Do Black People Need To Wear Sunscreen?

Black skin has an inbuilt SPF so sunscreen is not necessary.

How many times have you heard that? Too many, unfortunately. It’d be great if that were true, but sadly, it’s just a myth. One that, if believed, could be deadly. So, why is it so widespread? Well, like all believable myths, it has some true in it.

Inbuilt SPF doesn’t provide adequate sun protection

Black skin really has an inbuilt SPF of between 8 and 16 (depending on how dark it is), which protects it from some of the damage caused by UV rays. The problem is that SPF 15 only filters about 92% of UVB rays. That’s a high percentage and it may seem enough to provide adequate protection, but it’s not. The rays that get through and hit the skin will, overtime, cause dark spots, premature aging, and even cancer. However, the inbuilt SPF does mean that you can use a sunscreen with a lower SPF, such as 15 or 30 rather than 35 or 50. It also means that you may reapply it less often than the recommended two hours (but don’t leave it too long, of course!). But you still need to use sunscreen everyday.

Black skin isn’t immune to sunburn

A sunburn conjures up images of pale skin, all red and peeling. But dark skin can get sunburned too. It’s a bit trickier to detect, because dark skin doesn’t become red. But  it  does experiences all the other symptoms: it is hot to the touch, painful, feels tight and peels. Sure, it is more difficult for black people to get a sunburn, but the risk, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors when the sun is burning hot in the sky, is there. And even just a sunburn can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

Skin cancer is rarer, but more deadly in dark-skinned people

Did you know that there are many types of skin cancer? Dark-skinned people are less likely to develop some of them, but are not immune to skin cancer. And when they do develop melanoma, they are more likely to die from it. Why? In black people, melanoma tends to show up on more lightly pigmented areas, such as the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and even the fingernail bed. Because not many people are aware of this, they tend to be diagnosed later, when the cancer has already spread to other areas, and is so much more difficult to cure. So, be sure to wear sunscreen on all areas of your body exposed to the sun and, once a year, go to your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening.

The Bottom Line

Although dark skin has inbuilt SPF, it is not high enough to offer adequate protection against premature aging, sun spots, sunburns and cancer. So, wear sunscreen daily. Be safe, not sorry!

Do you have dark skin? If so, do you wear sunscreen every day?

Why You Shouldn’t Make Your Own Sunscreen

homemade sunscreen

As my regular readers know, I’m a fan of DIY beauty recipes. They’re quick and easy to do and they can save us some money too. Over the years, I shared lots of mine with you. I told you how to make your own cream eyeshadows, tinted brow gel, hands scrubs, and many other products. But there is one I’ll never recommend you make at home: sunscreen.

Sunscreen is not just another beauty product. It doesn’t just make your prettier, but protects your skin from UV rays, preventing premature aging and cancer. A good sunscreen can literally save your skin. And making a good sunscreen is not simply a matter of pouring some zinc oxide, with a bunch of natural extracts, in a bowl and mixing them all together. That may give you a natural mixture that spreads easily on the skin, but chances are, it won’t be effective.

You see, zinc oxide is a bitch to work with. It’s difficult to blend it into a base, and to keep it dispersed there. Instead, zinc oxide migrates and forms big clumps so that, when you apply it on the skin, some areas are well-covered while others remain completely exposed to the sun rays. And what’s worse is that you often can’t see these clumps with your naked eye.

If you had the means to test your sunscreen, which is quite expensive to do anyway, you’ll be surprised at how little sun protection it provides. Since many of us don’t have that opportunity, we only realise that our homemade sunscreen doesn’t work when it’s too late and we got a bad sunburn. And adding more zinc oxide to the formula won’t help that much. You may get a more evenly coverage, but you’ll have to deal with an unpleasant white cast and heavy consistency.

To make an effective homemade sunscreen, you have to have the right particle size of zinc oxide (large particles produce a white cast), you have to use the right amount to provide adequate protection, and then you need to make sure it is properly dispersed and stabilized in the formula. That requires extensive knowledge of cosmetic chemistry, special machines to break up zinc oxide particles and distribute them evenly in the formula, and a testing lab. All things very few of us have.

In other words, you’re much better off buying a properly formulated and tested sunscreen. Even if you’re not comfortable using a chemical sunscreen, there are many sunscreens on the market these days that are zinc-oxide based, and contain only a bunch of natural extracts instead of synthetic ingredients, such as Badger All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Unscented, MVO Everyday Coverage SPF 30, and Sunumbra SPF 30, so that really is no excuse to risk your skin by making yours at home.

Have you ever made your own sunscreen?

