscreen.”  

“We know that [people of color] are prone to hyperpigmentation, which happens from sunlight on the skin, and we also get skin cancer too.”  

To protect your skin, Dr. Vanita says to look for SPF 50 or spectrum mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens because they have zinc oxide — a compound that is anti-inflammatory. 

She adds that zinc oxide doesn't enter the bloodstream like some compounds found in chemical sunscreens. This is also why mineral sunscreen is a great choice for pregnant women. 

Dr. Vanita also recommends finding a sunscreen that blends into your skin so it doesn’t leave white streaks. 

“If it’s not cosmetically elegant, you’re not going to wear it.”  

Be sure to check out Dr. Vanita’s tips on finding the right moisturizer and the best ways to fight acne

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