When Should You Wear Sunscreen?
It is summer and everywhere I look I see blogs, social media posts, and a non-stop stream of information about sun safety and telling you what sunscreens to wear.
It is true that having a fun and healthy summer does rely on safe sun exposure. But answering the questions of when should you wear sunscreen starts by understanding the sun.
Unfortunately, many of the headlines almost seem to demonize the sun, which is a huge problem because your body needs sunshine. I cannot emphasize that enough.
In fact, a lot of our 21st Century diseases are starting to be linked back to low sun exposure.
Our skin is designed to be exposed to sun. But sunscreen is often misused to break that key relationship with the sun for our long-term health.
The sun reacts with the cholesterol in our skin to create healthy chain reactions in the body. The full spectrum of sunlight activates the pineal gland, simulates hormone production, regulates your circadian rhythms (when you feel awake and sleepy), fuels your pituitary glands, and more.
Not getting out in the sun, or wearing sunscreen from the first second you step out in the sun, stops your body’s production of Vitamin D, which is a very important hormone your body made when the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit your skin.
You absolutely need Vitamin D, but staying out of the sun or covering your skin with sunscreen keeps your body from making it.
If you are in the sun, but covered in sunscreen, it is still like turning the sun off because the sunscreen blocks the untraviolet rays from hitting your skin. No ultraviolet rays = no vitamin D.
And believe me, you need vitamin D.
- Vitamin D is a key component for bone growth and calcium levels in the body. Children who don’t get enough sun can develop rickets, where bones become soft and weak. In adults this same condition is called osteomalcia. If you’ve heard the stories or experienced having to take a spoonful of cod liver oil every day as a child, this became widespread because cod liver oil had Vitamin D to help stop rickets from developing.
- Vitamin D also helps regulate your genes and fights diabetes, high blood pressure and even arthritis.
- The latest research shows vitamin D lowers our bodies’ risk of cancer (um, how can your body do that when you are following the advice telling to say out of the sun to avoid skin cancer! I promise you. Look it up. Do your own research. There are massive doubts that the sun really causes skin cancer at all),
That’s just the short list of vitamin D’s benefit in your body.
Studies show that most human cells have vitamin D receptors and, honestly, scientists are just beginning to understand when they do.
I am convinced we don’t know half of what Vitamin D does for our body!
But we aren’t getting enough because of the sun guidelines everyone is given and the crazy toxic sunscreen we’re all slathering over our bodies for our skin to drink in (your body basically “eats” what you put on your skin because it is absorbed).
So while I appreciate the Environmental Working Group’s new ranking of sunscreens based on their toxic exposure, the toxic additives aren’t the biggest problem with sunscreen.
The problem is with the overuse/misuse of sunscreens.
I believe sunscreens should be used much differently than the way we’re taught. And by much differently, I actually mean much less.
I know. Shocking when you consider the massive emphasis on covering up to avoid skin cancer.
BTW, someone who has a problem with continuous episodes of skin cancer probably has other system or function in the body that is malfunctioning. IT ISN’T THE SUN. Also, there are some people who are flat out allergic to the sun, so they need to support Vitamin D in the body a different way. I am talking as a general rule.
Most people are absolutely confident that using sunscreen in the healthiest choice they can make, but there is a lot of conflicting research. There is actually poor evidence that sunscreen prevents cancer AT ALL – and some new research suggests sunscreens and the ingredients in them actually releases free radicals, which promote different types of cancer and have a major effect on fertility when the UV-blocking ingredients are absorbed in the skin.
Instead of serving as an impenetrable shield to hide you from the sun all the time, I see sunscreen as tools for building your body’s natural ability to be in the sun and soak it in naturally. Before you call me crazy, please remember that humans have been running around in the sun for centuries without sunscreen and they were not all dying of skin cancer.
Don’t be afraid of the sun. Be sensible.
You should never burn your skin. That’s when the sun does damage to your body.
Let me repeat that. Do not let your skin burn! If you haven’t been outside in a month, don’t go out to when it is 80 degrees.
Here are my healthy guidelines:
- You need full body exposure with no sunscreen to get the natural Vitamin D you need.
- Start sun exposure without sunscreen slowly and watch your skin. That will probably only be 5-10 minutes with no sunscreen based on your skin type and how often you’ve been in the sun.
- If you are super white/pale and sensitive, you do need to be smart. No matter how much you want to, you can’t go outside for hours without first training your body to be ready for it.
- Take your time to build up a base without burning, and as a base develops you can stay in the sun longer.
- When you skin starts to turn a light shade of pink, you’re done with full on sun exposure. That’s when the sunscreen finally comes in.
- Go indoors or, if you still need to be in the sun longer, than I actually suggest you cover up or look for a natural sunscreen such as coconut oil, which has a natural 6-8 SPF.
- Just to not burn your skin! Again, that’s where the damage happens to your body.
- Find a natural sunscreen if you are out longer than 10-15 minutes. Do your own research, but stay away from the chemicals.
- Look for versions that are PABA free, especially for kids. It is important because kids’ skin is more sensitive and absorbent than adult skin.
- Look for natural ingredients such as zinc and titanium, which are better active ingredients, are less likely to irritate the skin, and, unlike chemical ingredients, these protect without being absorbed by the skin.
It’s time to stop “turning the sun off” with sunscreen, and help your body get the vitamin D it needs by using sunscreen the right way – as a tool to build up your body’s natural ability to soak in the sun safely while outdoors.