Black Girl's Guide to Protecting Your Hair and Skin from The Sun

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

I mean, sex is great and all, but have you ever been on the hot city streets of an island, listening to soca music, twirling around in blinged-out bikinis and colorful feathers? Even before the big parade comes, there are days of fetes (parties) to attend: on the beach, in parks, in stadiums, in remote fields, in the streets, or at a pool. And yes, this is all before you turn out on the road in all your glitter and plumes, twirling through streets lined with enthusiastic onlookers.

But all those hours spent in the sun sipping rum necessitates some serious UV protection. Yes, my skin tone may be on the darker end of the spectrum, but in 2018, I got my first-ever sunburn at carnival in Trinidad and Tobago after spending two full days outdoors without wearing sunscreen. It was not pleasant, to say the least. For this year's Trinidad and Tobago carnival, I was more prepared, but had a bit of peeling on my forehead after failing to apply sunscreen to my face — I didn't want to mess up my makeup. (Insert face-palm here.) I've known other melanin-rich folks who decided to play mas (be in the road parade) without the proper reinforcements and succumbed to the sometimes cruel effects of the sun when they were in it for too long.

Honestly, though, it doesn't matter whether I'm playing mas or not. Even if I'm going to a music festival, I have to have all the SPF protection I can fit into a fanny pack, purse, or beach bag. Since I have a little bit more melanin, I have to be extremely particular about the sun care I use, because a lot of options out there leave an ashy-white cast on my skin.

From all my time partying outdoors, I've come up with a foolproof routine and an arsenal of products that keep me from burning. And they served me well on my trip to Bermuda: After several hours of reveling in the street, I was left with a tan instead of a reddish burn. Here's what I brought with me:

Pre-Sun Face and Body Protection

After I finish my daily skin-care routine and before I even put on makeup, I apply Supergoop's Superscreen Daily Moisturizer. Since its launch, it's become my go-to, everyday sunscreen, and I haven't found anything I prefer. I dab a bit on various parts of my face, then rub it in. This stuff makes my skin look healthy and dewy. You wanna talk glow-from-within? That is what this moisturizer gives me. This is the my daily sunscreen, though I'm still a huge fan of Glossier's famous Invisible Shield, which is a great alternative.

The Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector WetForce SPF 50+ Sunscreen stick is the reason why I'll never have sunburned shoulders again. Like all of my sun-care faves, this goes on completely clear and leaves behind moisturized, protected skin. It's small enough to fit in a fanny pack and I use it on my face if I'm not wearing any makeup, as well as on my shoulders and arms.

While I do enjoy a bougie sunscreen, there are options at the drugstore that work fabulously, like Neutrogena's Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection. I've used this for years, and what I love most about it is that it (duh) doesn't make me ashy. Like, at all. A friend whose tone is deeper than mine recently mentioned that she used this on vacation to Turks and Caicos. She said she could literally feel it blocking the sun. (It's her favorite sunscreen too.)

Since I've made the mistake of not reapplying sunscreen over my makeup because I didn't want to mess it up, I decided that this time would be different. I carried a small bottle of the Supergoop Defense Refresh Setting Mist in my fanny pack while I was on the road in Bermuda and sprayed it on my face every few hours. No sunburn here. I love how light and fresh it smells, and the SPF 50 UV protection don't hurt either.

5. Black Girl Sunscreen

If you'd rather not have to carry two different sunscreens — one for your face and one for your body — get you one that does both. Black Girl Sunscreen can be applied from your forehead to your feet, leaves behind a glowy finish, and you don't have to even think about that white cast.

6. Unsun Sunscreen

If mineral sunscreen is more your thing, then Unsun, a Best of Beauty Winner, may be right up your alley. This tinted face sunscreen comes in two hues: light/ medium and medium/dark to work for a range of skin tones.

Kinky/Curly Hair Sun Protection

Two years ago, I discovered that if my hair is out in the sun for too long, it dries out — even in humid climates. Since then, if I know I'm going to be outside all day, I'm always sure to spray a little bit of sun protection on my hair.

I love the products in Davines's SU sun-care line. I've been using the brand's hair milk when my curls need a refresh or for a super quick wash-and-go. It's got sun-protective filters to keep those rays from frying my hair, and a light, pleasant smell to boot. The full-size bottle isn't too bad to stash in a beach bag, but if I'm going out for the day and I don't want to carry the whole thing, I'll toss the travel-size version in my purse. This became my BFF for my wash- and-gos (yes, I did more than one) in Bermuda.

I love how soft Philip Kingsley's Daily Damage Defence makes my hair feel. It was specifically formulated for Afro-textured hair, though the brand mentions that it also works great for straighter hair that is damaged. It comes out in a fine mist, and when my hair is extra thirsty, it saturates it with lightweight moisture that lasts for awhile.

If you want sun protection without having to worry about reapplying, Sachajuan's Hair in the Sun is probably right up your alley. The leave-in doubles as a styling product with light hold, which I think works best for straighter hair; my hair is very tightly curled so I use it to prep before adding a styler. It's also got a UV filter that lasts — even after you wash your hair, which means your strands will stay protected even if someone unexpectedly throws you into the pool at a party (rude). I used it before I left for Bermuda to create that base layer of protection once I got there.

Post-Sun Care for Skin and Hair

I will scream from the top of every mountain about how much I love this stuff. Lord Jones's High CBD Formula Body Lotion is soothing the instant you put it on. Plus, I love the smell — it's got that cannabis scent, but with a sophisticated edge. I'm waiting at the doe on Lord Jones to make a fragrance version. Now, this stuff ain't cheap, so I don't use it on my whole body — just my neck and shoulders.

Say hello to the lotion that's come with me on every beach trip, every picnic, and outdoor event so far: the Davines SU Aftersun. This lightweight moisturizer doesn't leave me ashy after an hour and it's got an immediate cooling sensation, which, if you burn, I imagine that feels amazing. I managed not to get burned while I was in Bermuda, but I still love this lotion to freshen up after spending hours outside.

More sun-care stories to check out:

  • Ouai Just Launched Its (Literally) Coolest Product Yet
  • The Best Aloe Skin-Care Products to Soothe Summer Skin
  • How to Tell If Your Bad Sunburn Is Actually Sun Poisoning

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