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My wife and I are both African-American and enjoy going to the beach. Do we need sunscreen for our dark skin?


The American Academy of Dermatology recommends for dark-skinned people to use a broadspectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Be sure to look for ingredients that block harmful UV rays, such as zinc oxide.

“No one is immune to skin cancer,” says Marie Maurice, M.D. “Just because the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are light-skinned does not mean that melanoma cannot affect dark-skinned people, too.When melanoma does occur, it can be more deadly because it’s harder to detect and is usually in an advanced stage once it is detected.”

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that dark-skinned people use a broadspectrum sunscreen having an SPF of at least 15 and look for ingredients that block harmful ultraviolet rays, such as zinc oxide. “When you re-enter the pool or ocean, always reapply your sunscreen,” says Dr. Maurice.

“Sunscreens are important, but you should not totally rely on them,” adds Dr. Maurice. “While they protect against sunburn, they don’t necessarily prevent cancer. If you use sunscreens to spend more time in the sun, your skin could collect about the same amount of exposure to harmful UV rays. Try staying out of the midday sun and protect yourself with a wide-brim hat and a longsleeved shirt.”

“Besides sunscreen, dark-skinned individuals should perform self-exams and look for changes in moles and other skin irregularities and report changes to their primary care doctor or dermatologist,” adds Dr. Maurice. “Remember–we live in an area where there are plenty of harsh ultraviolet rays. Take every precaution to protect your natural tan against the ravages of the sun.”​​