Why I Stopped Using Sunscreen

May 21, 2013 · 42 comments

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I am a sun worshiper. I admit it. I love the feel of the sun on my skin and I love how I feel after being in the sun. I believe that blocking the sun’s rays can be detrimental to your health and use of sunscreen can be harmful. Sunbathing and sun exposure is part of being healthy when practiced with some common sense.

Stay Out of The Sun is the Conventional Advice Given

Staying out of the sun is the advice given by many health care providers. Alternatively, another piece of advice is to use sunscreen (which is toxic) to protect your skin. Over the years, with the ever increasing statistics of skin cancer reported, people have gotten so afraid of the sun they are walking around pale as ghosts and no better for it — actually worse.

The best way to get vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunshine. When cholesterol in the skin is irradiated with sunlight, the active form of vitamin D is made.

Use of Sunscreen Blocks Vitamin D Production

The UVB rays stimulate vitamin D production but also cause sunburn if overexposed. The UVA rays are the ones responsible for skin damage and aging. When you use sunscreen you are effectively blocking the production of vitamin D in the skin.

Most dermatologists recommend broad spectrum sun screens that block against both types of rays. If you are using a UVB block, you are also blocking the production of vitamin D.

Sunscreen Is Measured by SPF

SPF is short for Sun Protection Factor. One would think that the higher the SPF, the more protection. While this is true, once you get over SPF 30, the difference in protection becomes insignificant.

For instance, the SPF 15 blocks 94% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 45 blocks 98% of the rays. The higher SPF’s after 45 become fractionally better so there is no reason to spend extra money for something that is nominally higher.

Of course, the issue with conventional sunscreens are the toxic chemicals in them.

Oxybenzoneis a Hormone Disruptor

Oxybenzone is a potentially toxic substance and it is in most commercial sunscreen lotions. According to EWG’s 2012 findings, 56 percent of sunscreens contain this harmful chemical. It acts as a sunscreen by absorbing ultraviolet light. However, oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that can trigger cancer.

We are advised to slather our bodies with sunscreens that have toxic chemicals that are easily absorbed through the skin.

Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the US Food and Drug Administration regard oxybenzone as safe. It’s been approved by the FDA since 1978, and is approved for use on children over the age of six months. As you know, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe for long term usage.

Retinyl Palmitate May Increase Skin Cancer

The Environmental Working Group has a database of all the studies with retinyl palmitate and they classify this chemical as high concern for developmental and reproductive toxicity. While retinyl palmitate is a type of vitamin A,

Government-funded studies have found that this particular type of vitamin A may increase risk of skin cancer when used on sun-exposed skin. However, these reports have been in mice and evidence has been inconclusive for humans.

For a good homemade sunscreen recipe made with zinc oxide click here to Mommypotamus.

Melanin

Melanin is a substance that gives the natural color to skin and hair, the iris of the eye, as well as feathers and scales. In humans, those with darker skin have higher amounts of melanin.

Melanin provides a natural protection against the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. However, it does not provide complete protection from the sun so even individuals with darker skin tones are still at risk from the sun’s damaging rays.

Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin which serves a number of functions in the body and these cells are found in all people. Coloration of hair and skin is determined not by how many melanocytes someone has, but how active these cells are.

Melanocytes reside in the skin and also in the brain, inner ear, heart, and eye, as well as other locations in the body. They usually are located below the surface. These cells produce melanin in response to environmental cues, including stimulation by ultraviolet radiation as well as certain chemicals.

The melanin travels out of the melanocytes and up to the surface of the tissue where the cells are found. Over time, it breaks down and needs to be replaced with fresh supplies of melanin produced by the layer of underlying melanocytes.

Sensible Sun Exposure

It’s important to get some sun exposure every day if you can. Of course if you live in places that are cold most of the time this will limit you. However, if you live in a warm climate, or at least during the warm months, you can try to get sun exposure in a sensible way to build up a tan.

The most important thing is to avoid sun burn because this has been associated with skin cancer. Sunburn can occur without your knowing it because it can take a few hours for it to blossum. So be very careful when you are out in the sun.

My goal is to get a bit of sun exposure each day for just a few minutes without any sunscreen or block, in order to start to build up a tan. After a few days of just 15 – 20 minutes, I will start to tan.

I have more of a Mediterranean type skin so I will tan. Those of you who have more delicate skin and lighter coloring will need to expose yourself for maybe 5 minutes a day until you can start to build some color, because you are at higher risk of sunburn compared with people with darker-colored skin.

I also use a wide brim hat to block sun from my face as I do not want any sun on my face. I would rather not get the wrinkles from sun exposure on the skin of my face as that skin is much more delicate then the skin on my body.