4 Melanoma Myths Debunked!

Nodular Melanoma Evolution © 0x6adb015

Nodular Melanoma Evolution © 0x6adb015

Did you know that melanoma kills 1 American every hour? That’s about 9,000 deaths in a year. And sadly, the incidence rate of melanoma has increased in the past 30 years, and is now one of the most common types of skin cancer in young people, affecting particularly women. Melanoma has, in the past few years, become more common in the UK and other European countries too.

To keep yourself safe, and reduce the risky factors that lead to the development of melanoma, it’s important to know a few facts about this type of cancer and debunk some of the common myths that surround it:

1. If you avoid the sun, you won’t get melanoma

If only it were that easy! Melanoma, like any other type of skin cancer, can affect anyone, at any age. Prolonged and unprotected sun exposure has been shown to increase the risk of developing skin cancer (even one bad sunburn as a child is enough). But it’s not the only cause. People whose relatives have died of melanoma or who have had other types of cancer are more are risk of developing melanoma too. That can also explain why even people who spend little time outdoors can get melanoma or why the cancer can develop in areas that aren’t usually exposed to the sun, such as the inside of the mouth, the eye, and even the vagina! Still, that’s not a good reason to spend hours outdoors without any kind of protection.

2. Tanning beds are safer than outdoor tanning

There is no such thing as a safe tan. A tan is the body’s natural defence mechanism to protect itself from UV rays, so if you’re developing one, it means your skin is getting damaged. And when DNA in skin cells is damaged, it can mutate and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. If used regularly, tanning beds will not only make you more prone to develop melanoma, but they will also make you age faster. Tanning beds emit mostly UVA rays, which are responsible for premature aging. It’s UVB rays, instead, that cause sunburn and produce Vitamin D. Both can cause cancer, so just because tanning beds don’t emit many UVB rays, it doesn’t mean they are safer than outdoor tanning.

3. Melanoma only appears as an ugly black mole

I wish! That would make it easier to diagnose. While a lot of melanomas look like ugly black moles, they can also appear in any brown or tan shades, and can even develop in moles that have hairs. As a rule, you should keep an eye on any mole different from the others on your body or that has changed overtime. Better yet, go to a doctor for a full body exam once a year. Your doctor has a trained eye and will be better able to spot melanoma in its earliest stages, when it is much easier to treat. Melanoma is not always deadly.  Very often, it is actually benign, but even then it can eventually become very dangerous if not removed in time.

4. Sunscreen can prevent melanoma

This is not entirely false, but it’s not entirely true either. Sunscreen can help prevent melanoma, but it is no guarantee that you won’t get it. Many cancers begin when one or more genes in a cell are mutated. This mutation can have environmental causes (unprotected sun exposure, cigarette smoke, pollution), but “bad, mutated genes” can be passed on from generation to generation. Even people who lead healthy lives, eat balanced diets rich in fruits and vegs, exercise regularly, avoid the sun and don’t smoke, can develop one type of cancer. The causes of many types of cancer aren’t yet fully understood, but if something can help reduce the risk of developing them, why not use it? So, pile on the sunscreen to help prevent melanoma. But don’t forget to wear protective clothes and stay away from the sun as much as possible too.

While not all melanomas are related to sun exposure, using sunscreen daily, wearing protective clothing and reducing the time you spent in the sun are still the best ways to prevent skin cancer. Are you following these tips?

What Does PA On Sunscreen Labels Stand For?

PA japanese rating system

Have you ever noticed that some sunscreens and skincare products, especially those from Asian brands, have a weird PA+ rating next to the SPF level? It’s obvious it has something to do with the level of sun protection offered by the sunscreen, but isn’t that what SPF states too?

The difference between SPF and PA

Nope. SPF refers to the protection provided against sunburn-inducing UVB rays, and simply tells you how long you can stay in the sun without burning. But UVB rays aren’t the only type of UV radiation that causes serious damage to your skin.

UVA rays, which cause premature aging and contribute to the development of cancer, are very harmful too and, unlike UVB rays, they manage to penetrate through clouds and windows, so you’re not safe from them even when it’s cloudy or you are indoors.

PA, which means Protection Grade of UVA rays, is a rating system created in Japan (that’s why it is mostly used in Asia) to indicate the level of protection from UVA rays. The more plus signs (the maximum is three) next to PA, the higher the protection.

PA system isn’t recognized everywhere

The PA system isn’t recognized in the US or Europe yet. In the US, sunscreens that protect against the entire UV range (unfortunately, not all do yet) must be labelled “broad spectrum”, while European sunscreens are stamped with a UVA seal if they provide UVA protection that’s at least one-third the SPF.

