Asian skin is less prone to getting sunburn

Last week, a reader by the name of Meredith L had left a comment in my entry that reviewed the Marie Veronique Organics Kid Safe Screen, telling me how their family were sightly sunburnt after using the product for an afternoon. According to her, it wasn’t a bad burn but she wasn’t too pleased because it was noticeable. I had replied that the sunscreen had worked for my boy when he goes swimming in the afternoons and I wondered if the difference in reactions could be due to the fact that we’re Asians and therefore our skin behave differently to sun exposure. Since then, I’ve made further verifications to confirm that and here are the facts.

Most Asian skin do not burn as easily
Asian skin contains more melanin especially compared to light Caucasian skin. This means that Asian skin has a built-in SPF that helps prevent burning of the skin by the sun. While this built-in SPF helps prevent sun damage, premature skin aging and skin cancer, it also means that our skin can tan more easily and possibly get discolored when irritated by harsh cosmetics or aggressive dermatological procedures. (source). This was also confirmed in Textbook of Aging Skin by Miranda A Farage, which stated that Asian skin differs from Caucasian skin in both structure and physiology. As a result of these distinctions, Asian skin with their darker pigmentation respond differently when exposed to ultraviolet light, lasers and other light devices.

Why this fact matters at Viva Woman
Most of you are aware that I use the Moisturizing Face Screen Plus from Marie Veronique Organics. The product isn’t formulated for Asian skin but it has worked very well for me. However, if you’re a non-Asian reading my reviews on sunscreens, then it is important that you be aware that I have Asian skin type that varies from yours. Hence, the results after using a sunscreen will likely vary. This also means that you need to be careful in choosing sunscreen products that are specifically developed for Asian skin types.

Sun care for Asian skin is still important
For the Asians, don’t go sunbathing yet just because you’ve just learnt that your skin has built-in SPF. Precisely because our skin is less susceptible to getting sunburn, we may not realize the long term danger from being exposed to UVA rays. Additionally, the fact still remains that sun-damaged Asian skin can discolor and age to a heightened degree due to its higher pigmentary content and increased loss of subcutaneous fat. I also understand that some Asian skin type can still get sunburned or suffer allergies from sun exposure. So it’s still very important that you provide your skin with adequate sun protection.


  1. pf1123 says:

    I think it also depends on where Meredith L is located. As a widely travelled person, I observed that in Sg, the sun is not as strong as in other countries during their Summer time.

    In Sg, we have large shady trees, tall buildings, and often cloudy days. In western countries, the land is vast with beautiful clear blue skies.

    In Sg, I can do without my sunglasses but not overseas (out of Asia especially). The sun is too bright and scorching for me.

  2. Raelynn says:

    my skin doesnt tan much but burns very easily. yet i’m sure that i have quite a bit of melanin production going on because scars (brown spots from scratching at mosquito bites T.T i cant help it. they attack when i’m sleeping and i scratch unconsciously) can take quite a long time to fade.

  3. Ms. Blacklace says:

    It also depends on the amount of sunblock Meredith L applied.

    Was it used sparingly or did she slather the stuff on and spent almost 15min massaging it into the skin?

    Also, we have to consider that the kids safe sunscreen is only SPF25.

  4. yay says:

    it’s true but i tend to get dark spots from the sun even though i use sunscreen…. my mom never use sunscreen no matter what i tell her…. i now buy her moisturizer with SPF…. solve the problem….

  5. nattallie says:

    babe i have to say that asian skin some r really prone to getting sunburn.. like me.. im asian n i get burnt really easily. like out in australia’s sun for example 30mins (in n outdoors), without sunblock or any protection, woo.. my skin get 1 tone darker after that 30 mins!

  6. sesame says:

    If it’s one tone darker, it sounds more like a tan than a burn. That’s something more common with Asian skin. If it’s red, then it’s a sunburn.

  7. sesame says:

    It’s seems like our skin is prone to these sun spots. So don’t get burned easily but can get sun spots easier in later years.

  8. sesame says:

    I believe she has used sufficient cos she said she re-applied. I’m not sure if SPF30 would have made a huge difference as the sun was probably scorching hot.

  9. sesame says:

    I imagine your skin tone is rather fair and prone to getting red easily too?

  10. sesame says:

    That is probably true too. But generally speaking, they also seem to burn more easily than us cos she did mention they were under a partial shade.

  11. pf1123 says:

    Yes, I agree to that too. ?

