Lately, sunscreen has been a big topic in the beauty community.
Because it's not just for the beach.
Ha. See what I did there?
If you're anything like me, you're excited for warm weather and all that comes with it. Despite the nationwide heatwave that seems to have everyone excessively sweating, it’s officially summer.
If you're anything like me, you're excited for this warm weather and all that comes with it. As a collective, we’ve finally made it; it's officially hot girl summer—we’ve been given a new lease on life as the world slowly begins to make its way back open and we can start to create our post-panoramic new normal.
But despite the prospects of beach days and sunny outings with friends growing more and more clear and necessary with each passing day, it's important for us to take care of our skin now. It's important to make necessary changes for healthy skin now.
I know my skincare has been my favorite indoor project. I’ve been testing and trying the things that work and tossing what doesn’t, because as a certified skincare junkie I can go from “product tester” to “product junkie” to “hoarder” real quick. And, as I've mentioned before, hyperpigmentation has been my target area, so finding out the perfect mixture of products to even out my tone has been on my to-do list for quite some time.
Cue, the sunscreen.
Do you put on sunscreen? And I mean regularly. Are you applying at the beginning of your day and re-applying every two hours? Because you're supposed to—did you know that? It's also a Godsend when it comes to fighting hyperpigmentation. Did you know that, too? And for all of my Black and Brown girls out there, had anyone ever told you this before, or is this a new step you’re now learning to incorporate into your skincare routine?
This was new news to me. And for a while, no lies told, I didn't believe it. I, too, believed that melanin and sunlight were best friends. And, don't get me wrong, they are, but our ozone layer isn't exactly what it used to be and there are so many pollutants and chemicals swirling in our air that the application of sunscreen is less about protecting ourselves from the sun, and more about protecting our skin from the harmful chemicals and harsh UV rays that result as a byproduct of pollutants and other current environmental factors.
I had a wonderful conversation recently with Lateria Young, one of the co-owners of AubriJaiel, a Black-owned beauty brand run by a mother-daughter duo based in Dallas, Texas. When I reached out to LaTeria about sun protectant, she expressed its importance—especially when combatting hyperpigmentation.
Something I also did not know.
And, again, if you've been following me for a minute, you'll know that's been one of my major points of concern, lately; fighting the dark spots and scars left from years of picking at my face. Older scars take longer to fade, so sunscreen is an important additional step when making sure that you’re helping those scars heal.
(Vitamin C and sunscreen are also a great combo for not only hyperpigmentation but brightening overall).
It's a new day for sunscreen.
Sunscreen has come a long way. Period.
There are a ton of buzzwords floating around the beautysphere right now. I’m sure you’ve heard of “niacinamide,” or “hyaluronic acid,” or “retinol,” and I bring them up simply to let you know that if you’re using any of these products, you should know that they make the usage of sunscreen even more important; especially if you have sensitive skin.
Many of these chemicals impact the sensitivity of the skin. Retinol, for example, increases cell turnover; so if you’re applying a retinol serum at night, all of those new skin cells the next morning can be much more sensitive and more prone to sunburn. I’m sure if you’ve ever received any prescribed topical treatment, you’ve been warned by the fine print to avoid exposure to sunlight for similar reasons.
That’s why, for those who struggle with dark marks and scarring, it's definitely important to add a sun protectant to your regimen because sunburn causes literally more of the problem you’re trying to correct—something I had no idea of back when I thought sunscreen was just for the beach.
So, the need for sunscreen has always been there. But, as a brown-skinned girl, I’ve always had a slight aversion to it because, well, that little Coppertone girl just doesn’t look like me, and that sunscreen didn’t blend into my skin the same way it did hers, and smelling like a pool day was just not something I wanted to experience 24/7.
Luckily though, it’s 2021, and so much of those problems have been addressed and solved thanks to black and brown brands who have begun formulating new products that are not only clean, but also melanin-friendly.
So, when I spoke with LaTeria, she offered a few of her favorite sunscreen suggestions along with these helpful tips:
1. You can wear sunscreen inside.
In fact, you should.
