What to Know About Summer Skin Care for People of Color

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 08, 2022
4 min read

Summer is the time of year when many people get outside to enjoy warm-weather activities. The warm, sunny weather is perfect for swimming, hiking, picnicking, and socializing outdoors. The heat and humidity have an effect on your skin, though, as can excessive sun exposure. 

People with darker skin tones may be tempted to skip the sunscreen, even on the sunniest days. Experts agree that the sun can cause damage to people of every skin tone, though, so using sun protection is important for anyone spending time outside. 

You may also want to switch up your normal skincare routine in the heat. Extra sweat and oil might increase the risk of breakouts, and using harsh products on dryness-prone skin could lead to irritation. Gentle products and good sun protection will give you a healthy summer glow without risking skin damage. 

All skin is vulnerable to damage caused by sun exposure. Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, protects against some of the effects of the sun, but not all of them. People with all skin tones are at risk for photoaging and skin cancer. 

Some of the signs of sun damage include:

  • Wrinkling
  • Pigmentation changes such as age spots, freckles, or melasma
  • Decreased elasticity
  • Rough, uneven skin texture
  • Blotchiness

The amount of sun damage you have is correlated to how much time you spend in the sun without sun protection. Sun protection is consequently an important part of skin care for skin of color.

People with darker skin experience changes when they spend time in the sun. The UV rays trigger the skin to produce more melanin, which leads to temporary tanning, as well as freckles and patchy dark spots called melasma. People of all skin tones can get sunburned. Dark skin may not look red with a burn, but burns will still be painful, and repeated burns are very damaging to the skin. 

Some people find the appearance of sun-damaged skin to be unsightly. In addition, damage from the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer. 

The best way to prevent skin damage is to use sun protection. Shielding skin from harmful UV rays will slow the signs of photo damage and lower your risk of skin cancer. It will also lower the risk of painful sunburns.

Keeping skin covered is one way to protect it from sun damage. Wearing loose-fitting clothing in fabrics that breathe easily and don’t trap heat can keep you comfortable while also keeping the sun off your skin. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and staying in shaded areas are also helpful solutions for sun protection.

Use quality sunscreen on any exposed skin. Mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Tinted formulas, meanwhile, can reduce the chalky look of some mineral sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and prevent them from damaging the skin. Both types are effective when used properly.

Many experts recommend choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. You should apply it to all areas of exposed skin before you go outdoors. Reapply every two hours or after swimming/sweating.

Summer heat and humidity mean you should make some changes to your skincare routine. Combining heavy products with sweat and oil can leave skin greasy and prone to breakouts. Switch out your winter skin cream and body butter for a lighter-weight lotion in the summer.

Use mild body washes to clean off the residue from sweat, sunscreen, and outdoor activity. If your skin is prone to dryness, look for products for sensitive skin. Avoid heavy fragrances, especially if you know they cause you more dryness or irritation.

It might be tempting to use physical exfoliates to scrub away sweat and grime. If you have skin that dries easily or is sensitive, though, doing that could irritate it. Use a mild chemical exfoliant, such as an exfoliating cleanser with BHA in it. That will help clean away dullness without damaging the skin.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The most common types of skin cancer, in turn, are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are typically non-lethal. 

Millions of people are treated for these cancers each year, but the exact numbers are unclear because they aren’t reported to cancer registries. 

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 99,780 new cases of invasive and 97,920 cases of in situ melanoma diagnosed in 2022. 7,650 people are projected to die as a result.

People with darker skin have a lower overall incidence of melanoma compared to people with lighter skin. Some experts caution, though, that you should not be complacent about cancer awareness, no matter what your skin color is. Checking your skin for changes or suspicious spots can help you catch skin cancer in the early phases when it is most treatable.

Signs of possible skin cancer in darker-skinned people include:

  •  Dark spots, growths, or darker patches of skin that grow, bleed, or change shape
  • Sores or wounds that won’t heal or return after healing
  • Sores or wounds that heal very slowly.
  • Sores or wounds that appear on scars or on skin that was injured in the past
  • Persistent patches of rough and dry skin
  • A dark line underneath or around a fingernail or toenail

If you have any signs of skin cancer, call your doctor. They can examine the suspicious spot and conduct tests to see if it’s malignant. 

If you have questions about your skin cancer risk, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if you have spots that are problematic. If you want to know more about how to get skin care advice for darker skin, you can ask a dermatologist or aesthetician for advice.