• Nigerian sisters Chinelo Chidozie and Ndidi Obidoa have created a sunscreen for black skin. (Instagram/Bolden)Source: Instagram/Bolden
“I always ask myself, ‘Is this a product that will leave a white cast on me?’ and then I realise, whoever made the sunblock probably didn’t have me in mind. In 2017, that’s not okay.”
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

19 May 2017 - 3:28 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 3:32 PM

Nigerian sisters Chinelo Chidozie and Ndidi Obidoa were holidaying in Florida together when they made a discovery that changed the course of their lives.

"After just a day in the sun, we had gotten shades darker," Obidoa tells SBS.

"We could not find any sunscreen that did not leave a white or gray cast on our skin and also kept our skin well moisturised.

"It was unbelievable at the time that there was nothing we could use to protect ourselves from the sun without looking like ghosts."

Obidoa and Chidozie felt that major sunscreen brands failed to consider how they appear on dark skin, which deters many black people from using sunscreen.

“I always ask myself, ‘Is this a product that will leave a white cast on me?’ and then I realise, whoever made the sunblock probably didn’t have me in mind," Chidozie tells Okay Africa.

"As consumers, we’re so used to trying products to see if they’ll work. In 2017, that’s not okay.” 

That experience was the catalyst that eventually led them to creating their skin care line Bolden, featuring "beauty products that really work well for women of colour", in 2015.

The sisters, who grew up in West Africa, investigated why some sun creams leave a white residue on dark skin, and found that two chemicals found in most sunscreens - titanium dioxide and zinc oxide - reflect sunlight off skin - but it only looks clear on particular skin tones.

They have created an SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer - a facial sunscreen which protects against UV damage without leaving a white residue on the skin, which will be on the market by the end of June and available to be shipped to Australia. They hope to release a body sunscreen too in the future.

While skin cancer is more common in people with pale skin, it's a dangerous misconception that darker-skinned people aren't at risk.

Jamaican musician Bob Marley died of melanoma skin cancer when he was just 36.

Australia has one of the highest incidence of melanoma and other skin cancers in the world, according to the Cancer Council Australia.

In Indigenous Australians – a group with diverse but commonly darker skin tones – melanoma and other skin cancers are less common than in the non-Indigenous population, but still cause deaths annually.

 

“There's a general misconception that because we have more melanin, people with darker skin do not need sunscreen," Obidoa tells SBS. 

"While blacks have a lower occurrence of skin cancer, when we do get it, we tend to get the more aggressive type. Also, UV light is the worst culprit for damaging skin and causing wrinkles." 

While the sisters were inspired to make products that met their own skincare needs, they have found the response to their range to be "overwhelmingly positive and encouraging" and have their sights set on becoming a major force in the skincare industry.

"We want to be the go-to brand for solving specific skincare problems people with darker skin face," she says.

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