The Urban Scientist

The Urban Scientist

A hip hop maven blogs on urban ecology, evolutionary biology & diversity in the sciences

Black may not crack, but it can sunburn


Dr. Rubidium at Thirty-Seven drops some serious science dispelling the myth that Black folk don't get sunburn.

In verse 3 of Clique, Kanye re-interates this myth.


Here's an excerpt of her enlightening post:

@DNLee5's arm (left) and my arm (right)

@DNLee5 and I are both black, but @DNLee5 has more melanin in her skin cells than I do and has darker skin. We both can get sunburns.

Sunburn results when the amount of exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment, melanin, to protect the skin.

[Sunburn from MedlinePlus of the National Institute of Health]

Because @DNLee5 has more melanin in her skin than I do, she may be able to tolerate a longer exposure to the sun longer than I can. While a kid, I once suffered a sunburn so severe it was classified as a second degree burn requiring medical treatment. @DNLee5, who recently returned from field research in Tanzania, has this to say:

Being darker means I may not burn as quickly as @DrRubidium, who has lighter skin, but my skin definitely does feel and react to the heat. If unprotected (via clothing or sun block), my skin tone will deepen with continued exposure. But more immediately it get warm, and hold heat. At times I have gotten heat rash. I'm still fighting off a heat rash from Africa. The problem with my darker skin and extended sun exposure is that I will not likely get the tell-tale signs of heat burn - the redness. Maybe that is why people think Black folks don't get sun burn, because we rarely see it, except in folks with fairer skin tones. But it does and can happen.

Unless Kayne West is taking the recommended precautions, he too can get a sunburn.

The persistent myth that black people don't get sunburns gave rise to the myth that black people don't get skin cancer.

Read the complete post at Thirty-Seven, hosted at Scientopia: Black People Don't...get sunburn (NOT).

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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