Throw away the sunscreen! | Chris Kresser
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Throw away the sunscreen!


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  1. Hi,
    What would you recommend to use as sunscreen for the times when we are out in the sun for a prolonged period of time and if we do not use anything we will get burned?

    Thank you

    • Something with zinc or titanium oxide and not many other ingredients. Natural sunscreens can often be found at health-food stores. They’re not cheap, but they’re worth it. You can also use lightweight clothing.

  2. I’m definitely not advocating getting severely sunburned.  That is not good for the body.  But I am suggesting it’s healthy to get a few hours of sun each day without sunblock.

  3. This is very interesting; I used to wear sunscreen while mowing the grass (an operation that takes me approximately 2-3 days, 2-3 hours/day to complete). I found that the sunscreen irritated my skin and blinded me when sweat caused it to run down into my eyes, so I switched to wearing makeup base instead (imagine, dolling myself up to mow the lawn)! However, I also wear full-coverage clothing–long pants, socks over pants (insect repellent applied to socks), long-sleeved white shirt and wide-brimmed Mexican-style hat. Also gloves (to prevent callousing and rubbing from holding a push mower for hours on end). While the clothing protection is as much to keep chiggers, ticks and other noxious critters from attacking my bare skin as to keep from excess sun exposure, I wonder if I was wrong to shake my finger at all those fellows who ride their mowers clad in nothing but shorts and sandals, their bald heads bare to the blazing Tennessee sun. (As an aside, I have found that, on long days out in the sun, my skin burns slightly even through the shirt).

  4. Another pale skinned poster here.  I have avoided sun screen most of my adult life just because I can’t stand the smell or the feel of it, especially on my face.  My mom was hardcore on the sunscreen when I was a kid.

    I have noticed that my skin will adapt to the sun.  At the begenning of the season I might get a burn (granted these trips are not me spending hours and hours in direct sunlight) but after one or two I am fine.  I have purchased the expensive, natrual, lotion just in case I have an activity with long hours of direct exposure. 

    I’m glad I learned about the sunscreen issue now, while my son is young since it is tempting to follow your parents example at times and there have been a few occasions where I sheilded him well.  They require sunscreen at his daycare so I bought him the natural stuff for that as well.  He doesn’t wear it outside of daycare though.

  5. Certainly, there are issues with chemicals in sunscreens (as there are with chemicals in many products), yet you ignore the fact that there are physical sunscreens that pose minimal risk. My sunscreen has non-nano zinc oxide as its only active ingredient. And it’s not ‘very expensive’, which you mentioned earlier as an argument against it.

    You also say in passing that the sun is good for our health in other ways – could you elaborate on this? Besides avoiding seasonal affective disorder, I can’t think of any other reason to go in the sun for the sake for getting the sun’s ‘goodness’.

    And sure, people are deficient in vitamin D, but that’s why supplements exist. I was vitamin D deficient well before I started avoiding excess sun exposure (for superficial reasons, I was getting too many sunspots).

    Congratulations on being so much smarter than the rest of us.

    • Why should someone pay for a supplement when they can get it from the sun for free? The body tightly regulates Vitamin D production from sunlight, whereas the same is not true from dietary sources of D. What’s also true is that the type of Vitamin D put into fortified foods is not optimal for use by the body. Further, getting enough exposure to sunlight can significantly improve mood and relieve depression – not just seasonal affective disorder. In fact, UV light has been shown to be just as effective as antidepressant drugs with far fewer side effects. If you think this is a “trivial” reason to go into the sun, you are clearly ignoring the fact that millions of people around the world suffer from depression and take dangerous drugs (which are no more effective than placebo in most cases) with serious side effects and risks to treat it.

      Feel free to show me credible studies that prove sunlight exposure is dangerous to our health. I haven’t seen any. Believing something simply because that’s what everyone else believes is not wisdom – it’s folly. As Anatole France said, “Even if 50 million people say a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”

  6. Extremely interesting read.  I was a skeptic at first glance but this makes a lot of sense…do you know names of some natural sunscreens that can be used prior to developing a base?  My little girl is very fair- I am less concerned about myself.  Also, what is PUFA?

  7. @tara:

    There are three basic problems with the chemicals in sunscreen:

    1. They are powerful free radical generators.

    2. They can have strong estrogenic activity.

    3. They are synthetic chemicals that are difficult for the body to eliminate, and they accumulate in fat stores.

    Research has shown that sunscreens containing PABA, Padimate-O or other PABA derivatives can damage DNA and cause changes that induce carcinogenic changes.

    For an in-depth article on this subject, follow this link.

  8. Sorry, I mis-read your comment somehow. You said you were “concerned” about the UV coating. I thought you meant you were concerned about not having it, and that it was bad not to have the UV coating.

    I still think you should try wearing glasses less, esp when outdors in sun. Exposure to sunlight may improve your vision, along with good nutrition. Some people benefit from raw milk, cheese, and meat.

  9. @bruce, I’m saying that sunlight is natural and that I wish I could find an optical lab that didn’t put the U.V. coating on my glasses without my permission. The pineal gland needs to be stimulated by sunlight for proper function.  I need glasses and as far as I know most optics venders  coat their lenses with a U.V A, and U.V. B coating as prescribed by the doctor. Screw sunscreen. Sorry that I didn’t state that clearly.

