Do black people tan?

It occurred to me that while people of many races get darker in sunlight, I never really thought about if someone was already really dark-skinned. Do black people get darker if they go out for a tan? Do they get sunburned as easily as fair-skinned people?


Yes, they get darker. No, they don’t burn as easily as lighter people. (That’s the curse of the pale-skinned.)

Tanning is basically the melanin in your skin getting bigger. If you have a lot of melanin, it gets bigger the more exposure to the sun you have, and you are protected from burning by that melanin covering even better. If you have little or no melanin, you burn or freckle.

Ah, yes, when I was young an unsophisticated I offered sunblock to a black sergeant, who laughed at me and said that it wouldn’t really do anything for him.

I wonder, though, does dark skin protect one from cancer-causing damage done by UV light? I should have asked about that during laser safety training, but it didn’t occur to me then…

That’s strange. I was under the impression that black people could, indeed, sunburn and needed to wear sunscreen every bit as much as light-skinned people.

But that was a sergeant! The sun wouldn’t dare burn a sergeant. It is not as if a sergeant would have human weaknesses.

Check out this silly Honda commercial (the one with the nudists in the crashed hot air balloon, so NSFW if your work doesn’t like shirtless middle aged men). The black nudist has a pretty obvious farmer’s tan.

The characters discuss this issue (among other, weightier ones) in Howard Sackler’s 1967 play (and probably the movie based on it, which I’ve never seen) The Great White Hope. They declare that black people do, indeed, tan.

Michael Jackson untanned, so maybe the opposite is true.

His oncologist may be having the last laugh. Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to die of melanoma.


Actually, the link says that dark pigmentation does give some protection from sun damage, just not complete protection:

It does, you’re absolutely right. I took Balthisar’s use of “protect” as an absolute term and answered accordingly.

Yes, as already stated. Black people do tan( or get darker.) I myself am lighter compared to the blacker side of my race. But…I do have a buddy soooo black, that he does not get darker, at least not visibly to the eyes.

In my younger years, I was absolutely oblivious to what a sunburn was. I spent all of my days as a child baking in the sun from Japan to California. It wasn’t until sometime around the age of 17-18 I experienced my first sunburn in Florida. I absolutely thought something was medically wrong with me. It was horrible I must admit. I constantly thought I had received some sort of chemical burn and finally went to the doctor…needless to say, I felt pretty stupid once told it was just a sunburn.

I think it would be fair to say that more black people die from melanoma due to the cancer being undetected, not because they are more susceptible. Google melanoma and look at the images, I wouldn’t notice most of the milder images if they appeared on my ex girlfriend, who is half black half white.

Melanoma is one of the most treatable cancers out there, because it can be discovered in early stages. The cancer is harder to detect on dark skinned people, so it is more deadly on those individuals.

I bring this up because without knowledge of that, it may be easily assumed that since more black people die from melanoma, that there must be more cases with dark skin than with light skin, but I’m sure that isn’t the case. Melanin helps protect against sunburn and skin damage, but as a cite already said, it isn’t enough for long term sunlight that gives people sunburns and increases risk of getting sun cancer.

I suspect the main reason why melanoma are more dangerous to black folk is they don’t wear sunscreen. My people don’t either (including me, and I live in Florida).

Yes they do, I’ve had African American friends and they tan. Some tan easier than others.

I don’t want to turn this into an argument but:

That story mentions both proposed risk factors, FTR.

Odd, I noticed on Tuesday’s Tonight Show that Queen Latifah had tan lines. She was wearing a one shouldered dress and the lines of what appeared to be a swim suit were visable on the opposite one.

Sorry, couldn’t find a link.

“not free of melanoma,” “get skin cancer rather seldom”

OK, can we get actual numbers on white vs black skin cancer figures? All is see is sunscreen scare-mongering.

In general, sunscreen has its place. BUT SO DOES VITAMIN D.

(Keep in mind black people, due to their skin, also have a much harder time photosynthesizing it. They should NOT wear sunscreen unless they’ll be exposed to strong sunlight excessively. Same for white people, to their own degree.)