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Why we need safe sunscreen options for children with darker skin tones

Black mother putting sunscreen on daughter at the beach
Ground Picture/Shutterstock

Over 19 years ago, when my son was born, I distinctly remember a day at the beach with a friend. As I lathered myself and my child with sunscreen, she looked at me with bewilderment and said, “Girl, We have melanin and don’t need that.” Although I recognized that most people in my community didn’t wear sunscreen, I chuckled and kept on applying it.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and there has thankfully been a growing awareness of the importance of sunscreen in protecting our skin from harmful UV rays. Despite this growing shift,  children with darker skin tones still encounter many challenges in finding a mineral based sunscreen that not only provides effective protection, but also blends with their skin tone. This underscores the critical need for diversity in the skincare market and the creation of safe mineral sunscreens tailored specifically for Black and brown children.

The lack of options for us and our children and the lack of awareness on why Black people also need safe sunscreen options is what led me on a mission to bring awareness to this topic and to create BabyDonna—a safe sunscreen option for my children and other children like them.

The challenge of sun protection for darker skin tones

One of the key misconceptions surrounding sun protection is that individuals with darker skin tones are less susceptible to sun damage. While it’s true that melanin provides some natural protection against UV rays, it’s not enough to completely shield the skin from harm. Studies have shown that people of color are still at risk of developing sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging due to sun exposure.


Despite knowing these risks, many Black people still do not use sunscreen due to the lack of options for darker skin tones. Or, if we do wear it, we opt for chemical sunscreens because the cast is less substantial. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve picked up a mineral sunscreen that stated “sheer,”  tried it on myself or my children and it was anything but sheer on our skin tones.

The importance of diversity in the skincare market

My daughter was born four years ago and later diagnosed with eczema. That was the catalyst that started my deep dive into the skincare market because I came face to face with the lack of representation for my children.

Creating safe mineral sunscreens specifically designed for children of darker skin tones was about so much more than addressing a market gap; it was about showing my children that they matter. By offering products that cater to the unique needs of Black children, we are empowering them to embrace their natural beauty.

Better health outcomes for Black people

Creating mineral sunscreens for Black children has broader implications for their overall health. Studies have shown that people of color are more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages, leading to poorer prognosis and higher mortality rates. By providing effective sun protection at an early age, we can work to improve health outcomes within the Black community. Embracing diversity in the skincare market helps address disparities in access to skincare products, dermatological care within the Black community and promotes equity in the skincare market.

Empowering black children to embrace their dark skin

Beyond the health benefits, safe sunscreen options for black children play a crucial role in fostering self-confidence and positive self-image. Even as more mineral sunscreen products are produced to lessen the white cast on skin, the standard is often related to white skin. Black and brown children are left with slim options that still do not meet the needs of their skin tones. In a society that often perpetuates Eurocentric beauty standards, it’s essential for Black children to see themselves represented in the products they use.

Having a truly inclusive option available for children of all skin tones is about so much more than just protecting their skin from the sun. It’s about saying: You matter, your health matters, your beautiful, brown skin matters and deserves to be protected without compromise. In a world, where they will grow up and have to battle many adversities, this is a small way to allow them to feel important and celebrated.