Being of Mediterranean ethnicity, I have olive skin all year round, which tends to tan very easily but still, I insist on wearing high factor sun lotion because of course, we are still susceptible to sun damage contrary to popular belief that darker skin means you are more protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
I cringe when I look back to my teenage years lying in the sun with oil slathered all over me so my skin can burn a deep, deep brown. I was literally cooking my skin! I am surprised I didn’t hear it sizzle!
Now, working in the beauty industry, I specialise in bespoke skin repair treatments and advise my patients on all sorts of skin issues.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding darker skin tones and the sun. It is not just people with pale skin tones who need to be protected during the summer months. Even in Winter we need protection too. After the age of 30 the sun is no one’s friend.
Here, I have covered the top four misconceptions for olive and darker skin tones to save us from irreversible sun damage:
Myth: Only if your skin gets burned do you risk getting sun damage
The more melanin your skin has, the less likely you are to get sunburned. Having darker skin however cannot protect you from sun damage. You are still at risk of developing skin cancer if you do not protect your skin on a day-to-day basis with a sun lotion that contains protection from UVA and UVB rays.
Myth: Having ethnic, naturally olive or darker skin makes you immune to skin cancer
The is a very archaic view that has been disputed by scientific evidence. No one is immune from developing skin cancer. The sun’s harmful rays affect everyone, no matter what shade you are, also you MUST apply SPF daily. Not only will you be protecting yourself from skin cancer, but also the sun is the main cause of blemishes, pigmentation and premature wrinkles.
Myth: You really only need to apply sunscreen if you’re on holiday
A lot of Mediterranean’s and people of African and Caribbean descent tend to think their skin only needs protection in the summer when they are lying in the sand. Not only is it important to apply sunscreen all year round every time you leave the house - even if you’re just popping to Tesco - it is especially important to apply it every two hours while at the beach or pool, as well as, every time you get wet or sweat it off.
Myth: Applying tanning oil over sunscreen is safe
NO, NO, NO. It is not ok to bake in the sun as long as there is just a layer of tanning oil over sun lotion. The key ingredients in these oils can also interact with the sunscreen and make it ineffective, so it is not a good idea to mix them up. Also be wary of tanning oils that say they contain SPF. The implication that a product could be used to achieve a suntan while offering UV protection is an absolute contradiction. There is no such thing as a “safe suntan”. If you want to develop a deep tan safely, my best advice is to use fake tanning products and stay out of the sun for long periods.
With the summer holiday season now in full swing and this hot weather spell set to last, I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions around skin and the sun.
We all need protection no matter the tone of your skin.