Summertime Fine: Black People, Melanin & Sunburn

“Sunshine is nature’s hug and spirit breath to the earth”

A question came to my mind a couple of weeks ago, “Are Black people supposed to get sunburn and do we need sunscreen?” My first thought is No! Black don’t crack and black don’t burn. So, I text my boyfriend who is Nigerian and asked if sunburn is prevalent in Nigeria and his response was, “WTF is sunburn”, lol. He was not familiar with the phenomenon. But here in America black people do get sunburn. The question now becomes why do black people experience sunburn? In this article I will discuss what melanin is and the role it plays, why we need ample amounts of sunlight and why we should not experience sunburn and do not need sunscreen.

What is Melanin?

Dr. Llaila Afrika who wrote an amazing book about melanin explains that melanin, “is the natural chemical that makes Black people’s skin Black. It is present in Black people’s bodies, skin, cells, nerves, brain, muscles, bones, reproductive and digestive systems and all bodily functions in a higher amount than all other races…melanin is the biochemical substance that drives physical, mental, emotional and spiritual life”. The pineal gland located in the middle of the brain secretes melanin. Besides water, melanin is the most important aspect of our health and wellbeing; physically, mentally and emotionally.

The Importance of Sunlight

Black people use sunlight to manufacture melanin. Our ability to secrete melanin is dependent on our exposure to the sun. We need the sun and we need lots of it. Most doctors recommend 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight 3 days a week. Black people need much more than that. It is important to understand that “most doctors” within the U.S healthcare system are formulating their recommendations and health standards for individuals with the least amount of melanin. The less melanin you have, the more you are at risk of being harmed by the UV rays of the sun and getting sunburned. Melanin has a built-in mechanism to protect us from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Ideally, we should have enough melanin to protect us from getting sunburned. In addition to needing sunlight to manufacture melanin, it boosts our mood, contributes to the production of Vitamin D, gives us more energy and helps to boost the immune system. Being deprived of sunlight in childhood can cause physical and emotional problems.

Why do Black people sunburn?

If we have the most amount of melanin and we need the sun to manufacture melanin, and melanin protects us from the harmful UV rays of the sun, then why are we getting sunburned? Simply put, we are not properly nourishing our melanin. As Dr. Afrika explains, “Black people are a race nourishing themselves as if they are Caucasians. Since the Caucasians have the least amount of melanin then black people that eat as if they are Caucasians are giving themselves the least amount of nourishment to their melanin”. We are melanin deficient, our melanin is insufficient and that is why we sunburn and experience a myriad of other issues. As children of the African Diaspora we are consuming the Standard American diet (SAD) instead of the traditional African diet of our ancestors.

Do Black people need sunscreen?

The sunscreen that is sold in stores can be more harmful than the UV rays it is supposed to protect you from. Sunscreen contains artificial and toxic ingredients that the Environmental Working Group has found to cause hormone disruption in children and adults. If you feel you need or want sunscreen, use a natural skin protectant like 100% African shea butter, coconut oil or sunflower oil.

How to Nourish Melanin

Properly nourishing melanin will decrease your chances of getting sunburn. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces), eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and avoiding processed and sugary food, drinks and animal products will greatly help. A melatonin supplement is also an option to assist with melanin secretion.

Black can crack and black can burn, but it doesn’t have to. Melanin is the key to life and as Dr. Afrika says, “Black people need to know the basics about melanin and how to nourish melanin so they can get some positive use from it”. So get out, soak up the sun, drink your water, eat a plant based diet, avoid processed food, sugary drinks, and meat and you won’t crack or burn.

Kathleen Richardson, known as the Nutritional Truth Teller is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant specializing in African Holistic Health and Wellness.