If you need to block the sun, use hats and light weight shirts, and find some shade.

After I get a good tan and I want to stay in the sun for a longer period of time I will then apply a sunscreen without the toxic chemicals. These may not work as well, so I will also be more vigilant at these times. I also seek out shade, and if I go to the beach I bring a beach umbrella.

Importance of Vitamin D to Cancer

Vitamin D is protective against certain types of cancer including melanoma. This study published in the European Journal of Cancer found that melanoma patients who exposed themselves to sunlight had a better survival rate than patients who did not. They found that intermittent sun exposure was inversely associated with the risk of death in melanoma.

Interesting. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer yet sun exposure seemed to help.

Here are over 800 References Showing Vitamin D’s Effectiveness for Cancer

Importance of Vitamin D for Overall Health

Healthy vitamin D levels are needed for optimal cardiovascular health, immune system health and blood sugar regulation as well as bone, teeth and skin health and so many other benefits.

Importance of Vitamin D to Bone and Teeth Health

In the liver vitamin D is converted to calcidiol. Part of the calcidiol is converted by the kidneys to calcitriol, the biologically active form of vitamin D (D3). Calcitriol circulates as a hormone in the blood, regulating the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream and promoting the healthy growth and remodeling of bone.

There is a fine balance between vitamin A and vitamin D — they keep each other in check so that one does not get too much of one and not the other. Of course, we can get get vitamins A and D from foods rich in these fat soluble vitamins such as liver and egg yolks. However, the sun is still the best way to get vitamin D.

Alternatively, the best supplement for vitamins A and D is cod liver oil. The best suppliers for cod liver oil are here.

Oxidative Stress and Telomeres

Oxidative stress is associated with physiological aging and several age-related diseases. One measure of oxidative stress is by observing telomere length, because telomere shortening is a biomarker of cellular aging.

A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome. It actually protects the information at the ends of the chromosomes and is replenished by the enzyme, telomerase reverse transcriptase. When the telomeres are shortened,  information is lost. This indicates accelerated aging.

This study found that oxidative stress shortens telomeres.

Latest Research on Aging and Vitamin D

A new study published in Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research in April 2013, found that vitamin D protects the endothelial cells (the cells that line the blood vessels) from oxidative stress. This is just another study in the cannon of studies that finds vitamin D protective from the many diseases of inflammation.

This study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2012 found increased telomerase activity with vitamin D supplementation in obese African Americans. In other words, the vitamin D helped keep the telomeres long and more protective.

I don’t know about you, but I am trying to keep my telomeres long so that I age gracefully.

As usual, my advice is just the opposite of conventional medicine. I say, sit in the sun and get a tan (with common sense as outlined above) and at the same time you will be getting a nice dose of vitamin D that will increase telomerase activity, decrease oxidative stress and keep you young.

I know the title of this post suggests that I do not use sunscreen at all — however, not everyone can do that without getting a sunburn. I would encourage you to research the sunscreens on the market made without the toxic chemicals, but use those sparingly.

My favorite thing to do to relax in the summer is to sit at the beach for a few hours. I get grounded, revitalized and feel great after a day at the beach!

What do you think? Do you sunbath? Leave a comment and let me know!

Where to find a non toxic sunscreen.

This post is shared at: Mommy Club, Holistic Squid, Healthy 2Day, Real Food Wednesday, Wild Crafting Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Simple lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Hearth & Soul Hop

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Narelle May 22, 2013 at 5:10 am

We are a sun family – we lived on a boat with our 3 kids for years… we use a astaxanthin an algae. I wrote a blog on this and have included a 150 page book on the technicalities of astaxanthin. Have a look and never worry about times you are in the sun – just enjoy : )
http://fatnotfabulousandforty.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/natural-sunscreen-astaxanthin/

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2 Lauren May 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

Thank you for posting what I’ve been thinking for years! I actually don’t wear any sunscreen because of allergies, but aside from that, I’ve always felt that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. My husband and I have even speculated that it causes skin cancer in some way. Thanks for another great and informative article!

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3 Kathy May 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

It is smart to get some sunlight everyday. But if you absolutely need sunscreen there is a post on DIY Natural about How to Make Natural Sunscreen. They have a recipe for up to SPF 20, which protects better than 94% according to the above article.

http://www.diynatural.com/how-to-make-sunscreen/?awt_l=7cHcc&awt_m=3kqzFrfs8TtFQkt

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4 Jason May 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

My doctor prescribed vitamin D for me this year and seemed a bit taken aback when I asked if instead of a pill I should just spend more time outside! I may still use a non-toxic sunscreen on my face and neck but plan on following your 15 minutes a day low exposure plan this summer.

