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FEATURES Jul 3 2014 8:25AM

American Woman: Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen!

Sun’s out, bikini is on, and your beach bag is packed. But did you remember to stow away your sunscreen? We grew up hearing the age-old saying, "Black don't crack," but boy did we have it all wrong.
There is a misconception that African-American skin is already protected from the sun due to our darker complexion. But that lack of understanding causes many of us to not defend our skin against the sun, which plays a key role in wrinkles, freckles, moles and in some extreme cases skin cancer in black and brown women. Our skin may not crack like our Caucasian counterparts but it does it fact need protection from the sun and its harmful effects.
The skin is comprised of three layers: epidermis, dermis and fat. The outermost layer, epidermis is where melanocytes, the place where melanin is produced exists. Melanin determines hair and skin color, however when your skin becomes darker, it absorbs UV radiation. Melanin provides only a basic level of skin protection against sun-ray emission. The melanin in the skin of most African Americans is on average equivalent to that of SPF 13.4.
Although the existence of more melanin offers some resistance from the sun, harmful emissions can still find a way to the skin and leave long-lasting effects. The ultraviolet, also known as UV, rays emitted from the sun causes severe damage to the skin, regardless of darkness in skin color. The most frequent forms of emissions from the sun are UVA rays, which causes damage to skin cells and encourages wrinkles, and UVB rays, which can cause direct damage to the DNA (cancer) and results in sunburn. 
SPF, a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVA emissions from damaging the skin, has traditionally been known as the best measure to protect the skin, but in recent years Broad Spectrum, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage has risen as the skin savior. Sunscreens infused with Broad Spectrum are the best for those planning on exposed to the sun and will protect skin from all harmful rays, UVA and UVB included.
Another thing to think about when trying to figure out is sunscreen really is important, is knowing that a healthy immune system protects skin from damage brought forth by the sun. African Americans, specifically known for their battles with conditions like diabetes, hypertension and high-blood pressure, are actually more susceptible to conditions that make skin more sensitive to the sun and more susceptible inevitably to skin cancer, than those who don't.
Here’s what to remember:

1. Women of darker skin tones don't need as high of a SPF as someone who has fairer skin. Use a sunscreen that is SPF 15 -SPF 30 and apply it anytime you will be out in the sun for an extended period of time.
2. After swimming or getting out of water, if you will still  be in the sun, you will need to always apply sunscreen.
3. Invest in a moisturizing product like those included in the RX FOR BROWN SKIN line that prevents damage to your skin.
4. Sun damage can also wreck havoc on your lips, causing them to burn. Many lip products now include SPF to protect your lips. For complete coverage, try MAC Lip Conditioner Stick SPF 15 that protects against UVA/UVB rays.
Know better, do better.


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