E!: We are always hearing about the importance of wearing sunscreen, but the dots don’t always connect for everyone. What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear about sunscreen usage?
KB: It’s so shocking and disappointing that so many people don’t grasp the importance of wearing sunscreen. So many people think they don’t need sunscreen and say “My skin is brown” or “I’m never in the sun.” I would say, “Do you drive? How did you get here? If you drive, you’re getting sun exposure from the windows.”
It’s so hard to hide from the sun. People don’t realize how hard it is to hide from the sun. You really can’t hide and that’s something that melanated people need to know. These myths have been perpetuated in society forever. Growing up, I was in Brownies, Girl Scouts, and Cadets, where I did a lot of camping and activities outdoors. All the little white girls would get sunscreen and no one would put it on me. My mom never bought it either. We never had sunscreen in the house.
E!: Obviously, your stance on sun protection has changed. Was there a specific impetus that changed your way of thinking?
KB: Yes, I started getting hyperpigmentation around my mouth, these little black moles and I just thought they were genetic because all of 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’m gonna get them, but they’re coming way too soon.” The dermatologist chuckled and said, “Honey, this isn’t genetic. This is sun damage.” I was completely floored.
I was like “Wait, I’m Black,” and she explained so much to me. I went to Walgreens to get sunscreen. When I started using sunscreen in my regular routine, I would try to rub the sunscreen in and it would leave a white cast or get in my eyes. It was just a mess. It took me a while to discover mineral sunscreen. Mineral didn’t irritate me, but it didn’t sit well on my skin because I couldn’t find any tinted options that worked for my skin. They either left me purple or gray. As I looked for sunscreens and couldn’t find anything, I decided to create my own after spending 20 years in construction with no experience in this area.
For years, brands weren’t thinking of us or making products for us. Now, everybody’s getting on the bandwagon. It’s so great to see brown and Black girls in sunscreen ads. That’s why I started this, no one was doing it before me. I had to do it.