A Los Angelista PSA: Hey Clueless Folks, Black People DO Wear Sunblock

Greetings from your resident Dispeller of Myths About Black Folks. No. That's not me in the photo above. That's the Tanning Mom.

We've previously tackled the idea that black women are afraid of water and our hair is difficult. Now on to today's topic. Drumroll, please: 

Black people and Sunscreen

I'm very low maintenance when it comes to skin care but there's one product I can't live without: sun. I'm pretty paranoid about skin cancer. Also, in case you haven't heard, too much time in the sun causes WRINKLES.

I've used sunscreen religiouly since I spent the summer of '98 in Houston and got a pretty bad sunburn. I don't need scientists to tell me that the ozone layer is M.I.A. because although I slather on tons of sunscreen, I still have a year-round tan and have gotten freckles since moving here.

Anyway, bright and early Wednesday morning I headed to CVS to snag some over-the-counter allergy meds. I'd forgotten to take mine before I left the house and didn't want to spend my day rubbing my eyes. 

En route to the medicine section, I managed to cruise past the makeup section. Perhaps a cute shade of lipstick would be on sale--a girl can never have too many lipsticks, right? 

And so there I was, casing the Revlon display, when another customer--a white woman who looked to be in her 30s and was also checking out the Revlon--decided to pay me the compliment women around the globe swoon over. Don't believe me? Google "clear pores".

"You have such beautiful skin," she said. "What do you use on it?"

I was ALL smiles. Beautiful skin? Wow. My night sleeping in a chair in my living room with my laptop on my lap wasn't showing AT ALL! Score!

"That's so nice of you to say," I replied, before I divulged my not-so-secret beauty secret. "I'm just a fanatical sunblock user."

The woman blinked at me. Then blinked again. I could see confusion flitting across her face. "Oh," she said. "Black people wear sunscreen? I didn't know that."

Her tone was highly skeptical, like because she didn't know that black folks wear sunblock, it must not be true.  

"Yep, and we can get a sunburn and get skin cancer, too," I said, sticking the lipsticks back on the shelf. "Have a good one,"  I said with a smile.

Here's a little tidbit of FACT for you all:  Black folks "are more likely to die from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—than are whites." No, not all black people use sunblock, just as all white people don't lay out trying to get a tan. However, those of us who don't regularly use sunblock--whatever our racial/ethnic background--need to get on it because the melanin we have only takes us so far. 

That said, what in the #*(^@#^ kind of response is that? How foolish would I look if I said, "You don't like to lay out? I thought all white people like to lay out and bake in the sun?"

Here's a piece of advice: Do not let the phrase "I didn't know [insert race/ethnicity of choice] do/think/eat/say/believe ANYTHING.

Now excuse me while I go slather some more sunblock on myself. I have cancer and wrinkles to prevent.


I was so amused reading your blog today because just yesterday I had a similar conversation with my workmates, "Do you burn? Do you get darker or lighter? You use sunscreen?!"...one of them is Sudanese and despite growing up in Australia she has NEVER used sunscreen and was under some illusion that skin cancer only happens to white people! I had to let her know that being so dark would make it even harder for any skin cancer to be detected because any moles would be harder to see, plus I got her to google a few facts...hopefully I have convinced her to start the slip, slop slap and carry a hat routine.
Lola Gets said…
You should also mention your diet, as Im sure it plays a role in keeping your youthful looks.

I also use sunscreen everyday and its gotten so bad I have to layer sunscreen products or else Ill get burned. Many members of my family are considerably darker than I, and I make sure they put on sunscreen whenever we're out in the sun. They try to get out of it, citing their skin color, but as you said, melanin doesnt fully protect one from skin damage and cancer.

But yeah, white folks, black folks suffer from the same skin afflictions as yall, we just look better whilst going through it, lol.
Phyllis said…
Thought I'd share a humorous sunscreen anecdote. I'm white and use SPF 30 daily (well, everywhere except on the Oregon coast). A few years ago I was driving in Phoenix with a friend who's black. It was 110 degrees and I thought I'd sunscreened every exposed place on my body, but when I stepped out of the car and felt the rays scorching the tops of my feet between my sandal straps, I realized I missed some spots. "Darn!" I said, "I forgot to put sunscreen on my feet." My friend looked at me in astonishment. "White people have to put sunscreen on their FEET??!!" When I said "Yes, at least in Arizona" she responded - just barely loud enough for me to hear, what with all her laughter - "So much for white privilege!"
nick said…
How mindless can people be? I mean, why wouldn't black people wear sunscreen? And why would being black protect you against the sun? Totally irrational assumptions based on some stupid anecdote they've heard somewhere....

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