It's a common misconception that people with darker skin don’t need sunscreen. You may think SPF is only for pale and lighter skin tones or that SPF’s only purpose is to prevent sunburns, but the truth is that people whose skin contains higher levels of melanin do, in fact, require daily sun protection to keep their skin healthy.
To understand why everyone’s skin requires protection from the sun, it's important to understand the science behind why we all need it regardless of the color of our skin. The sun emits different kinds of rays including UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays damage your DNA and are tied to skin cancer risk while UVB rays cause sunburns. Both types of rays contribute to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and sun damage.
What does SPF do and who needs it?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it's a measure of how well a sunscreen product can protect skin from UVB rays, the kind that cause sunburn, damage and cancer.
The number on a sunscreen label tells you how much longer you are protected than if you were to wear nothing at all. For example: an SPF 30 provides 30 times more protection than not wearing any sunscreen at all! The higher the SPF number the greater the protection against skin aging and cancerous cells.
SPF is an important part of a healthy skincare regimen, even if you're darker skinned. But because darker skin has more melanin in it, it's less likely to burn. That doesn't mean you can skip SPF altogether—sun damage is still a concern for all skin types.
SPF can help protect your complexion from signs of aging. It also helps prevent redness in the short term, which can be caused by irritation or allergic reactions to certain ingredients. Wearing sun protection can also prevent skin conditions that result from the overproduction of melanin like melasma
The best SPF for dark skin
No matter how deeply you tan or how dark your complexion is, the sun can harm your skin. With darker skin tones, you need to be extra vigilant about protecting your skin from damaging rays because even though melanin acts as a barrier against harmful UV light, it can only do so much.
While dark skin may make it harder to get a sunburn, there is still a risk of skin cancer as a result of harmful UV rays. Additionally all types of skin can get fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dark spots and other signs of aging that make you look older than you feel.
If you have dark skin but want to take care of it, choose a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 15 or higher.
Black and brown women often have a harder time finding the right sunscreen for their skin tones. Many formulas leave a white sheen that lays on top of the skin and doesn’t blend in. Luckily, in recent years there are more options like sheer tinted moisturizers that contain high levels of sun protection combined with a hint of pigment to avoid the white cast that most SPF’s leave behind.
The right way to apply SPF
While it's great that you want to protect your skin with a quality SPF, one of the most important things to do is to make sure you’re applying it correctly. Here is a list of ways you can make sure you’re applying your SPF correctly:
Apply your SPF 30-minutes before going outside.
SPF needs time to work, if you apply it right before you walk out the door, it may not work as well. One way to make sure you give your SPF enough time to work is to include it in your morning face routine every day before you get dressed.
Reapply SPF every two hours
You should reapply your SPF frequently to make sure you’re getting sufficient coverage and protection. You should also make sure you’re applying it after you swim and even after you sweat. Water resistant SPF is a good option for days when you’ll be in the water, but it still needs to be reapplied.
Wear SPF regardless of the weather
Whether it's sunny or cloudy, hot or cold, you should always include SPF in your daily face routine. UV rays still come through even on the cloudiest days so your skin is always susceptible to sun damage. Also look for an SPF that protects from blue light that's emitted from cell phones, computer screens, and other screened devices.