The lack of an universal standardized rating system for UVA rays can be very confusing, especially if you’re buying yours online or while on holiday in a different country. Therefore, the best way to make sure your sunscreen also offers protection against UVA rays is to check the ingredient list. It must contain at least one of these filters: Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Mexoryl XS (Ecamsule), Zinc Oxide, or Tinosorb S (Bemotrizinol).

Remember, you need to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. If a sunscreen doesn’t provide that, it’s not worth using it.

Do you use sunscreen labelled according to the PA system?

Should I Wear Sunscreen While Driving?

sun protection while driving Do you wear sunscreen while driving? Most people don’t. They think their windshields will keep UV rays out and, if not, well, they’re only driving a short distance. It won’t take long. But even the shortest distance becomes too long when your skin is unprotected.

Left side of the face is more prone to skin cancer

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has confirmed “an increase in photodamage and precancers on the left side of the face”. The results showed that, in the US, 52.6% of skin cancers occurred on the left side, while 47.4% on the right side. This difference may not seem considerable to some, but it’s important to note that those numbers take into consideration all types of skin cancer. When we only consider malignant melanoma, the findings are much more worrying. A staggering 74% of them occurred on the left side, while “only” 26% on the right one.

Driving may be the main culprit

Why is the left side more affected? Susan T. Butler, MD, coauthor of the study, suggests that “the increase in left-sided skin cancers may be from the UV exposure we get when driving a car”. The left side, is, in fact, the one more exposed to sunlight when we drive (of course, in the UK and countries where people drive on the right, the opposite would be true).

UV rays are present even when we don’t see them. They pass through clouds and are even reflect on snow. And their damage is cumulative. Even if you only drive for 5 minutes a day, over the course of a year your left side will have accumulated far more damage than your right one.

And while most windshields protect against sunburn-causing UVB rays, they still allow most of the UVA rays (which are responsible for both premature aging and cancer) to pass through. Rear and side windows, on the other hand, offer no protection at all. So, unless you have them tinted with strong UV filters, you can’t rely on them for sun protection. And even then, you should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen anyway. You’ll need it when you get out of your car.

The Bottom Line

Always wear sunscreen before getting into a car. Even if you’re just the passenger. And, especially if you’re going to drive for a few hours, keep a bottle in your car so that you can easily reapply it whenever you need to. Remember, better safe than sorry!

Photo source: Wouter van Erve

How To Reapply Sunscreen While Wearing Makeup

reapply sunscreen while wearing makeup

It would be great if we could apply sunscreen in the morning and forget all about it for the rest of the day. But, as we know, that’s not possible. After a while, sunscreen ingredients get all used up and lose their effectiveness, while sweat and water remove them from our skin leaving us unprotected.

So, we have to reapply it. That’s easy if you’re going barefaced, but what if you’ve spent time applying a full face of makeup? How do you put sunscreen on again without messing with it and ruining it? Here’s what I do:

On indoor days

I’m an indoor kinda gal, and, on most days, I don’t really spend that much time outside. Only from a few minutes to an hour or so while I walk to my car, drive around the town or run errands. Indoors, too, I try to stay away from windows, which let UVA pass through them. This means that my sunscreen doesn’t really have the time to become ineffective, nor do I sweat enough to melt it away. So, on these days, I don’t reapply it.

On burning hot summer days

If you’re spending a few hours outdoors on burning hot summer days, reapplying sunscreen is a must. So, I just keep my makeup to a minimum. First, I apply my sunscreen. If you use a chemical one, you should apply this even before moisturizer as its ingredients need to be in contact with the skin to get activated. Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, which act like shields, work from the moment you apply them, so it doesn’t really matter when you slather them on (as long as you do so before leaving the house, of course).

Now, for the makeup. I skip the foundation, and just dab on concealer on my under-eye circles and blemishes, and a stain or cream blush on my cheeks. If my skintone is uneven, then I’ll also apply a tinted moisturizer or a very lightweight liquid foundation. That way, when I need to reapply sunscreen two hours later, I can do so easily.

You could wear more makeup, but I don’t see the point. It’ll just melt away together with your sunscreen. Whatever you do, though, don’t apply any powder products (apart from maybe a thin layer of powder to set your makeup if you need to), because reapplying sunscreen on top of it would just create an ugly, patchy mess.

On warm and sunny days

If the sun is out but doesn’t burn too hot, and you’d like to spend a few hours outside, do a simple makeup look. After slathering on sunscreen, I apply a thin layer of lightweight foundation, dab on concealer and apply a cream blush. A couple of hours later, I gently reapply sunscreen by using quick and circular motions that won’t mess with my makeup.

