Brown Skin Needs Sun Protection, Too

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Here are a few key ways to protect your skin from the summer heat.

Growing up, I almost never wore sunscreen. I spent a lot of time outside, but sun protection was saved for days when I’d be outside all day and the weather was especially hot. I was often told that this was because I have brown skin — my darker skin tone meant I was naturally protected from the sun. This, of course was not really the case.

As I approached my 30s, I began to notice two dark spots appearing on either side of my face, just near my ears. They seemed to appear overnight, they're nearly impossible to cover up with makeup, and they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. This is discolouration, a result of all the time I spent outside without protecting my skin.

Then last summer, I noticed that every time I was out in the sun, the skin on my arms had a horrible reaction. Any time I was out in the sun for more than a few minutes, I’d spend the next few days with the worst itch imaginable. And it didn’t matter how much sunscreen I wore. I now know that I have what some refer to as a sun allergy — the reaction is called polymorphous light eruption. My dermatologist told me that my skin has developed a sensitivity to the sun over time, leading to these itchy rashes.

Moral of the story: everyone, no matter the skin tone, needs to protect themselves from the sun. In fact, people of colour face unique risks when it comes to sun exposure.

“As we have more active pigment cells (known as melanocytes), we can darken quickly and unevenly. These patches of discoloration are more difficult to fade in our skin tones due to increased pigment cell activity,” Dr. Mohiba Tareen told me. She is a dermatologist and the owner of Tareen Dermatology in Minneapolis. “Conversely, too much sun exposure over time can actually lead to a reduction in the activity of the pigment cells and result in white spots.

This condition, which presents as scattered white confetti-like lesions on the arms and legs, is called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. Unfortunately, once the white spots occur, it is very difficult to bring the pigment back. Thus, in order to maintain a beautiful and even complexion, sun protection is key.”

Dr. Tareen said that people of all skin tones face many risks if they don’t protect themselves, including something as severe as skin cancer. She also mentioned rashes, not unlike the one I suffer from, premature aging, and discolouration.

Midday sun is the worst for you skin, Dr. Tareen told me. She suggests avoiding the outdoors altogether between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. When you wear sunscreen, you should be using about a shot glass’ worth to cover all the exposed areas of your body, and reapply every two hours. Those of us who are ultra sensitive to the sun might want to consider sun protective clothing.

”In recent years, sun protective clothing has become more fashion forward and affordable. These ‘rash guards’ and ‘swim shirts’ offer built in SPF protection typically in a comfortable knit,” Dr. Tareen said. “New research has also shown that oral anti-oxidants such as Calaguala leaf extract (found in the supplement Heliocare) boost the body's protection against photo-aging and sun damage.”

Here are a few products that will help you up your sun protection game.

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical SPF 50, $41.05 CDN

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical SPF 50
Photo Credit: SkinCareRx

 

This sunscreen is designed to go on sheer, making it perfect to wear under makeup. It helps to mattify and has a lightweight texture.

Ideal Soleil Invisible Mist SPF 50, $31.95 CDN

Ideal Soleil Invisible Mist SPF 50
Photo Credit: Vichy

Designed for both face and body protection, this sunscreen gets sprayed on as a mist. It’s a lot easier to hit every spot with this product, and its lightweight formula won’t make you feel greasy.
 

Ombrelle Sport Clear Gel SPF 30, $20.96 CDN

Ombrelle Sport Clear Gel SPF 30
Photo Credit: Garnier

For those of you in need of a sunscreen for sport, this is the perfect product for you! The gel formula is cooling and refreshing, and it’s waterproof so your skin will remain protected while playing sports.
 

Nivea Sun Lip Care, $1.99 CDN
 

Nivea Sun Lip Care
Photo Credit: Nivea

Your lips need to be protected, too! This lip balm from Nivea will keep your lips smooth and soft, and will also providing some spf and soothe sunburnt lips.

Main Image photo credit: Joyous Health


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Rosemina Nazarali

Rosemina Nazarali

Author

With a background in Journalism, Rosemina has spent the last several years honing her editorial skills with various online publications. She's a lover of art, from music to film, literature, fashion, and everything in between. Rosemina looks at the beauty industry as it's own art form, as a means fo...

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