Little heralds the arrival of summer like the smell of open water, smokey grills and sunscreen. Since the late s, as medical researchers linked sun exposure to skin cancer, Americans have been told to dutifully slather, spray and rub on sunscreen as part of a broader package of sun protection. But does it make sense for me, a dark-skinned black woman, to wear it? Medicine, they say, is about balancing risks, and it turns out that the benefits and risks of wearing sunscreen when you have dark skin can be murky. Many experts believe that there is no clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer among people with dark skin, and there is also a growing body of research to suggest that using certain types of sunscreen may actually be harmful, no matter who uses it. Black people experience sunburn that can be painful and cause peeling. When their skin is exposed to too much sunlight, black people can suffer from hyperpigmentation and visible signs of aging, just like people with other skin types. And, of course, black skin comes in a variety of shades, some of which are more sensitive to the sun than others. The way skin researchers often quantify different skin tones is by using a subjective measure called the Fitzpatrick scale, which breaks skin tones into six categories based on color and how easily it tans versus burns when exposed to sunlight. Under the Fitzpatrick scale, I, a person who has never had a painful sunburn in her life, rate a six.
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We already know black American women are paid considerably less than white men; that young black men are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white youths; and that black children are suspended from school at a much higher rate than white children. This is how racism works. To this day, colourism across the world remains taboo. The term is defined as the discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone. This means that darker skinned people of colour have to fight prejudice even within their own community, where lighter skin is seen as more desirable. In the US, it was born out of slavery, where lighter-skinned enslaved black women and their children — often the result of rape by slave masters — were given preferential treatment. This lingered through centuries and, to this day, lighter skin is associated with wealth and power, giving privileges to those who have it.
She is just one of many black women who told me that black men were judging their potential as a suitable romantic partner by the hue of their skin tone. Growing up I was very aware that if you had light eyes, long wavy hair, fair skin… basically anything the opposite of my thick full afro and brown skin, you were going to get far more male attention. Decades later, my journey has revealed not enough has changed. A quick search of the issues online produces many headlines, and there are high profile personalities who are accused of insulting and making fun of dark skin black women.
Fashion Nova has garnered a terrible reputation for its colorist social media behavior and other seemingly shoddy business practices. The brand has been called out countless times for failing to include dark-skinned people who promote their clothes on its Instagram page and for allegedly intentionally stealing designs from black-owned indie brands. Influencer Jackie Aina even revealed that she stopped collaborating with the brand after it refused to include more dark-skinned people on its Instagram page. This week, dark-skinned Instagram model Atim Ojera came forward with claims that the brand tokenized her after Aina brought light to its colorist Instagram practices, then promptly ended her contract when the bad press died down. Let's spread out all of these receipts. She later confirmed that she was indeed referring to the fast-fashion brand. You don't really know. Do I have a problem with them being represented in beauty or fashion? I don't.