Sunscreen or Sombreros?? by Dr. Nick Araza
I know what your thinking – “get that man some shorts and some sunscreen STAT!” I won’t debate the shorts, but if it was a choice between the other two, I’d opt to keep the sombreros and ditch the sunscreen (and that has nothing to do with having hippie tendencies!). The latest literature (and there is a lot of it) is proving that sunscreen does more harm than good when it comes to cancer, as well as a host of other chronic diseases, autoimmune and emotional disorders such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, the flu, depression and much more.
But how can this be?? The sun burns, and burns cannot be good, right?
As always, the wellness answer is multifaceted, but here is the gist:
1. Sunshine is GREAT:
- Sun is directly responsible for all life on our planet.
- Sunshine improves our moods (ask anyone in New England).
- Sunshine on our skin (UV-B rays) makes the precursor to Vit D.
2. Vitamin D is GREAT:
- Vitamin D is used by our bodies to absorb calcium and, along with exercise, to make strong bones (a major treatment of rickets is good, old-fashioned sunshine).
- Vitamin D also has cell-normalizing (anti-proliferation) properties, and because cancer is cell proliferation gone mad, it protects against many cancers.
- Vitamin D plays a vital role in our immune system and its ability to fight off pathogens (in the early 1900s, the only treatment of merit for tuberculosis was sunshine).
3. Sunscreen is – well, just okay:
- Sunscreens block UV-B rays which keep us from making hardly any Vitamin D….even a sunscreen with a SPF of 8 will block 95-98% of Vit D making sun rays!!
- This one is a biggie: it turns out that although sunscreen can limit sunburns, which are linked to skin damage and some cancers, the trade-off is no Vitamin D, which is just not worth it because Vitamin D has such a vital role in our physiology (200-1000 genes in our body are turned on or off by the big D).
- Many sunscreens do not block UVA rays anyway, which are the major causes of much of the skin damage we’re trying to prevent by wearing the sunscreen in the first place!
- Many sunscreens have harsh chemicals that your skin absorbs readily into your bloodstream.
4. My Recommendations:
- If you are light-skinned and don’t have a tan (which is a very difficult thing to have in the Northeast), then build one up gradually by spending a few minutes in the sun whenever possible. If you know you are going to be out in the sun for a long time, soak it up for long enough not to burn, and then apply sunscreen. To determine which sunscreens are best, check www.ewg.com – they have done a ton of research on 1000s of types and narrowed it down to their top 10 healthiest and most effective.
- Spending 5-30 minutes in the mid-day summer sun two to three times a week should ensure you enough Vitamin D if you are light-skinned. You want to get out of the sun or apply sunscreen after you turn slightly pink – that will ensure enough Vitamin D, and anything past that stage results in skin damage. Those with a darker complexion need to spend considerably longer in the sun to obtain enough Vitamin D (I’m unsure on time, but I have read that very dark skin is similar to an SPF of 30, so darker-skinned folks will need to spend roughly 20-30x longer). If you are unable to spend enough time in the sun, or if you live above 35 degrees Latitude during the winter (Boston is sadly 42 degrees), you should take an oral supplement to get enough D.
- The current Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin D is a measly 400 International Units (IU’s) ,which is absurd considering that a light-skinned person can easily make 10-20,000 IU’s in 15-30 minutes in the mid-day summer sun (but RDA’s were never based on optimum levels of health – they were based on minimum amounts required to avoid symptoms in the short term…that is a blog for another day).
- Based on what I’ve read, average adults should take about 2-5,000 IU’s daily if they’re not getting enough sunshine to keep their Vitamin D at a healthy level.
5. My real (wellness-revised) recommendations:
- GET INTO THE SUNSHINE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT BURNING
- ENJOY BEING A HUMAN ANIMAL
- PLAY OUTSIDE IN THE SUN
- SOAK UP THE RAYS OF THE LIFE-GIVING ORB IN THE SKY…IT IS A GIFT FOR WHICH WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL AND SHOW OUR APPRECIATION BY PLAYING IN ITS LIGHT!
Fight 4 Health,
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP