I went camping for a few days over Memorial Day weekend and as fun as it was it also honestly felt like a case study in sun care. Don’t worry, this isn’t a post to chastise anyone on their sunscreen use, it’s more of an observational piece about the different educations people have about sun care in general. When it comes to sun care, regardless of where you are from, your skin color and whatever else comes to mind as an excuse to avoid daily care – you need sun protection. So before you tell yourself your melanin activity is enough to avoid reading this think again. I’m going to break this down into two parts. Part 1 will be about the common misconceptions, old myths and what’s commonly neglected. So let’s begin:
BE AWARE OF PHOTOSENSITIZERS
Whether or not you feel confident in your ability to fight the sun’s UV rays your skin needs daily protection. What if you didn’t realize that there are ways of unintentionally sensitizing yourself? Did you know that most oral prescription medication actually cause photosensitivity? Including birth control! Most cases of melasma that I have encountered over the years have been triggered because an individual was not made aware of the possibility of photosensitivity while on BC. We often take our birth control in the morning because it is a more predictable time to consistently take our pill. If we don’t put sun protection on every morning our skin is naturally more sensitive to heat and sun. Most conventional or prescription skincare products have photosensitizing additives as well. When I was in high school I was on a prescription topical called Tazorac that caused one of the worse burns I had ever experienced. I applied sunscreen and mostly stayed in the shade but my skin had been that sensitized by the pharmaceutical. Plus my acne didn’t go away so what a waste. The point is that most of my clients at one point or another have sensitized themselves with a peel, a laser, a low dose retinol or even just over-exfoliating their skin…all of these things weaken your skin in subtle ways that fighting off UV rays that are only getting stronger seems like a losing battle. Wear sun protection to protect your barrier everyday.
SKIN COLOR IS AN IRRELEVANT FACTOR FOR AVOIDING SUN CARE
If I hear about how you don’t need sunscreen because of your skin color I will BLATANTLY roll my eyes at you. Just because you are capable of tolerating an unhealthy habit more so than others does not mean you can rely on it. That’s comparable to the idea that someone who is thin doesn’t have to eat healthy. You have to treat your organ with love and care otherwise one day the worse could happen. According to the Skin Cancer foundation over 63% of African Americans have never used sunscreen before. And that’s just a small survey of one of many dark skin types. Cancer is not one to discriminate on race and some cases of skin cancer are more common on darker skin types. Bob Marley actually died from a form of cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma. He was 36! It doesn’t matter who you are, what skin color you are – skin cancer is a real threat to all of us if we don’t take the preventative steps to protect ourselves. Stop avoiding it because you’re not burning. Your skin is still actively fighting from getting burn the tanner you get, don’t push it into mutating cells that can potentially take your life.
UPGRADE YOUR PRODUCTS
Get new sunscreen! If you have a bottle that you are not sure is less than a few months old, do yourself a favor and pick up a fresh bottle. Sunscreen loses it’s potency after a few months and can unintentionally leave you with a burn. Recently I brought an SPF that was only 3 months to the beach but because it had sat out in my husbands car I didn’t consider that it could have lessened its effect. Sure enough, we both had minor burns. It’s easy to assume that your products don’t expire when you only use them for a season but the truth is that your sunscreen is something you can and need to use a lot of. A group of people should go through a tube within one day at the beach. That’s honestly how much you need! So instead of assuming your product is still fresh, go ahead and use up your product before there is an opportunity for it to go bad.