Since the work-from-home lifestyle has become our new normal, we’re not only spending a lot more time indoors, but we’re spending a lot more time in front of screens. So, logically, it seems as though there’s no real reason to need sunscreen at all, but when you really start to think about it, enough light gets inside for your plants to grow; for your pets to sunbathe. The same goes for us. Regardless of us being indoors, if you live inside of a house with windows, light is constantly flooding inside. Not to mention, since we’re working from home, there’s a lot more interaction with UV rays from our laptop, tablet, phone, and television screens. That short-wavelength, high-energy blue light scatters more easily than other visible light, which is what our computer screens and digital devices emit a lot of. That blue light—which is like an unfocused visual “noise”—actually reduces contrast and can contribute to eye strain when our eyes receive constant digital stimulation.
According to dermatology practice Ascension Seton, the thing to note is that your laptops and tablets and cell phones and televisions and various other screens are not necessarily emitting harmful UV radiation, but with working from home, a lot of us are taking our laptops outside; we’re sitting beside windows for the best lighting; we’re coming into contact with the sun and use of all these devices in sunlight could put your skin at a greater risk of skin damage. Those screens act like little digital mirrors, so while we’re sitting with our phones, scrolling on lunch breaks in our yards, we’re actually reflecting UV lights from the sun back onto our skin.
2. Check, double-check, and triple-check your ingredients
Look, I know this is another message I tend to preach, but hear me out, especially for all of my readers with acne-prone skin.
Check those ingredients, people.
For everything. A few months ago, I read an article on Byrdie about how to choose the best sunscreens. At the time, I had been deep in my research; on my own quest to working the best sun protectant into my routine. See, another of my hesitations was the fact that the sunscreens I grew up with were all very heavy. When I was little, the same sunscreen for your body went on your face, and something about that just doesn’t feel quite right, now. The skin on your face is much thinner and much more sensitive, so that Coppertone just isn’t cutting it anymore. If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, sunscreen can see synonymous with “breakouts,” because it’s like you’re layering oil onto your face.
However, thanks to Byrdie, I learned that like with everything, your body reacts immediately to irritants, and, just like how we have to find the skincare products that work the best for our skin types, the same goes for sunscreen. The article suggests that in order to help minimize your risk of irritation, it’s best to find a formula that’s not only lightweight and non-comedogenic but oil-free. Try to find sunscreens with a thinner, gel-like, or of a liquid consistency, rather than a heavier cream. And, if you’re naturally oily, products with a matte finish will also help you avoid that extra shine. SPF 50 is also highly recommended for those in need of extra protection, because the sun can be the cause of that irritation for people, too.
3. Even with makeup, you should still put on sunscreen
Yep, you read that right.
No, that makeup does not serve as a layer of sun protectant, so SPF should still be a part of your makeup routine. That’s why it’s so important to follow the second tip because if you have naturally sensitive or oily skin, all of those products could cause breakouts. So, read your labels!
I’ll say it again: you definitely want to choose a sunscreen that is non-comedogenic, meaning that it does not clog pores. So, back to my ingredients—it’s important to avoid sunscreens with heavy oils (like coconut oil) or fragrance. Many of the chemicals that make our products smell the best can be the most irritating.
And it's ok to not know what all of those scientific terms on your product label really mean. It's a daunting task; it can feel like it, anyway. So, a wonderful resource when it comes to deciphering those ingredients is the ingredient glossary at True Natural.
Also, there's Google.
And your phone.
So, find a clean moisturizer or a primer with an SPF!
To make the process even easier for you, here are three picks LaTeria gave me when we spoke. I asked for recommendations and she gave me this small list; a wonderful place for anyone to start.
“These are clean and they don’t leave that white cast on your face,” she said, which is even more important if you’re priming makeup.
And for her final pick, she raved, “This baby is amazing!!! It’s a spray sunscreen!!! Which is good if you’re a person who wears makeup because you can spray it over your makeup.”
Black Girl Sunscreen is totally Black-owned, and it's what I'm using right now. Seriously. Right now. As I type.
Supergoop! though, if you're going to try, has been a pioneer in the clean beauty space. If I had to test another brand, I would absolutely turn to this one next, especially because spraying sunscreen over makeup is something I'm going to have to try.
Finally, Melē has entered the conversation lately. As Unilever's "melanin-focused" brainchild, the skincare brand has grown lately, but I have yet to test. Will you?
I want to hear your thoughts. It’s a new day for sunscreen. Literally. The product has seen a necessary revival considering how important it really is to our skincare routines, and it's important to take necessary precautions when caring completely for our skin. I know we've all been eagerly awaiting the return of "outside." What sunscreen are you bringing?