Sunscreen…no brainer, right? Wrong! Yep—I said wrong. You don’t need sunscreen all the time. In fact, it’s massively unhealthy to do so.
Need to sit down?
Here’s the deal: your body NEEDS to absorb the sunshine. NEEDS to. It doesn’t just feel good; it’s necessary to live a long and healthy life. When we douse ourselves in sunscreen all the time, we’re preventing ourselves from absorbing vitamin D—a hormone that we need to get from the sun.
Now, at this point in the argument, some people like to mention the fact that North Americans are diagnosed with some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and this stat is true. BUT…it’s in part because we’re such freaks about sunscreen. By preventing our bodies from absorbing true sunshine, we set ourselves up for a variety of diseases and disorders.
People in the southern hemisphere typically live their entire lives in the sun without sunscreen, and they don’t get nearly as much skin cancer. It has to be more than the effects of the evil sun that causes irregular cell growth in our bodies.
I’m not saying that you should never wear it or slap some on your children, but there’s a time and place, and we need to know what we’re doing and why it’s bad to do it all the time. Here are some examples of situations when we need sunscreen:
- You’re in the sun all day
- You’re at a ball game (in full sun)
- You’re at the beach
- You’re lounging poolside
In these situations, YES—wear sunscreen. You don’t want a sunburn. But you know what? You could just find shade and wear a hat, too.
You probably don’t need sunscreen if you are:
- Taking a short walk
- Your kids are enjoying their recess or even lunch outside
- You’re watering your garden
Because 20-30 minutes of sunshine (sans sunscreen) every day is good for you. If you are in a situation where you think you’ll burn OR if you currently have or have had medical issues that require the constant use of sunscreen, then yeah. Wear it.
Here are some reasons why unencumbered sunshine (and the subsequent absorption of vitamin D) is vital to your health:
- Vitamin D prevents Metabolic Syndrome
- Vitamin D prevents certain cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate
- Lower levels of vitamin D are associated with Diabetes
- Vitamin D is vital for strong, healthy bones
Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, MD, suggests the following when it comes to sun exposure:
- Begin with just a few minutes of exposure, until you have a pink foundation. Never let your skin burn.
- Sunbathe with clean skin, free of lotions, soaps, perfumes or cosmetics.
- Do not use sunblock — the production of both vitamin D and melanin pigmentation are UVB dependent.
- Use sunscreen only after you’ve had proper sun exposure and you are going to be in the sun for extended periods of time.
- Reduce sun exposure when you are in the snow, white sand, or high altitude locations.
- Do not exceed the safe daily limits. Put on a hat and the proper clothing, and a sunscreen that contains a physical sun block, such as titanium dioxide.
If you are going to use sunscreen, then you should know how it works. The point of all sunscreens is to block UV rays, which can prematurely age and damage the skin if we’re in the sun too much. But there are two main types of sunscreen, and they work differently:
Chemical sunscreens wear down quickly with sun exposure, which means you have to reapply often. They are also absorbed into your bloodstream, and can make you sick. They contain active endocrine distributors that alter your hormones and cause premature puberty and fertility issues. Unfortunately, these are the most popular today, because when applied, they go on clear.
Mineral sunscreens, like the ones that were around in the 40’s, are comprised of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They just sit on the surface of the skin and block UV rays. They also give that pasty white appearance that no one likes, so they’re used less than chemical sunscreens. However, mineral sunscreens (also called physical sunscreens) are the way to go.
There is also a massive difference between brands. Some are awful, and some are not. Here are the general rules:
- Wear lotions, not sprays. Sprays have more chemicals, and you’re prone to missing areas of the skin that should be covered. It’s also more likely to accidentally ingest sprays, and you use more than what’s necessary. Basically, they’re a waste of money and are genuinely unhealthy.
- Wear SPF 30 or lower. The higher the SPF (sun protection factor), the higher the chemicals. Also, high SPF doesn’t necessarily mean safer, and they’re often misunderstood. Higher SPF means better sunburn blocking ability, but doesn’t protect the wearer from other types of skin damage that can lead to premature aging and free radical development and distribution.
- Read the ingredients for chemical additives. According to the Environmental Working Group, there are 217 sunscreens that meet their criteria for safe ingredients and effectiveness. Here are a few:
- Butterbean Original SPF 30
- Poofy Organics SPF 30
- Lemongrass Spa Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- Badger Sunscreen Cream Lotion SPF 15 and 30
- Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 30
Bottom line? Don’t be afraid of the sun! Be mindful, wear a hat, and buy good quality sunscreen for when you really do need it. xo