Sun Damage & Dark Skin: Are You Still at Risk?

by Marisa Amorasak

sun damage dark skin

Contrary to popular belief, even very dark skin tones are susceptible to sun damage. Sun damage on dark skin can lead to an array of more serious problems including hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and even skin cancer. It’s true that dark skin has more natural sunscreen than light skin, but people with dark skin are still prone to sunburn and other damage from UV Rays. Read on to learn more about how to care for dark skin in the sun in order to avoid sun damage and the subsequent negative effects it may cause.

Dark Skin’s Natural Sunscreen

Skin tones are commonly grouped into six levels of pigmentation, ranging from the very lightest to the deepest. Skin that tans easily without burning—skin levels four through six—are indeed less prone to burning. That’s because African American, South Asian, Hispanic, and other darker skin tones contain a natural sunscreen of 13.4 When harmful UV and UVB rays enter dark skins, they have a heightened ability to fend it off—particularly compared to light skin’s 3.3 natural sunscreen level. But dark skin’s natural protection isn’t enough to forgo sun protection altogether. People with dark skin may have a false sense of security regarding their skin because it doesn’t burn, but the truth is that skin doesn’t need to burn to acquire damage.

Should Dark Skin Wear Sunscreen?

Yes. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all skin tones routinely wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Many body lotions and liquid foundations include a SPF, so it’s easy to work sun protection into your everyday routine. In addition to topical sunscreen, people with dark skin can also save their skin from the sun by wearing wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing if they know they are going to be in the sun for a long period of time.

Sun damage in dark skin can lead to uneven skin tones, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots. The best way to prevent these unsightly ailments is to avoid extensive sun exposure, but there are some ways to alleviate the cosmetic disturbances once they’ve appeared. The IPL Photofacial uses the power of laser light to visibly lessen the appearance of dark spots in any skin tone. Microdermabrasion is also helpful at removing superficial sun damage by manually sloughing off the top layers of the skin. Both of these treatments are available at an aesthetic skincare clinic in your area.

Dark Skin and Skin Cancer

Recent studies have revealed that people with darker skin actually have a higher fatality rate from skin cancer than those with light skin, because the disease is typically caught later. Lead researcher Dr.Hugh Gloster of the University of Cincinnati said, "Minorities do get skin cancer, and because of this false perception most cases aren't diagnosed until they are more advanced and difficult to treat. Unfortunately, that translates into higher mortality rates."

Signs of Sun Damage in Darker Skin

Sun damage can be more difficult to spot on darker skin. While a person with fair skin may notice a change in a mole from sun exposure, a dark skinned person may not notice such changes. Dermatologists suggest checking for sun damage on areas of the body with lighter skin, such as the soles of the feet and palms. It’s also wise to visit a dermatologist on a regular basis, so that he or she can check for any skin irregularities. When it comes to sun damage, prevention and early detection are key.

If you’d like to learn more about cosmetic skin treatments for dark skin, contact our representatives today. We’ll set up a free consultation with a skincare specialist in your area who can help you find the best treatment option for your skin tone, skin needs, and price point.

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