Melanin provides protection against excess exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and related adverse health effects. Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) can be used to calculate cutaneous melanin and erythema, but this is complex and has been mostly used for light-to-medium pigmented skin. Handheld reflectance spectrophotometers, such as the Mexameter(®) MX18, can also be used. We compared DRS-calculated melanin and erythema values with Mexameter melanin and erythema index values to understand how these techniques/measurements correlate in an African population of predominantly deeply pigmented skin. Five hundred and three participants comprised 68.5% self-identified Black African, 9.9% Indian/Asian, 18.4% White and 2.9% Colored. The majority of Black African (45%), Indian/Asian (34%) and Colored (53%) participants self-identified their skin as being "brown." Measured melanin levels increased with darker self-reported skin color. DRS-calculated and Mexameter melanin values demonstrated a positive correlation (Spearman rho = 0.87, P < 0.001). The results from both instruments showed erythema values were strongly correlated with their own melanin values. This finding is considered spurious and may result from the complexity of separating brown and red pigment when using narrowband reflectance techniques. Further work is needed to understand melanin, erythema and color in Black skin given sun-related health risks in vulnerable groups in Africa.