E !: We always hear about the importance of wearing sunscreen, but the dots don’t always connect for everyone. What are some of the most common misconceptions you’ve heard about using sunscreen?
KB: It’s shocking and frustrating that so many people don’t understand the importance of wearing sunscreen. Many people think they don’t need sunscreen and say “My skin is brown” or “I’m never in the sun.” I would say, “Did you drive? How did you get here? If you were driving, you were exposed to the sun from the windows.”
It is very difficult to hide from the sun. People don’t realize how hard it is to hide from the sun. You can never find out and that’s something melanated people need to know. These myths are perpetuated in society forever. Growing up, I was in Brownies, Girl Scouts, and Cadets, where I did a lot of camping and outdoor activities. All little white girls get sunscreen and no one puts it on me. My mom didn’t buy it either. We never had sunscreen at home.
E !: Apparently, your stance on sun protection has changed. Is there a specific impetus that has changed the way you think?
KB: Yeah, I started hyperpigmentation in my mouth, these little black moles and I just think they’re genetic because all the older people in my family have them. I went to the dermatologist when they started popping up in my early 40s, and I thought “I know I can get them, but they’re about to come.” The dermatologist laughed and said, “Honey, it’s not genetic. It’s sun damage.” I collapsed completely.
I was like “Wait, I’m Black,” and he meant so much to me. I went to Walgreens to get sunscreen. When I start using sunscreen in my regular routine, I try to apply sunscreen and it will leave a white cast or get in my eyes. It’s just chaos. I took a long time to discover mineral sunscreen. The mineral didn’t irritate me, but it was bad for my skin because I didn’t see any tinted options working for my skin. They left me purple or gray. While I was looking for sunscreens and I couldn’t find one, I decided to make my own after spending 20 years building with no experience in this area.
For years, brands didn’t think of us or make products for us. Now, everyone is riding the bandwagon. It’s great to see brown and Black women in sunscreen ads. So I started it, no one was ahead of me. I have to do it.