Understanding Sunscreen for BIPOC

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As a child, I didn’t think a lot about sunscreen. As a first-generation immigrant with a mid-tone complexion, it was common back then to be told that sunscreen was for white or light-skinned people. I was also sometimes told I’d only need sunscreen during certain occasions, such as trips to the beach, when camping, or on vacation. 

I learned a lesson about the need for sunscreen the hard way when I experienced my first bad sunburn at the age of 17. 

Science-backed Reasons Why Everyone Should Wear Sunscreen.

In 2010, the American Medical Association urged people of all skin tones to wear sunscreen and avoid excessive exposure to the sun. Although melanin naturally protects people from the sun’s rays, people of all shades and colors are at risk for severe burns and even skin cancer. 

Wearing sunscreen regularly and protecting oneself from the sun’s rays are great ways to reduce the risk of these health issues. The AMA explained that skin cancer rates were increasing for Black and Latinx patients, and as such, they wanted to increase awareness of these risks to communities of color. 

Additionally, medical bias was also at play. Black, Latinx, and highly-melanated patients were less likely to visit a dermatologist, meaning they were less likely to receive preventative care to help them detect skin cancers. Dermatology is also a medical specialty that lacks diversity. According to a 2016 study, only 3% of dermatologists are Black, and 4.2% of dermatologists are Latinx. 

Thankfully, Many Skincare and Beauty Brands Are Helping.

One general complaint from BIPOC is that many sunscreens tend to leave a white cast, which can make darker skin tones appear rough, uneven, or pale. Though not a common reason for skipping sunscreen, it can be a nuisance to put on sunscreen that never seems to blend into your skin. 

Some people also deal with allergies to sunscreen or sensitive skin that could react to a sunscreen’s formula. Finding sun protection that doesn’t leave a white cast can be even more challenging for people in these situations. 

Thankfully, many beauty brands have stepped up to the plate and have embraced sunscreen that blends with darker skin tones. Though not the first, Rihanna’s Hydra Vizor sunscreen made headlines when it was revealed that it left no white cast. The singer and businesswoman also spoke out about believing that sunscreen was only something tourists used.

The issue of unflattering white casts in sunscreen formulas is also something Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressed in a Vogue video about her beauty routine.  

Finding the Right Sunscreen Brand for You.

Nowadays, there are many sunscreen brands and makers that tout sunscreen made to blend with darker skin tones. Even if you rule out sunscreen brands that leave a white cast, more sunscreen brands are now tailored to people with higher levels of melanin. 

The American Academy of Dermatology Association has a few recommendations for finding the right sunscreen. A few suggestions for where to start are:

  • Water-resistant sunscreen

  • UVA/UVB protection

  • SPF 30 or more

It’s also essential to consider conditions that affect you, such as rosacea, eczema, and acne, and to look for sunscreen for your skin type. For some people, fragrance may trigger skin issues to flare up, so look for unscented or fragrance-free products. 

Makeup wearers also don’t have to sacrifice their beauty routine to protect their skin. Prep your skin using your usual products, apply sunscreen at the end, and then apply your makeup products. You can also look for makeup products that protect your skin, such as tinted primers or foundations, lip balms, and sunscreen sticks. Ask your physician for any tips or suggestions as well.   

Everyone with skin of any tone must wear sunscreen for their health, and thankfully, many respected public figures have gone on to encourage this healthy practice. With some research and experimentation, BIPOC are now more than ever likely to find a sunscreen they can continue using for a long time to come. Finally, remember to use sunscreen even in the winter, as UVA and UVB rays are still present even on cloudy days. 

Tags: Beauty, Skin Care, summer

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Written By

Ingrid Cruz

Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer, certified coffee-lover and loves a good joke. She's been published in The Lily, Business Insider, and Stylecaster. See Full Bio

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