It’s July, we’re in Central Texas (Nope, living in Alaska isn’t my secret), and it’s HOT. To beat the heat my family and I have to hit the springs or the river just about everyday. Luckily, here in Austin there is no shortage of natural swimming holes. Throw in my bag a blanket, some snacks, swimsuits and we’re ready to go. As you probably noticed- and as the title of this post suggests- I didn’t include sunscreen in my bag of outdoor essentials. Our cultural narrative around the sun and skin health is that the sun causes cancer and that we should prevent this by lathering our bodies with sunscreen. The higher the SPF the better, they say. Well, like everything else that went out the window when I started questioning societal norms and adopted a natural hygiene lifestyle, sunscreen went right along with it. Ever since I stopped wearing sunscreen just over 5 years ago I have never had any issues with burning (with the exception of the first time I went without it and didn’t know what I was doing) and I love that it contributes to my no toxic, minimalist, environmentally aware lifestyle. Not to mention I have a pretty sweet base tan year around. Here are the 4 reasons why no one in my immediate family wears sunscreen:
1) Sunscreen contains toxic chemicals (yes, even the “natural” brands).
Sometimes people are more conscious about what they are putting in their body than they are about what they are putting on their body. Our skin is a living, breathing organ. It’s the biggest one we have and what we put on our skin is often just as important as what we are ingesting. As a matter of fact, when some of these chemicals interact with the sun it has been shown to speed up malignant cell development and actually cause cancer. The very thing we think we are preventing by wearing sunscreen. One of the most harmful known ingredients in sunscreen is Oxybenzone. According to Dr. Mercola’s website:
“This is one of the most troublesome ingredients found in the majority of sunscreens. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer.”
For a detailed look at Oxybenzone and other sunscreen ingredients, check out THIS article by Environmental Working Group. There is a lot to learn.
Many of you maybe wondering about natural sunscreen brands. I know in my mom groups online there are quite a few questions going around about which sunscreen brand is best. The most common active ingredient in the “best” natural sunscreens is zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is a synthetic substance which means it’s not something I care to put on my skin. It’s best to do your own research around these claimed to be natural brands and decide for yourself.
2) The sun does not cause cancer.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that people don’t get skin cancer. I am saying that your cancer isn’t caused by the sun in and of itself, solely. Now, I am not suggesting that anyone should sit in the sun for hours and let themselves bake just as I wouldn’t suggest anyone holding their breath for hours under water (an equally vital resource), but let’s look at this for a minute:
The common belief is that the sun causes cancer. The sun-the Earth’s primary source of energy and life- causes cancer– one of the most deadliest diseases we have (debatable, but not the point). When you really contemplate that, does it even make sense? Can you imagine how that unchecked belief can affect a culture?
It is very likely that the reaction the sun has with a body filled with toxins and acidic food in combination with it [the body] lacking in nutrients will cause cancer. But the sun in and of itself does not cause cancer. How would humans have made it this far without sunscreen for all those years if the sun were so deadly? Alkaline foods that are made for human consumption promote skin health that protect our skin in harsher conditions like intense sun exposure. When the sun makes contact with the things we put on our bodies, like sunscreen, it promotes cancer. Anything you put on your body that is synthetic, or anything you put in your body that promotes acidosis has you running the risk of catching disease and cancer. The majority of humans are over acidic. When people tell me there have been studies done proving the sun causes cancer, I want to tell them that these studies are done on the common person. There are other factors at play that aren’t being studied such as what do they eat and what lifestyle do they live? Do they smoke? Drink? Eat acidic foods? Most people eat acid forming foods. I’d like to see a study done on the small percentage of people who eat an alkaline diet and how their skin reacts to a healthy amount of sunlight. Study a pH food chart to know what this looks like. When what we consume is in alignment with the needs and optimal health of the human body then we function more properly and are protecting ourselves from disease and cancer.
3) It’s harmful to the environment.
One of my biggest pet peeves next to inhaling someone else’s cigarette smoke is watching someone at the pool spray a bunch of sunscreen onto their skin and watching 50% of it float off into the air…and sometimes inhaling it. Now that we know what these substances contain, we know what is being put into the air when people all around you are spraying religiously. So now not only are we putting it on our skin, we are inhaling it, too, and then we get in the water where these chemicals wash off into, only furthering water pollution. Wearing sunscreen not only effects your health, but it effects your environment, namely the air and the water you are swimming in. Therefore, it effects everyone else around you.
