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“Black Don’t Crack” Does Not Mean That Black People Do Not Have to Wear Sunscreen. Here’s Why We Need to Protect Ourselves.

As appeared first in the Chicago Defender
By Shera Strange

There is a belief that the Melanin in Black skin naturally protects the skin from the sun and its UV rays, creating a barrier against the sun’s harmful effects, hence the saying “Black Don’t Crack.” On some level, this may be true. There have been conversations that Vitamin D and its lack thereof have played a role in surviving COVID -19 as it pertains to African Americans. One natural and cost-free way to get vitamin D is in the sun. Many are ready to get out and enjoy the sun, but is being out in the sun doing more harm than good? When you think of who gets sunburned, what comes to mind is someone with pale skin, but Black people can get a sunburn.

According to the CDC, sunburn affects 65.6% of Caucasians. Black people have the lowest incidence of sunburn, of just 10.9%. So, while it is less common, dark-skinned people can get a sunburn, and the myths associated with sun protection for Black people can lead to deadly outcomes.

More Melanin usually means less sunburn:

Melanin is a natural pigment that determines skin color, hair, and nails, as Melanin protects your skin from UV damage. Melanin has known to have at least 1.5 to 2.0 of an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) value. Most African Americans have enough Melanin to block UV light up to SPF 13. Still, this is not enough to prevent the most damaging UV rays known as UVA radiation that penetrates deep into the skin.

The Myth:

There is the myth that Black people’s skin is naturally more protected and have less need for sunscreen. While darker skin does not burn as quickly, it is the damage you cannot see is particularly dangerous. Although skin cancer incidence among Black people is low compared with other groups, the Skin Cancer Foundation states that the five-year survival rate of melanoma is only 65 percent for Black people compared to that of 91 percent for whites.

Black people’s lack of awareness about the effects of sun exposure leads to late detection. As a result, many African Americans have more advanced melanoma cases, such as a slowly enlarging flat patch of discolored skin or Acral Lentiginous melanoma.

People with Black or brown skin; often develop skin cancer on parts of the body that gets little sun, like the bottom of the feet, lower leg, palms, and may also begin under a nail. So, it is important to check these areas and protect your skin from the sun.

Tips for prevention:

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using sunscreen with an SPF 30 and reapplying every two hours. Limit your time in the sun during peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Consider investing in clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) such as tightly woven fabrics instead of “open-weave” fabrics like linen. Darker clothes also block more rays than lighter ones, and wide-brimmed hats are also helpful.

Taking care of your skin while exposed to the sun by following these instructions will significantly reduce sunburn and skin cancer.  So, as we bathe in the glow of our beautiful Black and brown skin, Black people need to use and protect our Melanin with Sunscreen to continue the narrative “Black Don’t Crack”.

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