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African-American girl in the sunshine

Black skin can be damaged by the sun

Black skin can be damaged by the sun

Black skin can be damaged by the sun

Full title

Aging in skin of color: Disruption to elastic fiber organization is detrimental to skin's biomechanical function.



Journal of Investigative Dermatology



Langton AK, Alessi S, Hann M, Chien AL, Kang S, Griffiths CEM, Watson REB.


Lifelong exposure to the sun causes damage to the skin of black people, despite its high pigmentation.

It has long been established that prolonged exposure to the sun causes premature skin ageing in white people. This new research shows that lifelong exposure to the sun also causes detrimental damage to skin structure and elasticity in black people. However, in black people, this damage arises much later in life – a delay of around 50 years compared to the skin of white people.

This study dispels the myth that black people are largely protected from sun damage because of their skin’s high content of pigment. It highlights the need for improved public health advice regarding the consequences of prolonged sun exposure and the importance of using sun protection for all skin types.

Key facts

  • Repeated exposure to the sun can prematurely age white skin.
  • Until now, little research into the effects of the sun has been carried out on black skin.
  • Black skin is damaged by repeated exposure to the sun.
  • Black skin takes about 50 years longer to be affected by the sun than white skin.
  • Sun protection should be used by all, regardless of pigmentation level.

Contributing authors







This study was funded by a programme grant from Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Christopher Griffiths and Rachel Watson are supported in part by the National Institute for Health Research Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.