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The Blacker the Berry… Should Black Girls Tan?

I don’t know about you, but we loved the way the sun made our skin look and feel this summer. How that ghastly dullness dissolve and out from the ashes emerges a beautiful bronzed butterfly.  So, now that fall is officially upon us, we are saddened about the return of our dull skin tone. We began to wonder, how can we keep our sparkle in the fall and winter, when the the sunlight hours are limited? How are celebrities able to keep their chocolatey glow year-round? Nothing that a little Google search cannot sort out. Much to our surprise, we found that similar to our fair skinned sisters, our chocolate sisters are turning to tanning to achieve that Emmy – worthy glow year round. With all of the known harmful side effects of tanning, is the glow really worth the risk?  Are there any health benefits to tanning for our darker skinned beauties? Should black girls tan?

Tanning beds use UV radiation to stimulate the “melanin” producing cells in the skin, thereby evening the skin tone and providing that sun kissed glow without having to spend hours baking in the sun.

Outside of the noteworthy cosmetic and superficial benefits of tanning, there are other side effects that may be of interest to our chocolate sisters. Vitamin D production is stimulated by the skin when UV-B rays from the sun make contact with the skin. Production by sunlight and ingestion of Vitamin D rich foods are our primary sources of this vitamin. However seasonal variations of sunlight, especially during the winter months, latitude, and melanin play a role in the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. Melanin, while protective against sun damage and therefore cancer, also does a really good job of blocking the sun’s UV-B rays and thereby making our darker sisters more at risk for Vitamin D Deficiency.

Tanning beds emitting UV-B radiation can function as sun rays to stimulate Vitamin D production in your skin, allowing you to get your healthy dose of Vitamin D even when the sunlight hours are limited. However, tanning is only effective if you are visiting a tanning salon that uses a good amount of UV-B radiation rather than UV-A radiation. And, only about 5-10 minutes of tanning is needed to achieve this goal. Any more than that is only increasing the risk of skin cancers and premature aging.

Despite getting a reputation for being a shorter wavelength, it is worth mentioning that UV-B rays play just as an essential role in skin cancer,  cataract development and photoaging as UV-A rays. So, should black girls tan? A 5-10 minute visit to a UV-B tanning bed may offer a mild boost in your Vitamin D and an incredible Emmy winning glow, it may not be worth the damaging side effects in the long run.

Dr. Gameli Dekayie-Amenu & Dr. Chantale Stephens-Archer are the co-founders of BestiesMD. As both best friends and physicians, they developed their company to provide medical information regarding women’s health issues on relatable & sisterly level.

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