Truth: Dark skin tones also need SPF – here’s why

By Johanna Ljunggren

Photo: Carolina Ahrenkiel

No matter your skin tone, you need to stay safe in the summer sun. Below is your guide to picking the right sunscreen for dark skin

The importance of sunscreen for dark skin

Although melanin may be magical, one of the most common misconceptions is that darker complexions don’t need sunscreen. As a person with coloured skin, I never really paid attention to the need for sun protection. All because of the poor messaging regarding the sun’s effect on dark skin. It was easy to underestimate the risks, and the lack of coloured representation in the media meant I didn’t understand the importance of SPF.


SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, measures how well a sunscreen will protect the skin from UVB rays, the radiation that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer. For dark skin, selecting an SPF that provides adequate protection is crucial. Overexposing the skin without protection can lead to burns and hyperpigmentation. According to Dija Ayodele, skincare expert and aesthetician, “melanin protects the skin with an average natural SPF of 13, this is not enough to rule out sun protection altogether, and a broad spectrum of SPF is recommended.”

Common myths about sunscreen and dark skin

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding the use of sunscreen for individuals with darker skin tones. One widely held belief is that those with darker skin do not need to use sunscreen. However, it is important to note that experts universally recommend sunscreen for all skin tones in order to provide protection from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Another common myth is that darker skin tones do not require higher SPF values. On the contrary, using sunscreen with a higher SPF provides enhanced protection against UV radiation, which is vital for maintaining skin health.

How dark skin relates to sun protection

Melanin protects the skin from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Dark skin tans with sunlight to produce more melanin until it darkens to augment protection. This, however, is no justification for skipping sun protection, as melanin alone is not enough to prevent sun damage.

The impact of UVA rays

UVA rays, which are a type of ultraviolet radiation, have the ability to deeply penetrate the dermis layer of the skin. This penetration can result in the breakdown of collagen, a critical component that provides skin with its firmness and elasticity. Over time, the reduction in collagen can lead to premature ageing, manifesting as fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

It's common to associate sunscreen with the summer months, but it's essential to recognise that UVA rays are present throughout the year, regardless of the weather. Unlike UVB rays, which are partially blocked by glass and clouds, UVA rays can penetrate through these barriers with harmful effects. In Nordics, the impact of UVA rays can be further intensified. Due to the proximity to the poles, the concentration of UVA rays is higher. Additionally, the reflection of sunlight off snow can further enhance the potential damage to the skin. That's why it is important to wear sunscreen year-round, no matter your skin colour.

The impact of UVB rays

UVB rays, on the other hand, have a shorter wavelength than UVA rays and are less penetrating. However, they are predominantly responsible for causing sunburns and can contribute to the development of skin cancers such as melanoma. Since sunburns can be more challenging to detect in individuals with darker skin tones, it's essential to recognise the potential harm that UVB rays can cause without you even realising it. Especially considering that the effects are irreversible once the skin is damaged by UVB radiation. Therefore, selecting the most effective protection against UVB rays is crucial to safeguard our skin from potential harm.

Best practices for applying sunscreen

To ensure maximum protection, follow these sun protection tips for applying sunscreen:

  1. Apply generously: Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. For most adults, this means about one ounce (a shot glass full) to cover the body.
  1. Reapply regularly: Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.
  1. Don't forget overlooked areas: Apply sunscreen to often-missed spots like the ears, back of the neck, and tops of the feet.

Benefits of using sunscreen daily

Using sunscreen daily can provide numerous benefits, especially for dark skin. Regular use helps prevent hyperpigmentation, a common issue where patches of skin become darker than the surrounding area. It also reduces the risk of skin cancer and helps maintain an even skin tone by preventing sunburn and other sun-induced damage.

Choosing the rights sunscreen for dark skin

When selecting a sunscreen, black and brown skin can use available sunscreen for dark skin. Just be aware that some ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can cause the dreaded white cast and leave the skin looking greyish.

With this in mind, Kajsa Regnér and Sigrid Osvald founded Gun Ana, a Stockholm-born brand that created products both useful and inclusive for everyone to wear. "As the awareness of skin health and the use of SPF increases, we felt the need to investigate whether there was a gap in the market for a new, modern, multipurpose SPF product,” mentions Osvald.

Together with cosmetic chemist Maria Lund, they created a multipurpose product with active ingredients using scents such as cucumber and mint for added freshness. One of their hero products is their mist, which has high UVA and UVB protection and added benefits such as vitamin E and antioxidants that help keep your skin protected and nourished.

Some final sun protection tips

Protecting dark skin from the sun's harmful rays is essential for maintaining healthy skin. By understanding the importance of SPF, debunking common myths, and following best practices for sun protection, you can keep your skin safe and radiant. Remember, incorporating sunscreen into your daily skincare routine is a simple yet powerful step towards long-term skin health.

At the end of the day, the best protection from the sun is to avoid exposing yourself during its most potent hours. Also, consider adding accessories that double as protection to your summer style, such as hats or parasols. What’s most important is to take care of your skin and make sure that even in the height of summer, sun protection is always top of mind.

The best sunscreen for dark skin

Black girl sunscreen spf 30 89ml


All around safe aqua sun gel


Hyalu-cica water-fit sun serum