Myths about dark skin and sunscreen also certainly didn’t help. Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone tell me, “You don’t really need sunscreen, Brionna! You’re Black!” I’d be able to buy full-price Augustinus Bader for the rest of my life.
I’ve since wised up to the science of why sunscreen is a nonnegotiable. The fact is anyone, no matter their skin tone, can get sunburned. And repeated unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or skin cancer. While melanin does naturally protect against some of the sun’s harmful UV rays, it’s simply not enough to guarantee lifelong protection from sun damage.
I can now say I’ve tried countless sunscreens, but let’s just say I don’t leave it up to chance. Sunscreen recommendations come to me the same way a potential date does: prescreened and vetted by my nearest and dearest. So when one of my best friends, Gabby, slid into my DMs, singing the praises of Black Girl Sunscreen, I knew it could be trusted. See, Gabby likes nice things, and Gabby doesn’t do hype. So for a sunscreen to make its way to the top of her list immediately set off my “this must be good” radar. And, oh, is it.
My earliest memory of sun cream is in the fifth grade in the US, the summer I earned a much-coveted trip to NASA Space Camp. I’ll never forget standing under the sun in the deep South as my classmates passed around a bottle of SPF. I slathered myself in a generous helping and began to rub it in, expecting it to dissolve on my skin similar to lotion. But no. I was left with a Casper-level gray cast on my brown skin.
Thankfully, my classmates didn’t poke fun (this was Space Camp, after all, a haven for nerds), but I’d go around for the next eight years gently turning down sunscreen when out with friends.
Black Girl Sunscreen’s origin story reads like a chapter out of the Hot Girl Summer playbook: In 2016, founder Shontay Lundy was in Miami, attempting to enjoy a beach day, but streaky, residue-leaving sunscreen halted her in her tracks. In that moment Black Girl Sunscreen was born as a solution for Black women struggling to find sun protection without the baggage, and as a way to encourage women of color to spend more time exploring nature and the great outdoors.
Out of frustration with the lack of invisible sunscreens available, Lundy intentionally created a product free of the white-residue-creating ingredients (especially zinc oxide, the culprit behind that off-white residue). Since that fateful day, Black Girl Sunscreen has expanded to Target stores nationwide in the US and just secured a £800,000 investment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What makes Black Girl Sunscreen stand out is how unassuming it is. It’s downright innocuous. Whereas so many other sunscreens feel like a production – there’s a pot, or a can, or a spray – this cream is simple. To apply, you just squeeze a nickel-sized amount into your hands and rub the sunscreen on. It’s not ashy, greasy, or sticky. And, most important, it’s completely invisible.
Currently, the brand makes only one sunscreen for adults (there’s one other option for kids), but that’s all you need. Its water-resistant formula works for both your body and your face and has an SPF 30. It comes in a chic matte black tube with subtle gold lettering, lending it a luxe vibe that feels just as at home in my beauty bag as it does on my bathroom shelf (so it’s a good thing I picked up two from Target). The formula is free of reef-damaging chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, as well as free of parabens and fragrances.
It also absorbs quickly and is lightweight enough to be a base under your makeup. But honestly, I love the subtle dewy glow it gives your skin on its own. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be able to sweat without worrying that my sunscreen is leaving gray-purple streaks down my face. Most of all, though, I love that it’s a sunscreen made for me.