Can Dark-skinned People Get Sun Burnt?

Can Dark-skinned People Get Sun Burnt?

Sunburn is a reaction that appears on your skin when it has been exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV). This comes from direct sunlight or other sources of ultra violet light, for example tanning by using a sun lamp. More and more exposure will increase the risk of other skin conditions such as cancer, dark spots or wrinkles.

Many get sunburnt all the time when they don’t protect themselves from UV rays. However, a question many have is “can dark skinned people also get sun burnt?” The answer is yes they can! There has been a misconception that dark skinned people cannot get sunburnt at all. Nevertheless, even though dark skin can get sun burnt it is less likely to happen because of the production of SPF up to 13 (natural skin protector). SPF is a rating calculated by comparing the time it would take for a lighter skinned person to get sun burnt to the time it takes when wearing sunscreen.

How the sun affects dark skin

Darker skin is protected from the sun because it has more melanin. Melanin is the pigmentation that gives the skin its color and protect it from sun damage. This makes people with dark skin less prone to getting sun burnt.
It could be more difficult to detect sun damage on dark skin due to melanin. For lighter skin tones, melanin isn’t fully protective and for this reason may burn.

Symptoms of sun burn

Typically a sun burn is red, warm and painful. This usually occurs within 8 hours of being exposed to direct sunlight. Sun burns can occur anywhere but most likely on the back, shoulders, nose and chest. Severe sun burns include blisters, tiredness and more pain. Below are some more symptoms of sun burn:

  • Painful skin
  • Hot
  • Sensitive
  • Irritated
  • Itchiness
  • Blisters
  • Change in skin tone
  • Swelling


In most cases of minor sunburns, your body will heal itself but it is important that you yourself while its healing. Below are ways in which you can treat sun burns.

  • Pain killers
  • Wear sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium
  • Wear clothes covering affected area
  • Stay in the shade when you can
  • Wear wide hat covering face and neck

Even though dark skin has a natural protector from the sun’s rays compared to lighter skin, people of all skin colors and type can still burn if they do not use sunscreen. Always remember to protect your skin from UV rays and know how to identify signs of sun burn. No skin type is completely immune to sun burn and skin cancer so everyone should take preventative measures.
If you’re really concerned about your skin, contact a healthcare provider.

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