Please enjoy this guest post from Efe.
Melanin is the pigment that endows we human beings with a most wondrous range of skin, hair and eye colors. People of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Native American, First Nations, Alaska Native, Indigenous Australian, and/or Polynesian ancestry tend to have richly pigmented skin. Deeper skin tones confer more protection from ultraviolet (UV) light than lighter skin tones due to the presence of greater amounts of melanin – the more melanin in one’s skin, the richer one’s skin color and the more protection from UV light one’s skin confers (Downie and Cook-Bolden).
As such, people with richly pigmented skin are less likely to experience photodamage as a result of sun exposure than their lighter skinned counterparts. Despite this fact, people of color DO get sunburns and people of ALL skin tones are susceptible to UV-induced DNA damage as a result of sun exposure (Battie et al). Skin cancer is far less prevalent in people or color BUT when it does occur it’s far more advanced and has a worse prognosis (Abagi, et al.). As a future public health professional and skincare addict, I implore POC, and everyone else, to wear sunscreen daily and practice other sun protection behaviors.
We’ve established that everyone, regardless of skin tone, should wear sunscreen daily to prevent photodamage. Now let’s talk a specific skincare benefit of sunscreen for the richly pigmented – defense against the dark marks (aka post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). It’s well known that folks with deeper skin tones tend to be quite prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), a type of skin discoloration that occurs after an overproduction of melanin in response to an inflammatory event (acne, etc.). PIH is more prevalent and difficult to to treat in those with deeper skin tones because of the abundance of melanin present in their skin. Lack of sun protection via sunscreen use makes PIH even more difficult to resolve (Downie and Cook-Bolden). If you’re a POC who is PIH-prone daily use of sunscreen is a must. Without it all of your valiant PIH fading efforts will be for naught.
Now that we know why everyone should wear sunscreen daily, including those with deeper skin tones, let’s discuss the nuances of choosing a sunscreen for your needs. Finding a sunscreen is a difficult task regardless of skin color but it’s especially hard to find one that’s POC-friendly. Most sunscreens aren’t designed with the richly pigmented in mind so they can leave a ghastly white cast on one’s skin. With that said, here are some guidelines for choosing a sunscreen suitable for richly pigmented skin:
- If you avoid inorganic UV filters (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) in sunscreen, then you’ll avoid the dreaded white cast. As such, look for sunscreens entirely comprised of organic UV filters (every other UV filter except the aforementioned).
- If you’d like to use sunscreen with inorganic UV filters, look for micronized zinc oxide and avoid titanium dioxide. Micronized zinc oxide is very unlikely to leave a white cast – even on richly pigmented skin. Titanium dioxide will most likely leave a white cast – on any skin tone – so buyer beware.
Now that we’ve addressed generalities, we can move onto specific sunscreen recommendations. My skin is deep brown in color (shade G100 in CoverFX makeup). If a sunscreen doesn’t give my skin a white cast, then it’s probably a good option for all skin tones. The following are my sunscreen recommendations for protection from photodamage and defense against the dark marks – sans white cast:
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++
- It utilizes organic UV filters (octinoxate, Tinosorb S, Uvinol A Plus and Uvinul T 150). It’s the most lightweight sunscreen I’ve ever tried, has the most UVA protection of any sunscreen on this list and wears very well under makeup. It costs $8 for 1.66 ounces.
- Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid-Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55
- It utilizes organic UV filters (avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone). It’s lightweight and wears under makeup. It costs $9.49 for 3 ounces.
- CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- It utilizes an inorganic UV filter (micronized zinc oxide) and organic filters (homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate and octocrylene). It’s the most moisturizing sunscreen on this list. It costs $15 for 3 ounces.
- Devita Natural Skin Care Solar Protective Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30+
- It utilizes an inorganic UV filter (micronized zinc oxide). It was the first sunscreen I used and I wore it daily for a couple of years. It’s lightweight, mattifying, soothing, fragrance-free and wears well under makeup. The only con is that sometimes it doesn’t play well with other skincare products. It costs $20 for 2.5 ounces.
Good luck in your search for a sunscreen that’s well suited for your richly pigmented skin! May you prevent photodamage and the worsening of PIH for the rest of your days!
Agbai, O. N., Buster, K., Sanchez, M., Hernandez, C., Kundu, R. V., Chiu, M., … and Lim, H. W. (2014). Skin cancer and photoprotection in people of color: A review and recommendations for physicians and the public. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 70(4), 748-762. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24485530
Battie, C., Gohara, M., Verschoore, M., and Roberts, W. (2013). Skin cancer in skin of color: an update on current facts, trends, and misconceptions. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD, 12(2), 194-198. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23377393
Downie, J., and Cook-Bolden, F. (2004). Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin. Harper Collins.