Kerry Washington Speaks Out on Skin-Cancer Misconceptions Within the Black Community

In a recent episode of People’s Every Day Podcast, actress Kerry Washington talks through her new documentary—she produced it with Neutrogena Studios—called In the Sun, which follows seven families and the life-altering changes they endured after spending too much time underneath the sun’s harmful rays.

In the episode, Washington admits that she learned a lot about sun safety through the process of creating the film. She also highlights the importance of sun protection for those with darker skin, explaining that there are often many misconceptions associated with skin cancer among the black community. One misconception that she highlights repeatedly is that people with darker skin tones can’t get skin cancer. While those with melanin-rich skin do have a lesser chance of getting diagnosed, it is frequently fatal for these populations because, according to Dermlite, those with dark skin tones are often diagnosed once the cancer has gotten into its late stages. “Because we’re not checking for it, we’re not looking for it, and we’re not aware, that increases the danger,” Washington tells People.

Explaining that she was naive to sun protection as a child, Washington says that her relatives used to tell her to wear SPF in order to avoid getting darker. Her response was always “I don’t mind.” While she spells out her love for her beautiful brown skin at any shade, her perspective shifted when she began filming for hit show Scandal.

“There would be some times where we would [leave] for Christmas break in the middle of an episode for Scandal,” she tells People. “And they’d be like, ‘Don’t come back three shades darker, because we’re in the middle of this episode.’ You can’t be jumping skin color from one scene to the next!” Over time, Washington’s view on sun protection went from being professionally focused to personal.

“I think for a lot of my life, I have tended to focus on the vanity around my relationship with the sun,” she says. “People say… ‘black don’t crack,’ but we know that sun is one of the things that really causes aging in the skin. Those are things that I’ve thought about through the years.” Over time, the 44-year-old developed the drive to share those same misconceptions with others. “It was really important to me in the documentary to address a lot of those myths.”

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