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Sunscreen 101: Sunscreen for Dark Skin

Black woman with dark skin tone applying sunscreen on cheek

Daily use of sunscreen is a top skincare topic that is regularly discussed and it’s one of the most common beauty tips shared – but if you are a person of color with dark skin, you may be wondering how does this advice apply to you.

The Importance of Wearing Sunscreen

Sunscreen is often the first product people think of as a beach day essential – but sunscreen shouldn’t just be a product you use only on a warm and sunny day.

UVA and UVB Rays and SPF

The sun damages the skin via two different rays – via UVB rays and UVA rays.

UVB rays are typically what cause the skin to burn, but UVA rays on the other hand are the sun rays that are behind premature skin aging (also known as photoaging). Whether it’s cloudy out or a beautiful summer day – UVA rays still continue to have the same effect on skin all year round – and they can even penetrate through windows and clouds. These rays can affect all skin tones and types and cause photoaging leading to wrinkles, loss of elasticity, rough and uneven skin texture and dark spots or discoloration.

Ideally you should select a “broad-spectrum protection” sunscreen, which are sunscreens designed to help protect skin against damage from both UVA and UVB Rays.

Another aspect of Sunscreen is its sun protection factor (SPF), which gives an idea of how long it will take for skin to burn when wearing sunscreen vs if no sunscreen was worn. Darker skin has a higher concentration of melanin and can have a natural SPF of 13, but this can vary depending on skin tone intensity. This SPF number in skin of color is still lower than the recommended level of broad-spectrum sunscreen, which is an SPF 30 or higher.

Do People with Dark Skin Need Sunscreen?

The short answer is yes. All skin types and skin tones can benefit from the protection that sunscreen offers.

Although those with a lighter skin tone are more likely to experience the signs of photoaging such as wrinkles, dark skin can still end up with photo damage caused by the sun. Lighter skin tones usually turn darker due to sun exposure (hello summer tan!) while those with dark skin may find they do not tan per se but over time they may start to notice darker patches and uneven tone on the skin since dark skin is suspectable to dark spots, melasma and hyperpigmentation. Sunscreen can help to prevent dark spots occurring on dark skin and help prevent existing dark spots from getting worse.

Wanting to avoid dark spots and wrinkles are clearly two great reasons to wear sunscreen daily – but it’s also important to wear sunscreen in addition to following sun protection measures. You must also follow sun protection measures in addition to wearing sunscreen, you must also limit time in the sun, especially from 10 am to 2pm and wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses (the final look can look very summer chic, especially when teamed with a summer lipstick shade like peach or coral). Melanin can help protect against the sun’s harsh ultraviolet (UVB) rays, and darker skin is rich in melanin which typically means that darker skin doesn’t burn as easily, but people of color still need to be careful, as by the time skin cancer is detected in those with darker skin it’s very difficult to treat.

Our Tips to Choose a Sunscreen for Dark Skin

We’ve established that sunscreen for dark skin is important and isn’t a skincare step that should be skipped – but you may now be wondering “what are the best sunscreens for dark skin?”

Our favorite sunscreen recommendation for all skin types and tones is our Lancôme UV Expert Defense Sunscreen with SPF 50. Working as a three-in-one primer, moisturizer, and sunscreen with SPF 50 it’s the ultimate multi-tasking sun care hero with its cooling Aquagel texture, which transfers into a water-like gel leaving a weightless feel and invisible sun protection. The formula is easy to blend and leaves skin feeling hydrated without any greasiness, stickiness or white residue while offering a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 and broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Although suitable for all skin tones, it’s especially great for those with a dark skin tone – the invisible finish leaves no white residue behind so those with darker skin tones can avoid the dreaded “white cast” often left behind by some sunscreens.

Our Aqua Gel is the go-to sunscreen no matter your skin type — those with a darker complexion may also prefer to use a tinted sunscreen or a makeup product which offers sun protection with a slight tint. Our Skin Feels Good Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 23 is a hydrating, oil-free tinted moisturizer and foundation hybrid that’s great for everyday wear. The formula has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 23 and is enriched with moringa seed, hyaluronic acid to nourish skin with antioxidant benefits and also helps to defend skin’s surface against damaging free radicals and environmental pollutants. Plus, it’s available in 15 different shades so it’s easy to find a suitable match for a variety of skin tones, and as a tinted sunscreen it won’t leave a white cast on dark skin.

Select Lancôme moisturizers also contain sunscreen, including our non-greasy moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Day Cream with SPF 15, which helps minimize signs of aging—such as sagging, wrinkles, and fine lines—while added SPF 15 provides additional protection against future sun damage.

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