Sunscreen should be stressed enough among black people.
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Written by Sumayyah Namusabi
It is mind-boggling that even with the numerous articles written on why black people should wear sunscreen, a high percentage of the black community still is unaware. There is a huge misconception or myth that black skin cannot be affected by the sun. This is overstated! When a black person is exposed to the sun (ultraviolet rays), your body makes more melanin for protection from some of the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, it isn't enough to keep you safe from the same damage UV rays would cause to non-black skin.
Why black people should wear sunscreen
- Skin cancers: Although skin cancer (for example melanoma) is less prevalent in the blacks than in whites, studies show that when it occurs in black people it’s usually diagnosed at a later stage with a worse prognosis and tends to succumb at a higher rate than in white people with similar diagnosis. Sunscreen appears to be effective in preventing melanoma.
- Photoaging: Characteristic changes to skin induced by chronic UVA and UVB exposure. These Changes can include fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and collagen damage. UV radiation accelerates skin aging and this is where the value of using sunscreen comes in.
- Melasma and other hyperpigmentation disorders: Melasma can be acquired through stimulation of melanocytes when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun leaving dark patches. One can manage melasma with use of sun protection (sunscreens).
What brings about the sunscreen myth?
First, the field of dermatology ignores UV exposure research associated with black skin as Dr. Chesahna Kindred, vice chair of the National Medical Association dermatology section, agrees that there’s a difference in attention given to Black skin within the practice. She further tells Healthline, “[A lot of the] funding and awareness [for research on the effect of the sun] typically excludes those with darker skin tones.”
Second, there’s an overall lower public awareness of the risk of skin cancer from UV exposure among black people and to tell it from the health-care providers’ viewpoint, there’s usually doubt for skin cancer in black people as chances are smaller. So, the patients are less likely to get full-body skin exams. And also, studies show the places on the body where skin cancers develop in black people are usually areas not exposed to UV light (For example, the most common location for melanoma in black people is the soles of their feet in particular). This may make black people rule out on sun-exposure skin cancers hence less use of sunscreen among the black community.
Third, several huge cosmetic industries usually don't give focus on product diversity starting from advertisement to branding as models with fair skin colors are used. This doesn’t help is terms of awareness. Also, most sunscreen is not black skin friendly as it leaves a chalky effect on the skin.
Lastly, It’s pure ignorance about the dangers and effects of direct UV exposure without sun protection among black people.
Plenty of public awareness about the risks of UV exposure needs to be done in the black community (down to Africa) by health experts. Not only the medical community should be left with this duty, word of mouth helps. If you came across this information, tell a friend to tell a friend.
Health experts recommend everybody (no matter their skin color) to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Whilst black-skinned people don’t get sunburned as fast as white skin, they are still susceptible to UV-induced damage. Nobody should appraise themselves immune to sunburns and skin cancers!