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Danielle James

Source: Pierre-Louis Ferre / Courtesy of Walgreens

In February of 2019, Pierre-Louis Ferrer, a Parisian photographer, revealed his latest project, titled RAW. He shot a series of UV portraits using ultraviolet photography. The photos illustrate and show the true undertones of our skin and what the longterm effects of sun and light will do on your skin. I had an opportunity to get my photo taken by the photographer through a Walgreens ‘Beneath The Surface’ Beauty & Skincare Event. It was a chance for me to see what products Walgreens was offering for summer and why I recently loaded up on sunscreen from my local store.

Danielle James

Source: Pierre-Louis Ferre / Courtesy of Walgreens

I was actually pretty impressed with my skin. I had the most sun damage on my forehead and inner part of my skin. On-goers marveled at how my skin didn’t have any sun spots and glowed in comparison to other images. Nevertheless, the dermatologist seemed very concerned about my skin and its condition. She was a white dermatologist and I only mention this because I do believe it’s important to see a specialist who understands and knows your skin tone. Through Dove, I had the opportunity to sit with Dr. Mona Gohara, who chatted with me all things sunscreen and skincare to protect our melanin in the summer. I showed her the illustration and she actually told me my skin was great. I then dropped the big bomb on her.

I don’t use sunscreen regularly. I don’t use sunscreen when I’m on vacations because I feel like my skin is deprived from the sun as I’m normally inside and I live in NYC. I’m a sun baby. I grew up in Florida where I regularly felt the rays dance across my skin. Dr. Mona explained that our melanin gives us a natural 13 SPF; however, we still need to do more. “The way Black and brown skin ages is with hyperpigmentation We have melanin, which is our greatest gift. Melanin protects us from the sun. Protecting us from the sun frankly, helps our skin not wrinkle as easy and maintain our elasticity.”

She continued, “If you look at an 80-year-old white woman compared to a 80-year-old Black woman, the white woman will have wrinkles and sun spots. Black people will have hyper pigmentation, that’s how we age.” Melanin is our protector, but it’s also the active ingredient that makes us hyper pigment. It wasn’t just me, she sympathized that the average person is not diligent in sunscreen. Dr. Mona shared, “Diligence means a shot glass over your entire body every two hours. That’s how you are supposed to apply sunscreen.”

However, it’s not only the sun that we need protecting from. Dr. Mona explained, “Sunscreen isn’t just protecting you from the sun, it’s protecting you from visible light, like light bulbs, and blue light, like your computer and phone.” While we may not be in the sun, how many hours a day do you spend on your phone or your computer? She added, “It’s now about protection from different types of light.” What’s so bad about looking on your phone all the time without protection? Dr. Mona stated, “Visible light can promote malasma and hyper pigmentation, so we are extrapolating other types of light that we’re coming in contact with like the phone and computer can be damaging as well, built we don’t know to what extent.”

Dove Beauty Bar

Source: Dove Beauty Bar / Courtesy of Dove

If skin health is a priority, then sunscreen should be a priority. Dr. Mona educated, “90% of the visible signs of aging come from unprotected exposure to ultra violet light.” Black and brown skin also ages with dryness. Dr. Mona excitedly shared, “That’s where the Dove Beauty Bar ($5.49, comes in!” She explained, “You should use any chance you get to infuse moisturizer into your skin.” The bar has 1/4 moisturizing cream. I’m in love with the lavender option pictured above and it definitely leaves your skin soft, smooth, and smelling good.

Ever since I met with Dr. Mona, I’ve been diligent about my sunscreen and using it daily. The added moisturizing protection from my beauty bar also helps for me to keep my skin supple.

What about you beauties? Do you use sunscreen? Will you consider using it more?


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After Years Of Not Wearing Sunscreen As A Black Woman, Here’s Why I Started  was originally published on