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5 ThisWomanWrites May 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm

This is a good article, well written, and with sensible things to say. Years ago, when our Son and Heir was a young teen and studying Jay Wile’s Apologia science curriculum, he was given this experiment:

Rub a clove of raw garlic on the bottom of your feet. Wait and see what happens.

What happens, in a short amount of time, is that you will “taste” garlic in your mouth, because the oils of the clove have been quickly and readily absorbed into your skin.

That’s garlic. It makes your breath . . . interesting. It’s not a chemical concoction of additives with unknown properties coursing through your system because you’ve slathered it over your — or your delicately skinned baby’s — body.

Thank you for writing this. — Carolyn

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6 Sophie May 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I have spent many months in Australia, Thailand and Mexico and only use a toxin-free sunscreen on my face as I don’t like hats. I am fair-skinned and built my exposure up gradually just as you describe, but I have been burned a few times.
I read some time ago that rates of skin cancer have risen in the last 25 years – along with sales of sunscreen, that says it all as far as I’m concerned.

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7 -Gerry May 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Sophie, it’s time to wake up.

Every single time you “built (up your) exposure,” you have sustained that much more damage to your skin. You will be lucky to not develop skin cancer. So take the advice of a dermatologist rather than the hacks who shill the various items here.

Each and every sunburn and suntan is part of the path to cancer and self-destruction–to say nothing of wrinkles and other manifestations of aging skin.

Good luck to you. You will need it.

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8 Jill May 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

Gerry,
Since you are clearly misinformed, I took the liberty of dumping your other comments in spam. I do not tolerate name calling on my blog. There is TONS of research that show that vitamin D is PROTECTIVE against cancer. You so descriptively describe the horrors of cancer — yet most skin cancers are easily treated. Melanoma — the most dangerous — is systemic and will probably be found to be not related to the sun at all — most people get melanomas in places that the sun does not reach.

Gradual tanning is not a risk factor like sunburn.

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9 Carole June 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

As a person who has family members with squamous cell cancers, and one with a melanoma, there is a direct relationship between sunburns and the subsequent cancers. As a fair skinned person, I wear sun protective clothing and avoid the sun during the 10am – 3pm hours of greatest sun. My dad’s melanoma is on his forehead, and the squamous ones were on shoulders and ears—all areas that were sunburned.

In Australia the risk is even greater, because of the thinning of the ozone layer of the atmosphere in the southern hemisphere,

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10 The Modern Pioneer Mom June 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Interesting that God had everyone living & working endlessly outside all the time throughout history, & cancer was pretty much non-existent. It’s a modern disease. Through toxic diet, toxic products, toxic environment, & reduced sun exposure, we have CREATED this. I know 5 people (yes, 5!) now who have cured their own cancer, & one of them used the sun to cure her skin cancer, after surgeries & treatments from doctors failed 4 times. She changed her eating back to traditional whole organic foods & spent 30 minutes in the sun every day exposing those cancer spots to the sun. It went away, & it has not come back after years & years.

If people do get cancer in exposed areas, they’re most likely repeatedly burned. I know of several people who do not burn anymore since switching to whole foods (primarily plant based) diets & NEVER use sunscreen. So sad that society has been so misinformed, mislead, & everyone is suffering for it.

11 Debbie May 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thanks again Jill – I will share with several of my friends, who are so confused on this issue. You also could mention the imbalance of omega’s 6 to 3′s which is also an issue I thought in skin cancer…..?

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12 Christina Poulsen May 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

Great article. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to monitor how much sun exposure my 3 children are getting since we live in the country and spend a lot of time outdoors. I actually just switched to Ava Anderson’s sunscreen. It has no nanoparticles, no chemical UV absorbers, no parabens, no phthalates, no synthetic preservatives, fragrance or dyes.

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13 Jill May 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

@ Christina,
Sounds like a good sunscreen.

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14 Leslie Moldenauer May 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Real Food Forager,

If you do not mind me asking, when you do apply sunscreen, what do you use?

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15 Mimi May 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

When I used sunscreen, even “natural” brands from the healthy food stores, I would get tiny blisters wherever I’d applied it. Read that sesame oil is a natural sunscreen. I mix it with a tiny bit of lavender oil and have used it for 3 years with wonderful results. No blisters, no sunburn, as long as I apply it often while exercising or working outdoors.

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16 Jill May 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm

@ Mimi — so cool that it works!

