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Curly Nikki

I’m Black, Do I Need to Wear a Suscreen?

By January 27th, 202124 Comments
by Sherell of Organic Beauty Vixen

…Yes, but beware of toxins!

I’m going to be completely honest with you. I just started actively wearing sunscreen a little over two years ago. I didn’t think it was a big deal to go out of the house without protection against the sun’s rays. Women in my family always said “black don’t crack”, so I assumed, like many of my brown-skinned OBV’s that I was naturally protected from the sun with the added benefit of always looking at least ten years younger than my actual age.

It wasn’t until I read this article on blacks and skin cancer that I got a rude awakening about the reality of how our “black don’t crack” adage is clearly causing us to danger ourselves with exposure to the sun. So now, because when we know better we do better, I do my best to lather up my sunscreen before greeting the day.

Before you go and run to grab that sunscreen understand that not all sunscreens are created equal. In fact, typical sunscreens are full of potential cancer-causing ingredients like Oxybenzone, which can cause leucocytosis, anemia, and can reduce organ weight and Para-Aminoabenzoic Acid (PABA), a known carcinogenic. The Environmental Working group did a study revealing that 84% of sunscreens are actually harmful to human health.

Protect yourself by using a physical sunscreen versus a chemical sunscreen. Check out the video review I did last summer talking about my favorite sunscreen.

For other options, check out this great list from the Environmental Working Group for finding the best and safest sunscreens.

If you aren’t sure about what’s in your sunscreen check to see how it rates on the Cosmetics Database. Keep your beautiful brown skin protected and your health as well.

Have you ditched your toxic sunscreen for a natural one?

Sherrell Dorsey is a natural beauty expert, writer, speaker and advocate of health, wellness and sustainability in communities of color. In addition to creating, writes beauty articles for Tyra Banks’s beauty and fashion site, Jones Magazine, and Posh Beauty. Follow SherrellSherrell on twitter at and connect with her on facebook at


  • Anonymous says:

    No we don't need sunscreen, esp. we of darker complexion. It's already built in.

  • Anonymous says:

    Has anyone found a tinted zinc/titanium based sunscreen? I switched to all natural sunscreens two years ago but haven't found one that doesn't leave a white residue. I'm lighter skinned but not "high yellow" and have sun sensitive melasma so sunscreen is a must for me. I mean really, why do sunscreens only come in white?

  • The Retro Natural says:

    As it gets warmer, I find myself reaching for sunscreen for my face instead of lotion and I use Bare Escentuals which also has sunscreen so I think I'm doing alright. I hear Alba and JASON offer the better options because they don't contain the oxybenzone. Here's a link for more info gals!

  • Anonymous says:

    I thought there was post about Vitamin D the other day, but I think there were some posts lost. I agree that the chemicals are horrible in our food, water, and skin care products. I think companies have to find a place to get rid of stuff and they just dump it in products and then say it is good for us. Well don't forget that Vitamin D plays a major role in all diseases, so don't completely slather your skin with sun block all the time. I live in California and spend at lot of time outside, the sun is good for your skin, but prolonged exposure can be dangerous. I use coconut oil on my skin everyday. I haven't found a "natural" sunscreen that I like due to my very dark skin and everything looks ashy. Good luck ladies and check out some research on the link between Vitamin D and many cancers, aches, pains etc. I always feel good when I get a little bit of sun daily. My coworker and I were was just diagnosed with an extremely low vitamin D count. She is trying to get pregnant and I just didn't feel that good and had my doc run some blood test. Both doctors said get 15 mins of sun a day or take the pill. She took the pill and I get the sun. It cleared up my acne as well.

  • BCopher says:

    I'm returning the 3 bottles I just bought last week since they have Oxybenzone. What is the point of the FDA if they don't protect us from anything? How are companies allowed to create and sell products that have known chemicals and carcinogens? Ridiculous!