  10. Are you saying that there’s something wrong with stimulating the pineal gland, as it was through most of our history without UV-coated glasses? I’ve heard about people improving their eyesight simply by wearing their glasses less, eating better, getting more sunlight, etc. The improvement may not measure on an eye exam, but people report less blurriness and improved focus, so they can function without glasses where before they couldn’t. That’s a worthwhile goal, IMO.

    Looking at sunrise and/or sunset without glasses, pref with bare feet on bare ground, might also help. Stand in an open area, not shade. Blink and turn away if you feel the need. I don’t wear sunglasses or sunscreen. The only time you need sunglasses is when sitting in a car or shade with sun light coming through or looking at an eclipse. Under conditions like that, the eyes don’t dilate and contract appropriately, so they may be damaged by sunlight. Otherwise, we should be less afraid of the sunlight and more afraid of unnatural sunglasses and sunscreen.

    Dr. John Ott supposedly talked with Albert Schweitzer’s daughter and she told him that primitive groups developed cancer even on their natural diet if they wore sunglasses. They sometimes didn’t wear clothes, but they adopted the white man’s habit for sunglasses and developed cancer from wearing them. Ott also believed that being exposed to artificial light and filtered light through windows causes cancer. Contact with civilization brings the modern diseases, whereas healthy primitive groups knew how to stay healthy naturally. They didn’t have sunglasses or sunscreen.

  11. The thing I am concerned about is the U.V. coating on my prescription glasses. As far as I know, you can’t get them without it.  From my education, some of the U.V’s stimulate the pineal gland.

  12. I am so glad to have found your common sense website as this vitamin D/sunscreen thing is one of my crusades with family, friends and anyone else who will listen.
    I am a fair-skinned, blue-eyed, red-haired middle-aged woman who grew up (often sunburned) on New England beaches and now live in North Carolina. According to dermatologists, I’m a prime candidate for skin cancer and should wear sunscreen morning, noon and night, and get my Vitamin D from supplements.
    But I refuse to wear sunscreen (unless I’ll be sailing all day, a rare occurrence) because I’ve long intuitively felt that I was doing myself far more harm than good. Vitamin D deficiency is a huge problem in this country — a resurgence of rickets, anyone? I’m especially dismayed when my African-American friends tell me they wear sunscreen every day! No! I tell them. You’re setting yourself up for other cancers that will be far worse than the slight possibility of a curable skin cancer. They, like so many people, have been brainwashed into thinking the sun is an evil god up in the sky just waiting to kill them. And blacks need to spend a whole lot more time in the sun than I do to get their so-called daily quota of vitamin D. This is not often made clear in articles about sunscreen and vitamin D — the “advice” in those articles seems more geared toward whites. The sun is life-giving, not life-denying — it is far more likely to prevent or cure disease than cause it. Direct sunlight also helps people feel happier, more optimistic and in a better mood. People would probably take far fewer antidepressants if they spent more time in the sun, especially without sunscreen. I know women who only spend a minute in the sun to get to their car in the morning and another minute in the evening when they leave their office yet they still wear sunscreen, often because they think their skin will stay younger-looking. The whole thing is crazy. I’m sure I have and will have more lines on my face but I’d rather be a wrinkly old lady one day than dead from colon cancer. (Just to be safe, though, I do have an annual skin check by a dermatologist. Frankly, I think she’s disappointed when she doesn’t find anything!)
    That said, I think I’ll go out right now and sit in the sun…

  13. Beth,

    Thanks for your comment and questions. I see what you mean about the wording of the first paragraph. It should say “one study contradicts the idea that sun exposure causes lymphoma, and the other contradicts the idea that sun exposure causes melanoma.” I’ll change that now.

    However, regarding the melanoma study, in my opinion survival/mortality is the most important endpoint and the one that people care about the most. In the study I referenced in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, they found that increased sun exposure was associated with higher survival rates from melanoma. That’s significant. You can read the full-text study here.

    The full-text of the lymphoma study can be found here.

  14. Some issues:  in your first statement you say the two articles are about sunlight and melanoma but then you say that one article is actually only about lymphoma.
    The article about melanoma only looks at survival.  It does not look at etiology and their assumption is actually that sun exposure may give you a better form of melanoma but not that sun exposure presents you from getting it. 
    Sunscreen prevents basal cell and squamous cell cancer which are usually benign but squamous cell has been seen to metastasize.   Sunscreen contributes to vitamin D deficiency so get more vitamin D as you suggested or get sun when it’s not peak hours.
    To suggest that no one ever anywhere needs sunscreen is a huge generalization and I don’t feel well-substanstiated in this blog.  Also, if you could give the full bibliographic references for the articles you cite that would be helpful.

  15. @John:

    Make sure your niece gets plenty of vitamin A (cod liver oil, beef liver, grass-fed butter) and vitamin K2 (sauerkraut, hard cheese, yogurt/kefir, grass-fed butter, and/or supplement) in addition to vitamin D (sunshine, shellfish, salmon, egg yolks).


  16. This is a very informative post, i was searching in google for Skin Cancer and came across this post. My niece is suffering from Skin Cancer, information mention in this article will greatly help me in offering her some advice.