Black people: Don’t skip the suntan lotion, identify the skin damage risks

Are black people more at risk of eczema?

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Photo credit: Mohau Mannathoko/Unsplash

ummer is coming to a close on Monday. But for brown-skinned people who live in hot-weather climates, summer is all yearlong. With that perk comes the need to decrease sun damage on our skin. While I can only speak for myself, purposely sitting in one spot to “tan” is unnecessary. I could just hang out at a nearby beach for an hour or two reading a book — hat on — and come back a different shade. But I, along with entirely too many other people of color, have never used suntan lotion.

Is the sun our friend? Sometimes yes, sometimes no

We must do a better job of putting on suntan lotion. (Women are more likely to use sunscreen lotion than men. However, only 15 percent of black women used it on their faces and 10 percent used it on their bodies, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) While the risk of skin cancer is low, a reported average of 13 percent of black people get sunburn.

“Black don’t crack” is a common idiom. The sun can indeed be kind to us when it comes to much-needed Vitamin D. (Seventy-five percent of black people can’t count on dairy products due to lactose intolerance.) But the moisturizers we purchase should take into account sun damage. Let’s avoid that painful, itchy sensation that comes from sunburn.

Learning how to treat eczema for children and adults

We also have to make sure we’re in the loop on eczema. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which provides evaluations on the health and nutritional status of American adults and children, found that 19.3 percent of African-American children have atopic dermatitis (i.e. eczema), compared to 16.1 percent of white and 7.8 percent of Asian children.

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Photo credit: Create Her Stock

If you live in an “urban area” — a colorful way of saying “full of minorities” — you’re exposed to certain environmental allergens (i.e. dust, mold). According to the National Eczema Association, that can boost the risks of developing atopic dermatitis.

Black families who have asthma and/or hay fever may also be more likely to be at risk of eczema.

Another study confirmed that African-American children are 1.7 times more likely to develop eczema than white kids. The National Eczema Association describes the look of it as darker purple, ashen gray or purple. You may see small bumps on your torso, arms and legs that can too easily be dismissed as a heat rash. Dry skin and extreme temperatures are common trigger points for an eczema outbreak.

Recommended Read: “The battle with dry cuticles ~ Stop covering your hands, just fix your nails

Skin care tips to treat eczema

Fragrance-free, thick creams are one way to treat our skin before we are at risk. Shea butter is highly recommended.

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Photo credit: silviarita/Pixabay

Warm water baths for less than 10 minutes can help soothe our skin without that dry feeling afterward. And keeping a humidifier in your bedroom, or a quality fan, could help with dry air too.

And most importantly, talk to your family members. Eczema may be hereditary, and you don’t even know it. Black families who have asthma and/or hay fever may also be more likely to be at risk of eczema. Keep each other informed of how non-medical treatment has worked for you.

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Photo credit: Create Her Stock

And if need be, don’t be afraid to see a dermatologist who specializes in skin tones of African descent. While there is no official test or medication to cure eczema, a licensed professional can at least narrow down whether food or skin products are the source of outbreaks.

What skin care tips work best for you? Tell me in the comment section below.

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit to read about her.

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