But while the risk of skin cancer may be the most important reason to protect yourself against the sun, it’s often vanity that gets people to take action, says Downie. “Most people think, ‘It’ll never be me who gets cancer.’ But when you tell them, ‘It’ll be you who ages faster than your sister,’ then suddenly you get people’s attention.”
The popular quip “black doesn't crack,” may have some truth to it when it comes to wrinkling. But that higher melanin content also makes skin of color more susceptible to discoloration. “African Americans, Asians and Latinos age with patchy areas of pigmentation due to the sun’s rays, whereas signs of aging in Caucasians tend to emerge as fine lines and wrinkles,” explains Downie.
Pigmentation is tricky for dermatologists to treat. Lasers may induce an inflammatory darkening response while deep peels incite similar complications. “If you wear sunscreen every day, you will age slower – and that includes ethnic skin. It’s just a fact,” says Downie.
And then there’s the chalky texture issue with many sunscreen formulas leaving pasty streaks of purple, gray or silver on dark skin. “I hear that excuse from patients all the time,” says Downie, who is herself of African American descent. “There are many micronized varieties now that apply clearly,” she adds.
Whether it’s fear of melanoma or the almighty wrinkle that puts the scare of sunscreen into you, just remember: Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. We can all afford to be more aware and protected.
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