Sunburn and sun protection in black skin

Int J Dermatol. 2019 Sep;58(9):1053-1055. doi: 10.1111/ijd.14402. Epub 2019 Feb 1.


Background: People with black skin are much less susceptible to sunburn than white-skinned individuals, yet there are scarce data on self-reported incidence of sunburn and sun protection measures in people with deeply-pigmented skin.

Method: An on-line survey tool was used to collect self-assessed data about demographic variables, sunburn incidence, and use of sun protection modalities.

Results: Two-thirds of respondents with black skin living in the UK claimed never to have been sunburnt; a much higher proportion than those living in South Africa and Nigeria where 34 and 46%, respectively, reported never experiencing sunburn. Similar results were seen in the reported use of sun protection measures between the countries with two-thirds of black people living in the UK claiming they never used any form of sun protection compared with about one-third of Black Africans. Black people living in the UK were more likely to use sunscreen as a form of sun protection, whereas sunscreen was the least popular modality in the two African countries with shade being the most common form of limiting sun exposure.

Conclusion: The findings provide some insight into the complexities of skin color perception, incidence of sunburn, and sun protection use among people with deeply-pigmented skin living in three countries with large differences in the solar UV environment.

MeSH terms

  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Self Report / statistics & numerical data
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Sunburn / epidemiology*
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Sunscreening Agents