For years there was a common misconception that people with dark skin tones didn’t need to practice sun safety. Fortunately, we’ve learned a lot and understand that everyone is at risk for sun damage, sunburn and even skin cancer with extended exposure to the sun without protection. That’s why the search for the best sunscreen for dark skin tones has been on the rise over the past few years. But even with everything we know, there are still some people who insist on skipping the proper steps to protect their skin.
According to experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation, studies found that late-stage melanoma diagnoses were more common in Black and LatinX patients than in non-Hispanic White patients. If melanoma goes untreated and spreads, it can be deadly. So while someone with lower Fitzpatrick Skin Type may seem to be at higher risk for burning or worse, sun protection is just as critical if you have darker skin. So we’re offering five simple sun protection tips to add to your skin care routine—including performing self-exams—to help stay safe.
SUN PROTECTION TIP #1: PERFORM MONTHLY SELF-EXAMS
One of the most important things you can do to avoid a late diagnosis of skin cancer is to perform self-exams—which require nothing more than your eyes, a full-length mirror, and a handheld mirror. Once you have those three things at the ready, the American Academy of Dermatology says you should look for dark spots, growths, darker patches of skin that are growing, sores that won’t heal, sores that struggle to heal, patches of skin that feel rough and dry, and dark lines underneath or around a fingernail or toenail. Be sure to look everywhere, as skin cancer can show up in unexpected places. For example, the Skin Cancer Foundation shares that acral lentiginous melanoma—which people with dark skin are more susceptible to—typically appears on the palms of hands and soles of feet. Keep up with performing these checks on a monthly basis and if you notice anything suspicious, see a dermatologist.
SUN PROTECTION TIP #2: VISIT YOUR DERMATOLOGIST REGULARLY
While it’s true that checking your own skin is one of the best ways to find potential problems early, you should visit a professional too. In addition to (not instead of) performing monthly self-exams, the Skin Cancer Foundation encourages booking annual appointments with a derm, who can perform a head-to-toe examination and educate you on what to look out for so that your self-exams are even more effective.
SUN PROTECTION TIP #3: WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY
Wearing sunscreen every day is a must for everyone, regardless of skin tone. If you have a darker skin tone, you should follow the same sunscreen guidelines as everyone else, those that are laid out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As for what those are, the FDA recommends wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or greater every day. You should put it on 30 minutes before you go outside and use enough to cover your entire face and body—which is typically about the same as the amount it would take to fill a shot glass. Additionally, it’s essential that sunscreen is reapplied at least every two hours, and more often if you’re sweating or swimming. And these days there are so many types of sunscreen to choose from that you can easily avoid sunscreen with a white cast.
Editor’s Tip: If you’re hesitant to add another step to your skin care routine, opt for a moisturizer with SPF, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30 to make it easy.
SUN PROTECTION TIP #4: DON’T FORGET TO PROTECT YOUR LIPS
While it’s easy to remember to put sunscreen on your face and body, you might easily forget that your lips are also skin. These days you can easily find lip balms formulated with SPF to protect this oft forgotten, yet important part of the body.
SUN PROTECTION TIP #5: FOLLOW ADDITIONAL SUN SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Sunscreen isn’t the only way to provide your skin with protection. You can—and should—use other safety measures. Besides being diligent with sunscreen application, the FDA suggests limiting your time in the sun, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., wearing clothing that covers exposed skin, seeking out the shade, and accessorizing with a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Photo Credit: Sarah Duvivier