4) Sunlight is vital for good health.
Not only does sunlight not cause cancer, but it actually prevents cancer. We need sunlight, and research suggests that the use of sunscreen blocks absorption of essential nutrients from the sun (hence the term ‘sunblock’). The biggest nutrient we obtain from the sun is Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to be highly effective in treating and preventing cancer. Given our phobia of the sun, it is no surprise that an estimated 85% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. According to Dr. Mercola’s website, research shows a link between Vitamin D deficiency and cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and autism. That’s no short list.
Other benefits of sun exposure include lowered blood pressure through the release of nitric oxide, increased oxygen content in your blood, and it is great for your mental health. Our fear of the sun is causing us to make decisions that are detrimental to our health. The sun is to be embraced, as it gives life, energy and the beloved Vitamin D 🙂
Ok, so now that you know why I think we should all forgo sunscreen, you might be wondering what your alternatives are to maintaining good skin health. As someone who is naturally fair skinned and freckly, I get it. The good news is that it’s really simple to avoid getting burned. Here are some tips:
- Be aware of how much time you are in the sun. When my family and I go to swim, we always park our stuff in the shade and that is where we hang out when we are not swimming. We never swim for long periods of time and always take breaks. When I am out of the water I am sitting in the shade. Rarely do I ever just sit in the sun and when I do it is for no longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. When you gradually give your skin some sunlight it won’t burn as easily.
- Eat an abundance of foods that promote healthy cells and skin protection. Some of these antioxidant rich foods include tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, watermelon and citrus fruits. Really, any foods that are nutrient dense and are not creating over acidity in the body are good.
- Keep a healthy lifestyle overall. Like I said above, the sun doesn’t cause cancer. A weak immune system and over toxicity does. Eat fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep, be active, reduce stress, avoid putting toxic chemicals on your body and maintain healthy, loving relationships. Oh, and get plenty of sunlight 🙂
- Bring a hat and light cover ups when you know you’ll be in the sun for a longer period of time. This one is pretty self explanatory.
- Opt for natural oils/butters such as coconut oil and cacao butter. I have never personally tried these but some people swear by them because they contain vitamins that promote healthy skin. Do your own research. Since they are completely natural then it wouldn’t hurt to try them out.
The bottom line is that sunshine doesn’t have to be feared. It is life giving in every sense of the word. A good, positive attitude toward the sun along with sun consciousness and a healthy lifestyle will be everything you need to protect your skin (your body, for that matter). I am curious what you or your family does for skin protection and if this article made you think about changing your relationship to sunscreen? Let me know how you thought my ideas were helpful or not. Here’s to happy skin 🙂
I have been getting a lot of negative feedback suggesting that I don’t know about skin health or that I’m not acknowledging the damage that can happen if you bake in the sun. Please re-read this article if you think this. I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t be conscious of the sun or keep our skin healthy. I don’t think I could just sit in the sun all day and be hunky dory. This is why I stay in the shade as much as possible (90% of the time). There is a lot of research that I provided in the links stating that these chemical sunscreens can prevent burning, but they don’t prevent cancer. Also there is much research showing what our lack of sunlight and vitamin D absorption is doing to our health. I know skin cancer exists. I’m not an idiot. But I choose to prevent it in part by not putting proven toxins on my skin and seeking natural approaches to keeping it healthy. A little common sense: stay in the shade, wear hats and covers, don’t eat food that promotes cancer, etc. I’ve never gotten burned. I don’t “lay out.” When I was pregnant and my midwives were drawing my blood for blood work they told me to go ahead and take a Vitamin D supplement because most all of women’s blood work comes back saying they’re deficient in Vitamin D. Well guess what? I had normal levels. Some of the best they’ve seen, they said (I’m also a vegan and had zero deficiencies, but I digress). Some sunlight is actually really good for us. We’re not vampires. Just be smart about it. I’m failing to see how this message is lost on so many people. Please don’t comment until you’ve researched the opposite side. I’ve provided links so it should make it easier. Thank you for reading.