Although chemical sunscreens are easier to apply over makeup, these need to be applied on bare skin to be effective. So, you have two choices. You can remove your makeup, reapply sunscreen and redo your makeup. Or you can apply a physical sunscreen on top of your makeup. This is what I do.

However, physical sunscreens often have a thick texture and leave an unattractive white cast on the skin that makes makeup reapplication a bigger pain than it already is. The key is to find a lightweight one that either applies clear or is tinted, such as Sunumbra SPF40 Sunkids (which can be used by adults, too, of course).

How do you reapply your sunscreen when you’re wearing makeup?

Do BB Creams Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

bb cream sun protection

BB Creams have taken the beauty world by storm lately. Touted as a miracle “one-size-fits-all” product, a BB Cream combines the benefits of moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunscreen in just one product. But I’m not a fan. From my experience, multi-tasking products always fall short on something. And in this case, that something is sun protection.

BB Creams don’t provide adequate sun protection

Remember when we talked about SPF in makeup and skincare products? Although, that seems like a great idea, especially for those who haven’t yet found a sunscreen that suits their skin type, there is just no way that you can get the level of SPF stated on the packaging. You see, the recommended amount of sunscreen for the face is 1/4 teaspoon, which means that you’d have to apply up to 7 layers of foundation or moisturizer to achieve adequate protection. And who does that?

The same applies to BB Creams (or CC Creams). It is just not possible to slather on enough to achieve the amount of sun protection your skin needs. It can even be more difficult, actually, because BB Creams tend to have a thicker texture than most foundations and lotions. That can feel uncomfortable on the skin, so you may be tempted to apply as little as possible. And while that pea sized amount may be enough to even out your complexion and moisturize your skin, it will leave it exposed to sun damage.

Formulas vary greatly

In addition, not all BB Creams are created equal. Some offer more coverage or more hydration than others, for instance. But when it comes to sun protection, you can often get less than you bargained for. You see, SPF only refers to UVB rays. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to come across BB Creams that offer great protection from UVB rays, but only partial, if none at all, from UVA rays. And these nasty rays not only cause premature aging, but can also contribute to the development of skin cancer.

The bottom line

BB Creams, just like any other cosmetic product with SPF, provides a false sense of security. In reality, not all BB Creams provide broad-spectrum protection and, even when they do, it is impossible to apply enough to achieve the recommended level of SPF stated on the label. So, always use it together with your favourite sunscreen. Your skin will thank you.

Do you rely on BB Creams alone for your sun protection?

How Much Chemical-Free Sunscreen Should You Apply?

chemical free sunscreen recommended amount

Do you apply enough sunscreen?

Most people don’t. And that’s not surprising. We’re told the recommended amount of sunscreen to apply for the face and neck alone is half a teaspoon. But try and do that. Your face will become a greasy mess and you’ll look as white as a ghost. Yet, applying less is not an option. It leaves your skin unprotected, which leads to wrinkles, sun spots and even skin cancer. Unless…

Why you should use a chemical-free sunscreen

Unless you use a chemical-free sunscreen. The name is very misleading. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain chemicals (in fact, all cosmetic ingredients, including natural ones, are chemicals, so it’d be impossible to formulate something without them), but that it uses, as sunscreen agents, the minerals Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide. People have, for decades, avoided these white minerals because they have a chalky, hard-to-spread texture and leave an ugly white cast on the skin, but lately, things have changed.

Now it is possible to produce Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide in particles that are so small that they appear transparent, but still provide adequate protection. This has several benefits, as dermatologist Dr Neal Schultz explains: “as a result of micronization those very, very small particles are then able to give you much larger coverage of a much larger area. That’s because the aggregate of the surface area or the protective part of those minerals is much larger. Also because they’re tiny, tiny particles spread more easily and give you a thinner layer.”

So, how much chemical-free sunscreen should you use?

Dr Schultz suggests that, for the face, we need only a pea-sized amount. And if you go to the beach, then the recommended amount for the whole body is a tablespoon. Now, that’s a lot easier to apply, isn’t it? You could always use more if that makes you feel safer, but it’s not really necessary. Just make sure you apply it properly. To get a better coverage (and protection) dab it on instead than spreading it around. Of course, you should still follow the old rules of reapplying your sunscreen every two or three hours, and always after swimming or sweating. Not even chemical-free sunscreens last forever on the skin.

Do you use chemical-free sunscreens? If so, how much do you use?