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There’s a common misconception going around and we need to clear it up: Even people with dark skin tones need to be proactive with sun safety. While it’s often emphasized that those with pale skin must be careful in the sun, and it’s true that your fair friends may get a sunburn easier, non-Caucasian women are still at risk when exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Which makes it extra concerning that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 63 percent of African American participants in a survey said they never wear sunscreen. Even scarier, the Skin Cancer Foundation shares that a 2016 study found melanoma to be more deadly in people of color. So clearly, sun protection is just as critical if you have darker skin. Read on to find out four sun protections tips to add to your skin care routine—including loading up on SPF and performing self-exams—to help stay safe.
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 higher every day. When applying sunscreen on the daily, the FDA shares that 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. 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 Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer SPF 30.
Sunscreen isn’t the sole 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, which are from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.—wearing clothing that covers exposed skin, seeking out the shade, and accessorizing with a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Ready for another unsettling fact? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), when skin cancer develops in people of color, it’s often diagnosed after already reaching a late stage, which can be deadly. One of the most important things you can do to avoid a late diagnosis 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 AAD says people of color should look for dark spots, growths, or 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 too—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.
While it’s true that checking your own skin is one of the best ways to find potential problems early, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to 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. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you can expect a 10-15 minute visit where you review your medical history and receive a head-to-toe examination. Plus, your dermatologist can educate you on what to look out for and keep your eye on, so that your self-exams are even more effective!
Next: 5 Places You Shouldn’t Forget to Apply Sunscreen.