Revisit sunscreen

For the past 30 years, the message has been clear: smear sunscreen on your body if you even think about going outside in the sun. Cloudy and Rainy? Does not matter. Apply the sunscreen. Would you like to build up a basic tan? You’re killing yourself Apply the sunscreen. Is it only ten minutes? This ten minute suntan lotion without sunscreen will cut your life by a year. Apply the sunscreen.

The tide has shifted in recent years. Research has shown that most commercial sunscreens contain chemical compounds that act as carcinogens when absorbed, at least in animal models. Maybe we don’t want to block the sun at all. Or maybe we do, but there is a better way than using chemical filters that soak into our skin. In any case, I figured that summer would be the time to revisit the subject of sunscreen. So let’s do this, yeah?

What’s Wrong With Sunscreen?

There is a lot wrong with most sunscreens:

  • Endocrine-disrupting UV filters
  • Unbalanced UV protection
  • Happy Birthday
  • Retinyl palmitate

Endocrine disrupting UV filters

Most of your typical commercial sunscreens use chemical UV filters such as benzophenone and oxybenzone, which in addition to UV blocking have a hidden property: endocrine disruptions. For example, certain forms of benzophenone inhibit the action of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme that is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Another study showed that using sunscreen containing benzophenone-2 for five days lowered T4 and T3 thyroid hormones in rats. Researchers later examined the estrogenic effects of another UV filter used in sunscreens called octyl methoxycinnamate and found that typical amounts are enough to disrupt hormonal function and exert other non-endocrine health effects when applied to the Rat skin can be applied. That would not be a problem if UV filters in sunscreens were not designed to be absorbed into the skin and thus into the body, or if not every expert asks us to distribute a quarter of a cup all over our body at the first hint Sunlight. But additional ingredients in the sunscreen improve the dermal absorption of these compounds.

It is also worth noting that UV-filtering chemicals often have even more drastic effects on wildlife, such as the zebrafish, where low levels of oxybenzone exert cross-generational effects at the level of gene transcription.

Worst of all, it is effective against even developing melanoma! In fact, one study found a positive association between sunscreen use and the occurrence of melanoma.

Unbalanced UV protection

Most sunscreens only block UVB; This is what SPF refers to – the sunscreen’s ability to block UVB. But our skin is designed to deal with UVB and UVA together. After all, UVB with UVA is the ancestral environment. You need both.

UVB rays are the trigger for vitamin D production in our body. UVB rays penetrate the epidermis, the upper layers of our skin. UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate deeper into the basal section of the dermis, where most skin cancer occurs. Excessive UVA exposure has also been linked to wrinkling, immunosuppression, oxidative stress, and related aging. Research shows that simultaneous exposure to UVB actually serves to counteract skin damage and inflammation caused by UVA. We need both together. Blocking one while exposing our skin to the other is a recipe for danger.

Happy Birthday

Although parabens are sometimes used as food preservatives, they are also used as preservatives in sunscreens – and the majority of urinary parabens come from non-dietary sources like cosmetics, primarily where they are used to extend shelf life. They show up in our urine because humans can easily ingest parabens from topical application. Although the health effects have not been explicitly established, human studies suggest a link between urinary paraben levels and certain health conditions, such as: B. Sensitivity to air and food allergies, increased stress hormones in pregnant mothers and their newborn children (which, by the way, show up with parabens in the first urine!) And DNA damage to sperm.

Retinyl palmitate

Vitamin A in food protects against sun damage, so manufacturers thought they would include it in topical sunscreens. With the exception of a 2012 study in hairless mice, which found that applying retinyl palmitate to bare skin and exposing tumors to UV light increased the incidence of tumors and skin damage. Humans are not hairless mice. We are wild animals and the hairless mouse was specially bred for laboratory experiments. It is likely that the hairless mouse is more sensitive to skin irritation and the results from the 2012 paper may not apply to us.

But even if retinyl palmitate isn’t carcinogenic, it’s useless. Avoid it just to be sure.

What are healthy sunscreens?

But just because traditional sunscreens are toxic and likely to cause cancer, doesn’t mean the sun can’t harm your skin. It can. You still need protection.

There are a few types of sunscreens that I advocate.

zinc oxide

Zinc oxide is not a chemical barrier, but a physical barrier. It sits on your skin and physically prevents UV rays from harming you. Zinc oxide has a broad spectrum, which means that it blocks both UVA and UVB. Zinc oxide doesn’t absorb into the skin, which is why it stays white (that’s why I can’t fully support nano-zinc oxide sunscreens that absorb into the skin) and that’s why most people avoid them – they think so White is unsightly.

It’s not pretty, but boy does it work.

Edible sunscreen

The consumption of colorful plants and animal foods is a form of “edible sunscreen”. For example, a diet rich in carotenoids protects the skin from UV damage, and lycopene, the active ingredient in tomatoes (more actively eaten with fat and cooked), has similar effects. Polyphenols generally tend to increase the skin’s antioxidant capacity. Anthocyanins found in red wine and berries can also be useful. Coffee and green tea consumption has been shown to increase UV protection, likely due to the caffeine content and phytochemicals found in tea and coffee.

Berries, red wine, cooked tomatoes (tomato sauce, paste, ketchup), carrots, peppers, willow yolks, sockeye salmon, shrimp, green tea and coffee form the basis of a good sun resistance protocol. Supplementary lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin can also help.

Infrared light

IR radiation, as seen during morning sunrises, evening sunsets, infrared saunas and red light devices, increases the skin’s UV resistance. This protective effect of infrared light lasts for 24 hours.

Good sleep and a healthy circadian rhythm

Like almost every other physiological tool we use, our ability to repair UV-related damage depends on a well-functioning circadian rhythm. If you haven’t slept well or are chronically sleep deprived, you should wait until you can sleep before sunbathing as your skin does not recover as well.

In addition, melatonin itself is photoprotective against UV damage and is synthesized by human skin cells themselves.


Physically blocking UV light hitting your skin with hats, clothing, and umbrellas is the oldest form of sunscreen. If you plan to spend a longer day in the sun, I highly recommend having some shade on hand. The pop-up “day tents” are ideal for long days on the beach.

Intelligent time-in-the-sun management

The safest time to soak up the sun is actually around noon. Then UVB exposure and thus vitamin D production are at their peak (PDF). UVB is burning, but it also tans (and warns) and doesn’t penetrate the epidermis deep enough to cause melanoma. At lunchtime you get both UVB and UVA. UVB also counteracts UVA damage; UVA prevents vitamin D synthesis from getting out of hand. If we upset the balance and get too much UVA without enough UVB, melanoma can develop.

However, you also need to limit your time in the sun. The midday sun is strong but powerful. Depending on your skin color and UV resistance, it may only take you 10 minutes to get your full dose of vitamin D. Do not burn. Don’t get pink. Don’t wait for your skin to become firm and stiff.

And you have to be consistent: vacationing in the tropics a few times a year and getting almost no sun for the rest of the year is not your style. Small daily doses of sunshine are the healthiest; intermittent doses are the most dangerous.

As you can see, the healthiest ways to block out the sun have little to do with putting lotion on yourself. If you want to go without traditional sunscreen – and I recommend it – you have to wear a much stricter, more holistic, full-spectrum sunscreen for your entire life.

How do you make sun protection? What are you using What are you doing instead

About the author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the primal food and lifestyle movement, and New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, in which he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which in 2009 was credited with accelerating the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement. After spending three decades researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving this and maintaining optimal wellbeing, Mark founded Primal Kitchen, a real-food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto – and makes Whole30-friendly staples.

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