Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry on Why Sun Protection is So Important for Women of Color

As Americans come out of a year of lockdowns and quarantine, many people are looking forward to outdoor celebrations, barbecues and summer beach days. But with increased time outdoors, there is also an increased need for sun protection.

And according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, people of all colors — including those with brown and Black skin — can get skin cancer (yes, even if you never sunburn).

Dr. Michelle Henry, who owns Skin & Aesthetic Surgery in New York City, spoke with “Good Morning America” correspondent Janai Norman on the need for all women of color to protect their skin every day. Henry is one of the dermatologists featured in Allure’s “The Melanin Edit,” a new platform created to explore every facet of a melanin-rich life.

Read some of Henry and Norman’s conversation below.

Janai Norman: So explain to me what exactly melanin is?

Dr. Michelle Henry: Melanin is a natural pigment. We see it in people and in animals, and it is a major contributor to the color of our hair, our skin and our eyes. So, it really has some really robust protective properties. It works kind of like a protective cap over the nuclei in our cells and it houses our DNA, so it protects us from UV damage. We know that UV is a known carcinogen and it causes skin cancer, and melanin literally protects [you] physically, it scatters that UV light and has sort of a shielding effect. It’s also a really robust antioxidant. And so that’s why in darker skin types you notice a lower incidence of skin cancer — 70% less likely to have skin cancer. And also, you notice less photo damage or less aging, because of that combination of your UV protection and protecting us from those free radicals by working as an antioxidant.

JN: That’s good news, but you still have to take care of it — because you said 70% less chance of getting skin cancer. That’s not zero?

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SOURCE: Good Morning America, Danielle Genet

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