  12. pf1123 says:

    Actually I thought SPF50 makes a great difference compared to SPF30. My Malay friend really becomes fairer when she uses the SPF50 sunblock I introduced her.

  13. pf1123 says:

    I burn, but more like “chao da” instead of red.

  14. RebekahC. says:

    I have been searching for a good sunscreen that doesn’t give me clogged pore, rashes after being in the sun, and totally natural. I am currently trying the one from Monique V, but I have found one I think is comparable or better.

    It feels less gritty and is greaseless and soft on my skin. Take a look.

  15. sesame says:

    The product seems interesting but it doesn’t state the amount of zinc oxide used.

    Btw, what is Monique V? Haven’t come across a brand like that.

  16. sesame says:

    It depends on brands and the active ingredients. Some may even contain antioxidants or whitening ingredients so may help improve the skin condition.

    My hub was using the LRP SPF50 and it was good as in I don’t see him looking very dark after a swim under the hot sun. He then switched to one from Banana Boat and gosh, he’s so dark now. Same SPF.

  17. sesame says:

    Actually seeing redness is probably better IMO. I find that for us, because we don’t see our skin turning red quickly, we just let ourselves bake in the sun and if the sunscreen used isn’t good, this is what happens…the skin turns dark and possibly have a flaking look especially after a day or so.

  18. Kim says:

    Ah, that is probably why I’ve never burnt before! I used to never wear sunscreen when I was a little kid, but I started to apply it religiously when I was around 12 yrs old because I started Retin-A for acne.

  19. sesame says:

    It is still important to use sunscreen and good for you for starting early. ?

  20. madhu says:

    my skin is dry nd in winter its not just dry badiy dry lots of paches all over my face,i only use cold cream.which sun block is good for me

  21. blah says:

    im an asian. i have never get sunburn before even though im always under the sun ;p
    and until this year (im 17), i have never put on sunscreen. but its on the face only.

    does sunscreen prevent you from tanning? i have been trying to tan but without success. i think im too fair.

  22. sesame says:

    If your skin is dry, you maybe able to try Badgers Sunblock SPF30. It has 22% zinc oxide and is considered a safe sunblock with good ratings at EWG. The texture is rather oily so might work for your dry skin. You might also want to use an oil such as sweet almond oil or sesame oil under the sunblock to counteract the dryness.

  23. sesame says:

    Yes, a good sunscreen prevents tanning. However, there are ineffective one that doesn’t protect your sun and thus, still cause you to tan and get darker or even burnt.

    If you really want to tan, perhaps choose the time when the sun isn’t at the worst like between 11 – 3pm. Keep it short.

  24. RebekahC. says:

    I checked the percentage of zinc oxide in the Original Sprouts product and it is 10%…is that enough for everyday use in the city (San Francisco, not so much sun here)

    Also, I meant Marie Veronique, (sorry) I bought it after reading your blog, and I find it a bit hard to spread over my face. Do you have any suggestions on how to spread it easier?

    btw, I am so glad to have found your blog, it’s great!!!!! love love love it!

  25. sesame says:

    10% is very low if we go by this table:

    of course there are other ingredients that may boost the sun protection level but I’ll go for at least 16% zinc oxide.

    Are you using Face Screen Plus? It is okay for my combination skin although it might be difficult to apply to drier skin. You might want to consider using oil beneath. Selection of oil depends on your skin type. Grapeseed might be nice if your skin isn’t too dry.

  26. alice says:

    My skin tans quite easily. I have this hideous sock tan. My foot is very very pale, and then there is this line, and the rest of my body is all olive-tanned.
    I’ve got quite severe eczema on my face, and mild acne. Finding a sunscreen is difficult for me, because many have caused a bad reaction to my skin. I’m 14 years old (if that helps anything), and I really want to start protecting my skin, but my friends say that its unnecessary, and wastes money. Do you think I should start?
    I have this huge window in my bedroom, and I keep the blinds open, because the sunlight wakes me up in the morning. however, due to the ‘extra’ exposure to the sunlight, does this mean that i have to wear sunscreen to bed? (that is, if i decide to use sunscreen)
    Thank you in advance ?

  27. sesame says:

    You should start now…wearing sunscreen is very important. Don’t wear sunscreen to bed cos most of these are heavy and may clog your pores at night. You need your skin to breathe and renew at night. Try to draw the blinds or wake up earlier. But a couple of minutes of sun exposure isn’t that bad in the morning really.

