Until recently, sunscreens haven't been entirely inclusive. Most sunscreens and SPF-friendly moisturizers have been created for consumers with light skin tones, completely ignoring the needs of people with more melanin-rich skin. (Even though everyone, no matter the color of their skin, should be wearing sunscreen every single day to prevent skin cancer and sun damage.) The formulations that did exist were often white and chalky, leaving behind a sticky, visible residue on Black and brown skin, rather than blending in seamlessly or moisturizing.
On the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast, Adeline Kikam, DO, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Texas, gets real about the gaps in diverse skin care, SPF education, and why choosing the right sunscreen for Black and brown skin is so important. Dr. Kikam, who regularly shares "skinclusive" advice and reviews on her viral IG account, Brown Skin Derm, explains that she—like many other Black and brown people—wasn't taught how sun exposure could harm darker complexions.
"I didn't grow up with any concept of using sunscreen or an understanding what having more melanin in my skin meant. If anything, I was told to get out of the sun because of cultural issues that had to do with colorism—because [being] light-skinned is perceived as being beautiful—but not necessarily for the health implications," Dr. Kikam says. "The misconceptions that we have about Black skin is that melanin is all- protective, we don't need sunscreen, and we don't sunburn. All those tie into the misinformation and the lack of awareness that is pervasive in the community."
Listen to the full episode here: Why We All Need Sunscreen
That being said, the skin-care industry has made some strides in inclusivity and education. With insights from Shontay Lundry, founder of Black Girl Sunscreen, and Holly Thaggard, founder of Supergoop, Dr. Kikam shares her favorite sunscreen brands that are great for darker skin tones, as well as general best practices for picking the right SPF.
Her first piece of advice? Be picky about mineral sunscreens. "There's a struggle with finding mineral sunscreens that are appealing on skin of color," says Dr. Kikam, as many leave chalky white casts on darker skin tones. That's a huge barrier to getting more people to wear sunscreen, she says, because who wants to look like they're slathered in talcum powder? "But mineral sunscreens have some great benefits that we love as dermatologists. They're less likely to be irritating to skin and, in our community, we have some sensitive conditions like lupus that are more prevalent in skin of color," she says.
"There's no one perfect sunscreen," Dr. Kikam says, but there are a few that come pretty close—especially when it comes to how they look on darker skin. One of her top picks: EleVen's Unrivaled Sun Serum ($50). The product, which is from Venus Williams's skin-care brand, is formulated with 25 percent zinc oxide, so you'll get the benefits of a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen minus the sticky, white residue. "It's very lightweight and very moisturizing to me," Dr. Kikam says in the podcast.
As for her other picks? Well, you'll have to listen to the full podcast to find out.
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