We tried sunscreen for kids with dark skin—does it work?
Black Girl Kids is a mineral-based sunscreen that protects and moisturizes.
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For the first year of my daughter’s life, I searched in vain for a baby sunscreen that wouldn’t make her look like a mime. I checked every drug store and beauty supply in Los Angeles for a product specifically made for African American babies. Nothing. There was plenty of baby sunscreen on the market, but it all had the same ingredients: titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—the two specific minerals that give sunscreen its white, chalky consistency. But my girl’s skin is a deep cocoa brown. No matter how hard I tried to massage these lotions and creams into her chubby little arm rolls, they looked like a row of chocolate cupcakes with white buttercream frosting.
I finally gave up my quest after she turned one, which is when I began to use the same product on her that I use on myself: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen 55. Whatever they put into the product to make it “ultra sheer” causes it come out of the tube a white lotion, blend into the skin quickly, and dry clear. My daughter and I never went anywhere without it.
When I heard about a new product called Black Girl Kids sunscreen, I was eager to check it out. This might be what I’ve been looking for all along. I slathered it on my four year-old daughter at the first opportunity. She was lying in our driveway at dusk, coloring with chalk. Her ashy legs were coated in dirt from playing in the yard for hours. On top of that was a thick coat of sidewalk chalk dust.
I squeezed a big blob in my hand. It came out of the tube an even brighter shade of white than my beloved Ultra Sheer. Uh oh. I started to smooth the sunblock onto her arms and legs. It wasn’t blending in and my hopes were fading fast.
My girl is a toddler now, and a tall one at that. Her arm rolls are long gone, but she still looked like she’d been frosted with buttercream. I kept rubbing the stuff in, unwilling to give up as she watched me blankly. After approximately three minutes, the product absorbed all the way, somehow taking the dirt and chalk with it and leaving her skin with a lovely sheen.
What's in Black Girl Kids sunscreen
The first three active ingredients in Black Girl Kids and Neutrogena are identical: Avobenzone, Homosalate, and Octosalate. But then Neutrogena has a few additional active ingredients, which Black Girl Kids doesn’t have. One of them is Oxybenzone, which is controversial, because it’s been found to be a hormone disruptor in rats. But JAMA Network found that the amounts of the chemical being absorbed by the body were too small to make a difference. The American Academy of Dermatology says that sunscreen is safe and everyone should use it, as do all the experts we interviewed about the safety of sunscreen use on kids.
Black Girl Kids is Broad Spectrum SPF 50. It accurately claims on the label to be white residue free. Beyond that, it has no parabens, fragrance, Oxybenzone, or Octinoxate. I was willing to use the Neutrogena on my daughter every day because I wasn’t willing to paint a white mask on her pretty face, and I couldn’t find any product I liked as much. Black Girl Kids sunscreen seems equally effective, but doesn't contain any questionable ingredients.
What makes Black Girl Kids sunscreen different
Black Girl Kids sets itself apart from its competitors in the inactive ingredients list, which includes shea butter, aloe, carrot seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and jojoba seed oil. These are the ingredients on the “emergency contacts” list of any black girl’s beauty squad. Black Girl Kids markets itself as a “moisturizing sunscreen” and what that means on a practical level is that it makes my daughter’s ashy legs glow as though Beyonce’s makeup artist just appeared in our driveway to get her ready for the Grammys. The sheen was still there hours later when she got ready for bed.
Every kid needs sunscreen, regardless of skin color
There’s a misconception among many members of the African American community that black people don’t need sunscreen because their skin is protected by melanin. But everyone needs to wear sunscreen, regardless of their pigment. The Skin Cancer Foundation says African Americans have a lower risk of skin cancer than Caucasians have, but they do get skin cancer. And when they do, it’s far more deadly because it’s detected at a later stage. In fact, the darker the skin tone, the greater a person’s chances of getting a specific kind of skin cancer on the palms of hands and the bottoms of feet. The American Academy of Dermatology says that all people of color should wear SPF 30 sunscreen every day—even when it’s cloudy—and reapply every 2 hours.
What I didn't like about Black Girl Kids sunscreen
My complaints about the product are minor: the expiration date is hard to read on the tube (a pet peeve of mine) and the opening of the tube is slightly too wide, so that I usually squirt too much product onto my palm. A little goes a long way.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Black Girl Kids retails for $9.99, which is a dollar more than the same size tube of Neutrogena. I’m willing to pay the extra dollar for the benefit of those moisturizing ingredients, and for the chance to support a (relatively) small business owned by a black woman.
Every black girl (and boy) deserves a sunscreen that blends clear and makes them look runway ready. Black Girl Kids is a welcome addition to the sunscreen market. This product works beautifully on dark complexions, and with no potentially eyebrow-raising chemicals, the choice seems clear—and white residue free.
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