It has been said that there are two certainties in life—death and taxes.
I’ll add one more onto that—the fact that advertising works. Very well.
One motivator in particular that has been shown to work like a charm in the media is FEAR!
There’s nothing quite like scaring the beejuzus out of someone, then selling a product as the magic answer to protect them from the dreaded outcome.
And when it comes to sunscreens, fear of skin cancer is the golden ticket.
But I have a few questions here and you should too:
- Is the sun truly the evil, skin-cancer-creating monster it’s been made out to be by people that make money on that perception (sunscreen companies and dermatologists)?
- And are all sunscreens safe and effective?
I’ll let you ponder those questions while we look at the history of sunscreens.
History speaks for itself
Sunscreen was first marketed in 1936, being introduced by French chemist Eugène Schueller—the founder of L'Oreal cosmetics.
So it only follows that prior to 1936, people must have been keeling over in massive numbers from skin cancer, right?
As a matter of fact, according to data presented by Dr. Marc Sorenson, founder of the Sunlight Institute and author of the book, “Embrace the Sun,” in 1935 about 1 in 1,500 people contracted melanoma. As of 2002/2003, that rate was 1 in 50!
In addition, between 2006 and 2015, melanoma rates increased 3 percent per year, so clearly rates are going up—despite the fact that we are using MORE sunscreen than ever before in our existence.
Something is not adding up here.
Skin cancer is not cut and dry
The whole skin cancer issue is not cut and dry, and many people are misinformed about a number of things.
First of all, there are two basic types of skin cancer: melanoma (the most deadly type) and nonmelanoma (which includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma), which is less fatal than melanoma.
According to current statistics presented by Dr. Sorenson, nonmelanoma deaths in the US are about 4,500 per year, and those typically occur in people with compromised immune systems. Melanoma, on the other hand, kills about 7,300 people per year.
Here’s the real kicker for you: 75 percent of all melanoma occurs on areas of the body that NEVER see the sun. Plus indoor workers have double the rate of lethal melanoma skin cancer than outdoor workers!
Clearly there are some holes in the skin cancer/sun exposure story.
As far as sunscreen use goes, studies have shown that sunscreen reduces the number of new squamous cell skin cancers, but has little to no effect on basal cell carcinomas, and may actually contribute to the development of the more aggressive melanoma!
The dark side of shunning the sun
Shunning the sun does have a dark side because your body needs UV light exposure from the sun to make vitamin D.
Vitamin D protects you against cancer, so by avoiding the sun because you’re scared of skin cancer, you’re actually in effect raising your overall risk of cancer!
Plus vitamin D is crucial for bone health, a strong-functioning immune system and a healthy cardiovascular system, among other things.
Here is an interesting tidbit: It has been estimated that for every death caused by diseases related to excessive sun exposure — such as melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer — there are 328 deaths caused by diseases of sunlight deprivation and lack of vitamin D!
All sunscreens are not created equal
Many sunscreens are not only wildly ineffective, but up to 75 percent of them are downright toxic!
First of all, a product needs to shield you from both UVA and UVB radiation. But some sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, which are the rays that your body uses to make vitamin D, and not protecting you from UVA rays—which are the rays that can cause skin cancer.
I wish I could make this stuff up.
In addition, the following sunscreen ingredients have either been shown to be toxic, or at a minimum data supporting their safety are lacking:
- Para amino benzoic acid (PABA)
- Octyl salicyclate
- Oxybenzone (Found in about 70 percent of sunscreens, research suggests oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, and it has been linked to reduced sperm count in men and endometriosis in women. Plus it is known to harm coral reefs and aquatic life.)
- Menthyl anthranilate
On the other hand, out of all the active sunscreen ingredients widely used in products in the US, only two — non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — have been deemed safe for human use by the FDA.
A smarter approach
Clearly, completely shunning the sun is not necessarily in your best interest, nor is slathering potentially toxic sunscreen on your skin or thinking you have free reign to roast yourself like a turkey because you have sunscreen on!
Here is a smart approach to getting healthier sun exposure and still protecting yourself:
Take care of your skin from the inside out!
Skin health starts on this inside, and that means eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water and getting enough Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
A pure fish oil formula like VitalMega-3 can help ensure you have healthy-skin-supporting levels of these crucial fats, especially since most people don’t eat nearly enough fish to give their bodies the Omega-3 EFAs they need!
Also important for skin health are antioxidants, biotin, vitamin B6 and vitamins C and E.
Super Core multi-vitamin and mineral formula contains healthful doses of all these nutrients, plus natural antioxidants which help counteract premature aging from free radicals, and anti-inflammatories which support skin health!
Get 20-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day
This will help allow your skin to naturally produce vitamin D as it was designed to.
Plus the sun’s rays have been shown to have a positive effect on skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne and eczema, and sunlight helps to kill harmful bacteria on your skin.
In addition, sunlight also builds your immune system. Your immune system’s white blood cells (lymphocytes) increase with sun exposure, and these cells play a major role in defending your body against infections.
Protect for longer exposure
If you stay in the sun for longer than 30 minutes, it’s time to protect yourself. Options include wearing light clothing, sitting under an umbrella, or wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
As far as sunscreens go, be sure to choose “broad protection” (UVA and UVB) mineral-based varieties that do not contain the harmful ingredients listed above. I use Badger, but there are many great brands out there including Bare Belly, Burt’s Bees and Kabana.
Never, EVER get a sunburn
If you see your skin going from light pink or tan to red, get out of the sun immediately and put some aloe vera and/or vitamin E gel on your skin.
Enjoy the sun the way you’re supposed to—safely and healthfully!
To your health,
Sherry BresciaThe information in our articles are NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and are not intended as medical advice.