  • Dorian @ Big Apple Style says:

    I use the Neutrogena cooling mist spray in 75 spf. I've had sensitive skin since I was a baby and I'm definitely not "fair skinned". I burn every time I go to the beach on the under exposed areas. Being darker skinned isn't a guarantee of sun protection. And year round I use an spf facial moisturizer – I go between the Almay 15spf and the Aveeno 35spf daily facial moisturizers.

  • Anonymous says:

    I use the aveeno sun screan for babies my skin is sensitive and some all natural ones bother me to. But We do need to wear sun screen found that out very earliy in life. I am light skin and knew I needed it but didnt wear it to a track meat and burned like crazy. And I know plenty of darkes skinned lovelys that have gotten burned also. The sun is harsh an in certain parts of the countries more intense than other every one can benifit from a little bit of protection.

  • AishaSaidIt says:

    I only think about it if I know I am going to be on a body of water under the sun. That seems to be the only time I burn.

  • Anonymous says:

    wow thanks for all the info. This world is so dangerous. Plastics that have BPA are no good, makeup have dangerous chemicals, sunscreens too. Thanks for letting us know I am sure you saved some people from diseases.

  • Anonymous says:

    I haven't actually gotten a sunscreen yet because I'm allergic to all of the benzos and the physical only sunscreens are hard to come by on the ground. Luckily for my skin, I'm a hermit most of the time.
    This is me refraining from going on a rant about all the lip balms, moisturizers, etc. that have benzos in them that I can't touch.

  • Anonymous says:

    What sunscreen can we use? I heard Aveeno Positively Raidant Daily Moisturizer spf 30 is good, but it does have oxybenzone 3% last ingredient on the list. Also its said the best protection sunscreen is with Zinc Oxide in the ingredients(is the true?) Every time I use sunscreen my sensitive face breaks out like CRAZY aagh.

  • modest-goddess says:

    I've been using a facial moisturizer with SPF for 15 years. I probably should invest in a lotion with SPF. I drink Soy Milk which has Vitamin D added.

  • Debbie says:

    Also, wearing a protective wide brim hat when the sun is out in full power and covering up when you can is very important….it's good to get some sun for vitamin d but toasting in it is no good.

  • Candace says:

    I have been wearing sunscreen since 2003! I just recently switched to a non chemical one, badger(on sale at Whole Foods, $8 down from $16) , but on my dark skin it can leave a "nice" silvery/purply hue. I have also been on a vitamin d supplement prescribed by my doctor to address vitamin d deficiency. Its super common among all women and sometimes (like in my case) the over the counter vitamins are enough. I totally agree with taking care of yourself inside and out.

  • Debbie says:

    I've been through so much trying to find sunscreen that worked because my skin is EXTREMELY sensitive to the sun due to years of over exfoliation. So…this will be long..and this is all what worked for me but it might helps someone else…

    No lie but I can literally feel my skin burning immediately a sun ray touches it if I take no precautions. It's bad. I've been through so many chemical and natural sunscreens and either they made me too greasy or ashy (or both) 95% of them provided absolutely no protection even if I layered them on thick. I eventually stumbled upon using a toner made of green tea + vegetable glycerin as a humectant for antioxidant protection underneath my bare escenctuals spf 15 foundation. Suddenly, I'm reading that derms are recommending people to wear an antioxidant under their sunscreen…sunscreens alone are NEVER enough.

    My skin personally hates vitamin C and loves green tea but I would recommend a good (natural) vitamin C serum for most people. Do research on this because you can also make DIY vit. c serum since they oxidize quickly. If you do purchase one, make sure it's at least 10% to 15% concentrated, in a very tinted/dark bottle to protect it from sunlight. I'd personally recommend Devita-C Accelerator, 15% Topical Vitamin C Solution but there are alot of good ones out there.

    I also found out that you have to protect yourself not just externally but internally also. Actually, protecting from the inside is more important from what I've experienced.

