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Darker skin does have a higher natural SPF than fair skin, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prone to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. It is true that those of us with dark skin don’t burn as easily as our pale-skinned counterparts, due to increased amounts of protective melanin in our skin. But it is also true that we can be a little breezy with our approach to sun protection.
The big shocker is that our skin isn’t nearly as sun-resistant as we think it is. Darker black skin has a natural SPF of around 13.4, paler white skin is about 3.4 and everyone else fits along that spectrum. Whilst there is a definite difference between the highest and lowest levels, no one’s natural SPF is enough to keep the ills of sun damage (that’s skin cancer, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, to name but a few) at bay. It does require extra effort on our part, especially when faced with serious summer sun, in the form of SPF 30 or above with UVA and UVB protection.
So what puts us off wearing suncream, especially on the face? For starters, so many SPFs contain hefty amounts of zinc or titanium oxide that make the formulations bright white, giving many dark skins a curious blue/grey hue (Smurf, zombie, clown mask much?). They are also so darn oily, they seldom stay on.
According to research, when discovered in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, melanoma — a malignant tumor — is usually fatal because they are not using sunscreen or they wait until it’s too late to see a doctor for dark spots. Health experts advise everyone, regardless of skin color, to apply an SPF of at least 15.
P.S. Also, make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D!