Getting Baked: Safe Tanning for Brown Girls


Summer may be over, but for those of us who travel, anytime we can get away, even for a weekend in Miami, is a good time to activate our beautiful melanin.

While safe tanning may sound a bit like a misnomer, hear me out. We all can agree that due to the deteriorating ozone and the, let's face it, the sheer magnitude of the sun-- tanning on a regular basis is not advisable. But if you're on vacation someplace warm, it's bound to happen. In fact, I can't say that I know anyone who plans to go on a holiday and NOT get tanned. So, you may as well be smart about by showing the sun the respect it deserves and slather yourself properly.

To this point, let's talk about some myths as it relates to tanning while brown.

Myth #1 Black and brown people do not need sunscreen. 

Just go ahead and throw that whole theory in the trash. I'll wait. Some of us mistakenly think that just because you've been blessed with the melanin that you don't need to use sunscreen at all. We protest that our color will protect us from the sun, so why bother. Ok-- but consider the fact that decades ago, we had much more protection from the sun's UV and UVB rays because of the natural shield that was the ozone layer. Due to our rampant use of aerosols and general air pollution, that divinely created layer of protection is not nearly what it used to be. So, while your grandma and them didn't have to worry as much about protecting their skin, you should be a little more concerned and diligent about it. And just because melanated skin is able to withstand the sun better than fairer skin doesn't imply invincibility. Automatically assuming that we don't need protection, too, is reckless and a complete farce.

The rate at which Black people are getting skin cancer has dramatically increased in recent years (go ahead and look it up). One could pontificate that this is because of the toxic products that we are all using, but we'll save that conversation for another day. But would you really want to roll the dice on this one?

Myth #2 Sunscreen will keep you from getting tanned or burned.

As much as I'd like to tell you that sunscreen is the antidote to all of your sun related woes, I can assure you that using sunscreen, no matter the brand, will NOT keep you from getting tanned or burned. Especially if you are exposed to it for a prolonged amount of time. Only staying indoors can prevent sunburn. Sunscreen is meant to protect your skin from damage while out in the sun. That's it. 

Myth #3 If you wear a hat or sit in the shade, etc., you don't need sunscreen.

While you can keep from getting tanned in the shade, yes-- but, did you know that UVA and UVB rays can dance and bounce off of surfaces and hit you right in your pretty little face? It's true. This is the reason why sunscreen usage is advised, even when it is cloudy outside. Even though you may not be able to see the sun and its rays, they still see you.

Myth #4 Your makeup has enough sunscreen, so you're set fo' life!

Loved one, I am so sorry to tell you that the sunscreen under that beautiful, beat face of yours is only going to withstand about 2 good hours of sun. Sunscreen is like deodorant, if it's sunny out, chances are you're gonna need to reapply it at some point. Plus, what about your beautiful goddess body? Just because you've got your face covered, does that mean you're gonna skip the other 95%? Does that even make sense? IJS.

Myth #5 Sunscreen makes me look ashy or ghostly.

Piggybacking on #4, in the past, formulations for sunscreen were limited. But the market has opened up vastly, and introduced a slew of melanin-friendly options that blend on your face and body superbly, regardless of whether you use it with heavy makeup, powder or simply on a fresh face. Don't let this be your excuse. We've got options. Let Jackie Aina break it down for ya.

Myth #6 Black Don't crack

Keep going out without your sunscreen and you'll soon find out that's just not the case. Let me just say that I'm old enough to see the obvious difference between how my skin is aging compared to many of my peers, men and women, of an array of skin hues. And other people who I know that religiously use sunscreen will testify to the same noticeable differences.  If you want to keep flexin' in your complexion, there are some precautions to consider.

I live in a tropical climate part-time, and like to do what I call a gradual tan. But even if you're only vacationing and working on your tan for a couple of days, you can adopt a similar method. 

First things first, get you a good tanning oil. I'm an advocate for coconut oil or something natural-based. Coconut oil has a natural SPF of 5... not nearly enough to be considered full coverage, but it's better than nothing, eh? Plus, many tanning oils on the market average an SPf of 5-8. So, you mine as well go natural, in my opinion.

However, if you're like me and tend to get splotchy, I'd suggest going with at least 30-80 SPF. Also, consider only "baking" yourself gradually in 10-15 minute intervals per day. Trust me, this is PLENTY of sun to get the desired results. Also, I've found that using a higher SPF will result in a more even browning. 

ALSO-- this is super important... be sure to apply extra (meaning a thick white layer that you will not rub all the way in) on the areas where you may be hyper-pigmented-- i.e., knees, elbows, scars, even tattoos. This will lessen the likelihood of darkening your parts that are already dark. 

So there you have it girls... that's what I know about safely tanning while melanated.

What are your tried and true tips for safely activating your melanin? Share in the comments or on IG.