The Scoop: Many sunscreen products contain harsh chemicals or tints that aren’t designed for women of color. That’s why Katonya Breaux founded Unsun to make products to protect women of diverse skin tones. Unsun developed a sunscreen that is both safe for users and matches their skin color. The company’s products keep skin safe from the sun’s harmful effects while making women of color feel confident and radiant on sunny dates.
The myth that people with darker skin tones don’t need sunscreen has been long-standing. Even Black people believed for years that their skin wouldn’t burn.
Dr. Chesahna Kindred, Chair of the National Medical Association, Dermatology Section, said that, historically, scientists have done less research on the sun’s effect on darker skin tones. Nearly half of all dermatologists aren’t trained in the proper treatment of darker skin, and many doctors fail to recommend sunscreen to Black people.
That’s why Katonya Breaux founded Unsun, a line of sunscreen products that cater to women of color. As a woman of color, Katonya knew the challenges well.
Katonya bought into the myth that she didn’t need to use sunscreen from an early age. Many older people in her family had black moles on their faces, and she assumed they were genetic. When she started getting moles on her face in her 30s, she visited a dermatologist in an attempt to slow them down.
“She said these aren’t genetic; they’re sun damage. I was taken aback because I didn’t believe that Black people had that issue,” Katonya said.
Her doctor recommended sunscreen, and she went to the drugstore to purchase some, but wearing the products wasn’t a pleasant experience. The chemicals irritated her skin and burned her eyes. Even the mineral sunscreens without harsh chemicals left a white or grey residue on her skin.
When she did find a sunscreen that worked, she realized that the company didn’t make a tint that matched her skin tone.
“It was frustrating. So, in 2013, I decided to do it myself by creating Unsun,” Katonya said.
Helping Women of Color Look Their Best on Dates
Unsun offers three products that work for women of all skin types. Protecting skin from sun damage is the primary goal, but Unsun products also serve other skincare functions, including moisturizing and evening skin tone.
The company’s core product is the Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen that comes in Medium/Dark and Light/Medium tints. The product serves as a sunscreen primer and a color corrector that works to moisturize and minimize pores.
The mineral sunscreen doesn’t have any surprising ingredients, is never tested on animals, and is made from natural products that are reef-safe. Two ingredients commonly found in other sunscreens — oxybenzone and octinoxate — are known to bleach out coral reefs.
Katonya also wanted to ensure that her products didn’t leave behind the same residue she experienced with other products. She designed her mineral sunscreens to cover a range of skin tones — from olive to dark chocolate — without leaving behind a white or gray residue.
“It’s a color-correcting formulation, so it could also serve as the primer for makeup,” Katonya said.
Unsun produces a sunscreen that helps prevent sun damage on hands. It makes the 15 SPF products with cucumber and anti-aging ingredients. It is also water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
Unsun’s newest product is its EVERYDAY Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen. It has the same features as its other mineral sunscreen offering but in a lightweight version. The main line leaves the skin with a dewy finish, while the EVERYDAY line leaves the skin with a matte finish.
“When you’re at the beach, you might not want to put on a full face of makeup, and because this has coverage and gives you a nice glow, it’s helpful for dates. You have that light coverage in your sunscreen, so you’re doubly protected,” Katonya said.
Creating Sunscreen That Works for All Women
Katonya said she is proud of her sunscreen products because she knew what it was like to feel left out of the skincare industry.
“If you have a problem, you know you’re not alone. Inclusivity is a real thing. To have spent billions of dollars in the market and still not be considered when there are innovations, that’s the reality for many women of color,” she said.
Since the beginning, Katonya and her team have worked to include women who might feel they can’t find products designed with their skin tones in mind.
“I make formulations that work on all women of color. Then we launched a hue for women with light, neutral skin tones, some of whom may have albinism,” Katonya told us.
Unsun works better for many women of color because its bronze tint helps the product blend better into darker skin than other mineral sunscreens. For lighter-skinned women, the bronze undertone offers the appearance of a slight tan.
Unsun products are so innovative in the industry that beauty and healthcare publications are taking notice.
“The key is a subtle bronze tint that ensures it blends beautifully and invisibly on medium to darker tones while leaving behind a hint of a faux-tan on paler faces. Breaux wrangled the palest to darkest testers give it a go. If you need proof that this stuff works, just look at Breaux’s own flawless complexion,” wrote Elle Magazine of the product’s effectiveness.
The Cut agreed, saying: “Free of the kinds of chemicals that blend seamlessly into dark skin but are mired in controversy, Unsun is a natural sunscreen that is slightly tinted to better suit people of color.”
Unsun: Developing the Skincare Products of the Future
Unsun has already taken the skincare world by storm. Women of color use its products to protect themselves from the sun, cover up blemishes, and produce a healthy glow on day dates.
Unsun works well on many skin tones because it has had a diverse client base in mind from the start. That is still important to Katonya, especially as other beauty companies recognize the value of creating products for women of color.
“We started out being an inclusive brand. We were ahead of the new trend in securing women of color as a customer base,” Katonya said.
Women from around the country write to the company to thank it for offering sunscreen products that do wonders for their skin. Many emails describe how long it took for Unsun users to find a product designed with them in mind.
“They tell us that they’re glad to find a sunscreen that is safe for use, safe for the environment, and suitable for their skin tone. Not just Black women write us, but also Asian women, and all women who want to buy a clean sunscreen that doesn’t damage the coral reef,” Katonya said.
The company plans to continue its legacy of promoting inclusivity. In 2021, Unsun will launch a series of highlighters for women that offer a glow on their chests and faces along with sun protection.
But no matter how many products Unsun creates, it will always focus on a diverse clientele. Promoting good skin health is essential, as is ensuring that users feel confident enough — including on dates — to keep wearing the products long term.
“We’ll launch a total of three products next year, and we want to keep as much of the world in mind as we’re doing that,” Katonya said.