There is the misguided and universal belief that darker skinned people don’t need to wear sunscreen as the melanin in their skin protects them from burning as well as skin cancer. If you ask many Black people if they wear sunscreen, many of them will readily admit to not seeing the importance. Some will even react incredulously, or even laugh at the “absurdity” of the question.
In reality, the idea that Black people do not need sunscreen could not be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, the following information is more accurate:
- It has been medically established that although the darker the person, the less likely they are to get sunburnt; the melanin in a Black person’s skin only provides approximately 15 per cent of the required protection
- Even though Black skin takes longer to burn, all skin colours do eventually get sunburnt
- Black skin is more susceptible to hyperpigmentation; the formation of unsightly dark spots or patches on the face. I have in fact, experienced this first hand, and have had to battle the effects over the years
- Once the uneven skin tone has formed, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the damage. Effective remedies tend to be very expensive; and far out of reach for most people, due to financial constraints and/or lack of knowledge about options available to them
- Regardless of skin tone, UV rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage DNA skin cells. This damage may lead to skin cancer including melanoma, which in turn could lead to death
- It has also been established that people of colour have a higher mortality rate with skin cancer because they are often not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced, making it more aggressive and harder to treat
Given how intensely hot it gets in Botswana, I believe that there needs to be a drive to educate people further about the hazards of UVA/UVB rays. People need to be made aware of the importance of wearing at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and wearing a hat or using an umbrella for further protection. I personally use SPF 50. It is imperative that you wear sunscreen whether it is hot or overcast, because the dangerous UVA/UVB rays can still penetrate through the clouds and cause irreparable damage. This is why people still get sunburnt on cloudy days. Even when you’re not leaving the house, it is advised that you still wear sunscreen indoors.
Sunscreen is the mainstay of my beauty regime. No day goes by when I don’t wear sunscreen. After my first shower of the day; come rain or shine, I lather the stuff on religiously. I have read over and over that even when it is overcast, UV rays can still have damaging effects on skin. I have previously developed heavily hyperpigmented skin due to not wearing sunscreen. It causes distress, knocks your confidence and can take years to reverse, if at all. This is the reason I always preach to anyone who will listen, about the importance of wearing sunscreen.
The bottom line is regardless of skin colour, texture or type; every single one of us needs to wear sunscreen every day. It’s a very easy step to incorporate into our daily routine, yet it could very well play a huge role in saving our skin health and indeed our lives.