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Sun protection : essential for black, dark and mixed skin

sun protection for black skin

"Black, brown and mixed skins do not need sun protection! "This is another common misconception about pigmented skin. And yet, have you ever felt tightness and/or irritation following exposure to the sun? Or even seen redness, flaking, hyperpigmentation spots or an abnormally evolving mole afterwards?

We still hear these kinds of ideas about black, brown and mixed-race skin far too often. In this article, you will understand why it is important for pigmented skin to protect itself from the sun. We will also advise you on the choice of your sun protection which must be effective to protect you correctly from the harmful effects of the sun and adapted to the specificities of your skin.


Natural, scientifically proven protection

The idea that a person with pigmented skin does not need sun protection is not really false.

In fact, the Fitzpatrick classification is internationally known. It classifies different individuals into six phototypes according to the sensitivity of their skin to the sun's UV (ultraviolet) rays. To do this, the phototype is determined by the color of the skin according to the amount and type of melanin it has and the risk of developing melanoma following prolonged exposure to the sun.

Thus, black, brown and mixed skins correspond to phototypes 4-5-6. They are characterized by dark skin, hair and eyes.  They tan easily without developing sunburns. You can determine your phototype with our sun diagnosis.

On the other hand, Caucasian skins are represented by phototypes 1-2-3. They are characterized by fair skin, red, blond or dark brown hair and green-blue or light brown eyes. They do not tan or tan slightly and sunburn easily.

Beyond this classification, many scientific articles have statistically demonstrated that pigmented skins have a lower photoaging and photo-carcinogenesis than fair skins. This is possible because they have a high supply of eumelanins.

Melanin: Its photo-protective role

Melanin is a biological pigment present in the skin's epidermis. There are two types: pheomelanins (light pigments: red, yellow) and eumelanins (dark pigments: brown or black). They are both synthesized by melanocytes. Their distinction takes place during melanogenesis, according to the enzymes involved (tyrosinase for pheomelanins and tyrosinase + TYRP 1 and 2 for eumelanins).  Melanin is essential for the skin, because it gives it its natural color. Indeed, each individual has both types of melanins, but in varying quantities which induces this diversity of skin color classified according to Fitzpatrick.

Namely, physiologically, we all have the same number of melanocytes. The disparity between individuals is linked to melanogenesis activity. In fact, it is the type of pigment synthesized according to the size and number of melanosomes that varies.  Thus, black, brown and mixed skins have a higher level of eumelanins. It would be three to six times more important than Asian and Caucasian skins. This is genetic, their eumelanin melanosomes are larger and more numerous.

Moreover, eumelanins have the particularity of having a photo-protective role. Indeed, by its biochemical characteristics, they have the capacity to absorb UV rays. They thus limit the photo-generation of ROS (free radicals) that they generate. It is these radical species that damage the skin as a result of oxidative reactions created between ROS and skin compounds (cells or fibers). Thus, they act in part as a solar filter by partially protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This is one of the reasons that scientifically explains the "black don't crack".


Pigmented skin is deficient in vitamin D, why ?

The synthesis of vitamin D or sun hormone is carried out on the skin during sun exposure. Under the activation of UVB rays, the 7-dehydrocholesterol present on the epidermis is photolyzed into previtamin D3 which is then converted into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).

The natural protection of pigmented skin against UV rays limits the synthesis of this vitamin in the skin. They need a dose of UV rays at least six times higher than that of Caucasian skins to obtain equivalent levels of vitamin D3 in the blood. They are therefore people who suffer mostly from deficiency in this vitamin.

A supplementation is therefore strongly recommended by taking food supplements containing vitamin D to limit the clinical signs related to this deficiency: osteoarthritis, bone and joint pain, muscle weakness, unusual fatigue, skin dryness etc.


uva uvb effects of the sun on black skin

The harmful effects of the sun on black, dark and mixed-race skin:

We can never repeat it enough: whatever your skin phototype, it is essential to apply an effective sun protection to protect it from the harmful effects of the sun.