@Leslie — there is a link at the bottom of the post for a decent sunscreen.

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17 Valerie May 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Love this post so much! My family uses all-natural sunscreen, but I didn’t know about the 5-15 min a day of sun without sunscreen to build up gradually. Love it, we have lots of beach days planned this summer and I will definitely be practicing small doses at home in preparation, along with my pasty white hubby. We do FCLO occasionally but I didn’t realize it was a good ‘internal’ sunscreen as well, so I’ll make sure we’re taking it every day for extra protection too.

Also, we usually use Badger sunscreen, but I just came across Goddess Garden Organics continuous spray all natural sunscreen and I can’t wait to order it. The one drawback to using the all-naturals has been that the application isn’t so easy since they’re so thick, especially after the kids go in the water, trying to reapply is a B.

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18 Dawn May 26, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Thanks for writing this. I’m glad you also mentioned getting “grounded”. Another plus to beach going.

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19 Anne-Marie Bilella May 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Thank you for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! I have also heard that eating well, especially antioxidant rich foods helps your body not burn in the sun.

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20 Crystal & Co May 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Every time you share something like this I am never surprised. We are lead to believe that sun screen will save us….. little do we know.

This was one of the most clicked mom advice posts shared last week. See your feature here: http://www.crystalandcomp.com/2013/05/best-mom-advice-52713/.

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21 Rachel R. May 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

Absolutely agree! I do not believe that gradual tanning is harmful; I believe that the tan is designed to be protective for our bodies. And I definitely cannot fathom the thought process behind trading chemical-laden sunblocks slathered all over our bodies for natural vitamin D. Even without the research, this just runs counter to common sense, in my mind – and the research just adds to that!

I understand that coconut oil has a mildly “sunscreening” effect and has been used in tropical climates for this purpose for a very long time. (My guess is this is why sunblocks usually smell like coconut; it’s probably the vestiges of what used to actually contain coconut oil. Much as many cleaners are now pine- or lemon-scented, where in the past they actually used pine or lemon oils.)

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22 Aurelian HRONI May 30, 2013 at 6:58 am

-a wonderful page…thank you very much…!

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23 Dawn June 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm

You’ve been very thorough here. Thank you!

As someone who developed skin cancer at the age of 18, this has always been a confusing issue for me, especially when I became a parent. As a nature girl and holistic mom, I’ve always stayed away from chemical based sunscreens, and don’t apply any sunscreen if I’m going out for half hour or less. Sometimes, I do apply coconut oil though (agree with the commenter above).

I don’t hold myself back from going to the beach or anything, but when I do, I bring my hat and coverup! My friends have gotten used to it. Even though I can’t be as carefree anymore, I enjoy my limited time in the sun more than ever.

Enjoy the summer!

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24 JJMallory June 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

I always use all natural sunscreen when I go outdoors. A lot of my friends think I’m crazy, but I absolutely swear by it! I rarely get sun burn, and no longer have break outs! Plus, it completely avoids that terrible taste if you accidentally get some in your mouth.

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25 Rike July 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I am 68 years old and have NEVER used sunscreen. I live in Arizona in Winter and in the Pacific NW in Summer. I spend lots of time outside, but when I “sunbathe” I do it in the shade. I have a tan all year long and so far no health problems.

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26 Giselle July 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I’ve been using Alba Botanica natural sunscreen, the fragrance free type, SPF 30. It has zinc- and titanium oxide and is paraben-free. No sunburns and no rashes!

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27 spray tan in a can August 13, 2013 at 7:17 am

WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for
spray on tanning

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28 skin health August 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Sunscreen. Regards

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29 Vita @ EcceVita August 30, 2013 at 6:27 am

I could’t agree more with this article! It’s so well written. I used to avoid the sun and wear sunscreen all the time. I had to wear makeup to hide my unhealthy paleness. I also had acne and numerous other issues. Then I moved to another country where we have super strong sun probably 360 days a year. I started spending 15 minutes in the midday sun without any sunscreen, then slowly increased the time until I reached an hour. I can now go hiking in the mountains for all day and I don’t get burnt. I just maintain my light and beautiful tan all year long. I believe it depends a lot on the diet as well – since we went to Paleo, we have completely stopped burning and skin just doesn’t get irritated or red anymore. Another thing I noticed – the locals have amazingly beautiful skin, even at old age, and I don’t believe they use chemical sunscreens. How can anyone say then that sun causes aging?

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30 Russell October 26, 2013 at 11:21 am

Check out sun “blocks” made by the company Super Salve. They make Sun Salve with great ingredients such as jojoba, shea, cocoa, and zinc.

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