How often have you heard someone say that dark skin has a naturally built-in UV protector or that dark skin is more tolerant against sun exposure than light skin?
The truth is that while dark skin may be more tolerant, it is only to a certain extent. The reason is that darker skin tones produce more melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its color, and its this melanin that does help protect skin, but not to the same degree as sunscreen.
If you’re wondering if melanin is a natural sunscreen, the answer is sort of. While it can “buy you time” in the sun (dark skin can have a natural SPF of about 15), it does not provide the same level of sun protection as a sunscreen.
People with darker skin tones can still get sunburned and develop melanoma. While the incidence of melanoma is higher in Caucasians, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed that it was more deadly in people with darker skin tones.
It’s important to understand that a lower risk does not mean no risk. The sun’s powerful and damaging rays penetrated all skin types, regardless of race or depth of skin tone. The production of melanin or a tan, is your skin’s response to sun exposure since your body produces melanin to protect the skin from UV rays.
To properly protect skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and reapplying it every two hours. Remember that sunscreen needs at least 15 minutes to absorb into the skin to be effective.