UVA, UVB which is the most dangerous ?

The sun emits an invisible light containing different types of radiation depending on their wavelengths. There are three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA (400 to 315 nm), UVB (315 to 280 nm) and UVC (280 to 100nm). The latter is stopped by the ozone layer and therefore does not penetrate the skin.

  • UVA: It penetrates deep into the dermis of the skin. It generates a strong production of free radicals that damage the skin by creating oxidative reactions. They are thus responsible for the formation of pigmentary spots. They accelerate skin aging, induce skin dehydration and lead to the appearance of skin cancers. (Melanomas or carcinomas).
  • UVB: They penetrate the epidermis, the most superficial layers of the skin. They promote the inflammatory reaction and the creation of free radicals. They are responsible for the appearance of sunburns but they can also induce skin cancers.

Therefore, we understand that these two radiations are both harmful for the skin but that it is more important for pigmented skin to protect itself from UVA. Moreover, concerning the risk of the appearance of a cutaneous cancer, do not hesitate to follow regularly the evolution of your moles, according to the ABCD method.


Hyperpigmentation spots in the sun

Tanning is a defense mechanism put in place by the skin to protect itself from the sun's UV rays. It is achieved in two simultaneous stages:

  • The activation of cell proliferation in order to multiply its keratinocytes. The objective is to create a greater mechanical barrier to limit the penetration of UV rays.
  • The activation of melanogenesis of eumelanins to benefit more from its photo-protective role. This is what makes the skin naturally darker in the sun.

However, the creation of photo-induced free radicals by UV radiation can disturb and unbalance eu-melanogenesis in excess and thus create hyperpigmentation spots of solar origin. These are therefore caused by an overproduction of melanin and can be seen by the naked eye as a brown spot on the face and/or body that is darker than the natural skin tone. This is a very common phenomenon in pigmented skin.


sun protection for black skin

Specific sun protection for black skin

After reading this article, you will understand that despite the natural protection of black, brown and mixed race skin, it is important for them to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun.

Including a sun protection in their beauty routine must therefore be essential for them, but they still need to know which one? We select for you the key points that it must contain to be effective while taking into account the specificities and needs of your skin.

  • It must protect you from UVA and UVB rays in order to provide you with complete protection.
  • An index of protection 50 is the ideal for the face which is very photo-exposed. On the body, an index 30 to 50 is sufficient.
  • It must contain active anti-oxidants to eliminate the free radicals created by the absorption of UV rays through the skin. This will limit their harmful effects.

The use of vitamin D3 in the formulation of cosmetic care is prohibited. Thanks to our expertise, we have been able to formulate vitamin D-like® which is a vitamin D analogue. This allows us to fight against vitamin D deficiencies that most pigmented skins have. Indeed, this deficiency can be accentuated by the use of sun protection, which limits the absorption of UV rays through pigmented skin and consequently reduces the synthesis of this vitamin.


Objective: zero white marks from sun protection on pigmented skin

no white trace solar fluid

Avoiding the "mask effect" or grayish complexion after applying sun protection: this is the wish of black, dark and mixed-race skin.

This occurs when using sunscreen fluids composed mainly of mineral UV filters. The most commonly used molecules are zinc oxide (ZnO) and titanium dioxide (TiO2). White in color, they are capable of reflecting and/or dispersing UV radiation so that it cannot be absorbed by the skin. They guarantee a complete protection against UVA and UVB rays. However, the reflected light is perceived by the retina as white. This perception is more present when the skin is initially pigmented, which creates this "white mask effect". In addition, the application of this type of protection requires a thick occlusive layer that can be comedogenic for the skin. This is not ideal for black, dark and mixed-race skin that naturally has a tendency to acne. 

It is therefore necessary to use sunscreens composed of organic filters. They absorb UV rays to release heat. They are also effective against UVA and UVB rays and guarantee a "zero trace" effect after their application.

How often should I renew my sun protection ?

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