    Internally, I get a good daily serving of vegetables and fruits (particularly mangos and avocados) and oils. At first I tried flax seed and hemp seed oil both were good but still not enough then I stumbled on Coconut Oil! It just makes my skin even stronger against sun rays..I don't know how but it works. I just incorprate it into my diet. I also take green superfood drinks (bareleans greens). Best thing is that all that I do internally is amazing for my overall health. I just don't focus on taking care of my skin.

    OK SORRY FOR THE NOVEL but I've just been through alot with all this. I live in Texas where we have brutal summers and I was just terrified of premature aging that I could see happening in front of my eyes and eventually getting skin cancer so I just had to share so someone can know.

    TiAnna Mae, I've tried coconut oil externally and it was alright…I still felt my skin burning but a little less and I definitely noticed that I got a tan. I know it's really good AFTER you've been in the sun. There's really no oil out there to my knowledge that has adequate spf to protect the skin decently. I know it really, really helps my skin stay strong and oiled up(?) against the sun when I take it internally though. So maybe try it internally and externally? It's also an antifungal (great if you suffer form candida overgrowth, yeast, etc) improves the immune system, aids in lowering weight…it's just great all around…so try it! Do your own research too if you want to learn more about it.

  • shamigreen says:

    check out CN's old post:

  • shamigreen says:

    I've been wearing sunblock for years. I only put it on when I'm gonna be outside all day (@ the beach, a waterpark, family reunion, etc). The few times I failed to use it are the times I BURNED… NO BUENO!

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with anonymous @ 3:06. I definitely have to start taking a supplement. Most vitamin D is obtained through food sources. I can't take dairy products so I'll probably just adjust my diet. I went out in the sun without sunscreen in college a lot, but I was eating more properly back then.

  • Anonymous says:

    From the research I've done, I've found the problem of black people and skin cancer (or any cancer) may be more of an issue of vitamin D deficiency and not lack of sunscreen. A lot of studies are showing that vitamin D deficiency may be the real cause of many diseases, including cancer. Not only that, vitamin D has even been shown to fight off cancer. What does that have to do with the sun? Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to its rays. Our diets cannot make adequate amounts of this vitamin. And the melanin in our skin does block much of the suns rays. Studies show that black people, particularly those living furthest from the equator, are VERY deficient in this important nutrient. This deficiency may even explain why blacks get cancer (any) at higher rates than whites and with greater severity. We don't have enough vitamin D to help suppress the disease. I won't tell anyone not to use sunscreen, but it probably won't do you much good if you are not taking high dose vitamin D supplements. And of course, do your own research on this vitamin. I'm sure you'll be like me and amazed at what you find out.

  • LovelyB says:

    this post is RIGHT on time! I had just read an enlightening article in Allure Magazine about Sunscreen and how you should put sunscreen on everyday like lotion even if you're not going outside because you're still exposed to sunlight via windows etc.
    I was just beginning to search for sunscreens, a task that is overwhelming I assure you, and was about to give up and now this post. The list is VERY helpful. Thank you!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for posting. I think many African Americans think they don't need sunscreen. We should wear sunscreen anytime we're in the sun and please be aware that some prescription medications can make people more sensitive to the sun as well.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post.

  • TiAnna Mae says:

    I've been using sunscreen for a while now, but it's usually ONLY in the summer when I know I'm going to be outside for a while. I know we should probably be wearing it every day if it's over a certain temperature I'm sure. I just recently learned that the chemicals in sunscreen can be harmful. A friend recommended that I use coconut oil, because it is a natural sunscreen. Has anyone come across any research on coconut oil?

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  • ggrox says:

    Yes, I now use desert essence mineral anti aging pomegranate sunscreen with spf 30. Its very thick and one of the ones approved by the EWG but brown sisters be warned- you might have to mix it with something. Because its a mineral sunscreen its not meant to be absorbed by the skin- so it just sits there. As it's white, it makes me look ashy. I mix it with a little grapeseed oil( my moisturizer which also has a little bit of spf, its around 4). I was told it might decrease the sunscreens effectiveness though.

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