  28. Ceriene says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ll be sure to pass this on to my little sister, since she reckons that since she doesn’t burn all that easily, sun damage doesn’t apply to her. (Something my mom and I have been trying to convince her is wrong for months now.)

    Also, what’s interesting is that while we might not burn as easily, asians are more susceptible to discoloration due to frequent sun exposure (called sunspots) that appears as you age. I guess there are pros and cons for everything.

  29. sesame says:

    I just read this piece of info this morning and perhaps your sis would be more convinced:

    We have 3 layers of melanin and we still need to use sunblock.

  30. LilChipmunk says:

    Well, my little sister and I are 100% Asian, but we don’t have the same skin color. I mean she looks almost like a Caucasian. She tends to get sunburn even if she’s under the sun just for a short time and the sun is not that harsh. As for my skin type, others complimented that my skin is a little lighter compared to Asian skin type. However, I don’t get sunburn easily even if I were under the sun for a long time. My skin tends to get darker easily though, but my little sister’s skin color is always the same. She only gets sunburn instead of getting darker.

  31. sesame says:

    Very interesting! I suppose even in the same race, there are differences although I’m surprised the data seems to lump all Asians the same way – 3 layers of melanin. Perhaps your sister’s skin is thinner compared to yours?

  32. Sharon C Bishop says:

    In the past have been using a sunscreen by Shiseido. It was in Hawaii.(1960’s)
    I live in Oklahoma now. This particular one might be upgaded or no longer in
    stock. But a friend of mine sent me a sample, of SPF 18. But there is higher than
    that. supposed to be for longer wear. and repel the perspiration and water resistance. I am Japanese but born ans raised in Hawaii. Living in Oklahoma now.
    How much is it difference if I still Shiseido’s product in the states. would you
    have a DIY formular equivilant to the product. Also thier eye mask is which is so very excellent it works in a day. $92.oo a pack. thank you!

  33. HappyDancer119 says:

    According to the U.S. Census, I’m Asian (Korean mommy; Japanese daddy), and I don’t even need sunscreen higher than SPF 25.
    When I’m older, I plan to go to Indonesia to adopt Noura Lin, a girl from Jakarta, when she’s 16 months old (born on October 12). (Even the Asian babies are still babies until they are 2 years old).
    No, high SPF is for the light skin. Noura does mean “light,” but Noura will be one of the dark skinned Asian girls.
    However, I’m going to have to tell my Libra (Noura) that she’s more likely to have those stupid sun spots, so she’ll know of that stupid offset (dumb sun spots) versus the smart advantage (getting to have easy SPF 25).

  34. HappyDancer119 says:

    All the pale-skinned kids: Noura Lin gets to have Marie Veronique Organic Kid Safe Screen SPF 25.
    Me (Mrs. Wu): Noura’s stigma is not your stigma. Noura has never had fair skin.
    The light-skinned kids: Why does Noura Lin get to have SPF 25 sunscreen?
    Me (Mrs. Wu): That’s because Noura Lin has a tan coloring. The offset is that she and I have those stupid sun spots. Every house has a bathroom: Noura Lin’s bathroom is that she has sun spots, and she has two other bathrooms which are real disabilities: legal blindness AND spina bifida.
    Her advantage is that she’s all about beauty, but her offset is that she’s legally blind and has injections on her legs.

  35. HappyDancer119 says:

    Me (Mrs. Wu): Before you compare yourselves with my Noura Lin, remember this: She was born premature, she suffers from legal blindness, and spina bifida landing her in Paralympic Swimming is too hard for her.

  36. HappyDancer119 says:

    Noura Lin: I’m friends with Martina Young, who’s from Mexico (Hispanic). Martina Young was born on July 21 (a Cancer) and is Hispanic. She has muscular dystrophy and doesn’t have long to live.
    Noura Lin: Calling Martina Young skinny and homely and made in Mexico and weird and an underweight Latina girl can steal her thunder and hurt her feelings. And I know that she’s my sister. I can’t believe they do that. They put Mexico as Native American. And she’s Latina, NOT Aztec Indian. My brother, Bryan Young, is Japanese and he was born on June 13 with spina bifida. The government told him: “Mr. Young, you are now Asian,” in response to the fact Bryan is an Ainu, a member of a light-skinned group originally living in Japan: “Dear Mr. Young, you’re made in Japan, making you having origins in the original peoples of East Asia.”

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