5 Important Reasons We Don’t Believe In Wearing Sunscreen Every Day
We all know UV rays from the sun cause sunburns.
Sunscreen brands (and most of the beauty industry at large) tell us we should be wearing sunscreen every day to prevent skin damage from the sun. This 2 billion dollar/yr1 sunscreen industry advises us to slather ourselves head to toe every second we’re exposed to the sun – and Americans have listened.
Sunscreen use is at an all-time high, but here’s the crazy part – so is skin cancer. You may be wondering why that is, and we have a few ideas that we’ll explore in-depth throughout this post.
But the bottom line: We actually disagree with the common consensus that you should wear sunscreen every day. Besides the fact that this feels unrealistic to maintain and REALLY expensive, sunscreen application isn't necessary for any amount of sun exposure.
Here are our top 5 reasons to back up our unconventional viewpoint.
1. Wearing Sunscreen Every Day Could Be Bad For You + Your Skin Health Long-Term.
Is sunscreen bad for you and your skin health? Well, it depends.
For Vitamin D deficiency, plenty of studies show the positive effects sun exposure has – not only on our Vitamin D levels, but also on our mental, physical, and emotional health. In fact, our body's circadian rhythms are literally designed to align with the sun!
We weren’t meant to live in darkness or under artificial lights.
Mainstream medicine isn’t totally wrong, per se. They just take sunscreen application, skin health, and sun exposure studies out of context. And context matters.
It’s proven that sun exposure benefits our body’s systems in the right doses – even traditional medical professionals won’t deny it. But we see a bigger issue beyond sun exposure benefits being blocked by your sunscreen application.
Wearing sunscreen every day can lead to:
- Excess chemical absorption
- Long-term skin damage (more on this in a bit!)
- Missing out on crucial vitamin D
- Lacking feel-good endorphins
It seems counterintuitive that sunlight, the natural solution for vitamin D deficiency – which we literally need to survive – would be killing us.
FYI: Just Because You’re Not Burning Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Damaging Your Skin
Most people don’t know that many sunscreens only protect against UVB Rays (burning rays), not UVA Rays, which are also present with sun exposure. The real dangers for your skin health actually lie in UVA rays. UVA rays are the ones that cause skin cancer and long-term damage to the skin.
What’s more: there’s evidence that a disproportionate amount of UVA to UVB exposure accelerates skin cancer and skin damage from the sun.2 This is caused by sunscreens with an unbalanced UVB/UVA protection.
The natural solution is to support skin health and prevent skin cancer by being responsible for your sun exposure. Start by opting for a non-nano zinc-based sunscreen that provides UVB and UVA coverage when you know you’ll be exposed to the sun for longer periods.
Why Are UVA Rays So Dangerous to Skin Health?
Simply put, UVA rays are the more dangerous rays because they penetrate the skin on a deeper level. Check out this quote from The Skin Cancer Foundation:3
“UVA rays, while slightly less intense than UVB, penetrate your skin more deeply. Exposure causes genetic damage to cells on the innermost part of your top layer of skin, where most skin cancers occur. The skin tries to prevent further damage by darkening, resulting in a tan. Over time, UVA also leads to premature aging and skin cancer.”
Potential Chemicals Absorbed From Sunscreen Application
Is sunscreen safe?
When talking about the actual product (vs. its use), the answer to this question is: it depends on what type of sunscreen you use.
Unfortunately, like many personal care products, sunscreens are often packed with chemicals that stick around in our bodies. If you are using sunscreen, you’ll want to avoid these chemicals at all costs:
Psst – avoid all aerosol sunscreens. There are far too many chemicals that have to be present for the spray function. You can check out our post on home toxins for more information.
All this information about dangerous chemicals in sunscreen is more than just a theory – it’s been proven by a study the FDA ran:1
For example, blood concentrations of oxybenzone were more than 180 times the FDA’s level of concern after a single application of sunscreen.
After four days of sunscreen application, their blood concentration rose to 500 times the FDA’s level of concern. We’d like to hope this changed after a week or so, but oxybenzone was still present in their blood three weeks later1 (No thank you…)
Constant Sunscreen Application = Missing Out on Essential Vitamin D (We Need Sun Exposure Benefits!)
Vitamin D from the sun helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are critical for proper bone health. Our body even has specific vitamin D receptors and binding sites throughout the body, suggesting that vitamin D does far more than just support bone health4
With a healthy amount of sun exposure, Vitamin D from the sun can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections, and reduce inflammation.5
And we’re not just hypothesizing. Sun exposure benefits have been scientifically proven. Studies of populations in sunnier locations (AKA Vitamin D-rich cultures) have less serious illnesses, including:6
- Less cancer
- Less heart disease
- Improved immune function
- Fewer cases of diabetes 2
- Better bone health
- More muscle strength
- Improved gut health7
- Less risk of premature death
Harvard health even suggests that sun exposure can assist in ridding yourself of the wintertime blues and even reversing Seasonal Affective Disorder!6
You can definitely take supplements for Vitamin D deficiency. But, like many things nutritional and health-related, you can also get the real thing (for free) outside in nature. One study showed that Vitamin D from the sun made a bigger impact on bone structure and homeostasis than supplemented Vitamin D.8
Taking a supplement is still helpful if it’s all you have access to, but there’s nothing like the real deal, friends.
Sun Exposure Benefits for the Win
Knowing that Vitamin D from the sun is the best source, we suggest regularly getting out into the sunshine. It benefits our skin health and whole-body health!
Besides, swapping for supplements instead of the real deal can come with its own set of issues, like:
- Confirming reliable/clean sourcing
- Traveling in hot trucks
- Needing to store them in specific temperature-regulated environments
To us, the benefits are a no-brainer for getting out into the sunshine on a daily basis, as long as it’s done responsibly!
2. Wearing Sunscreen Every Day Doesn’t Protect You From Premature Aging, Skin Cancer, and Skin Damage From the Sun.
To be clear, we’re not saying too much sun exposure isn’t harmful or doesn’t create skin damage. We definitely don’t want to lead anyone astray with skin health.
There’s certainly evidence to back up skin damage from the sun.
But we just don’t think sunscreen is the answer all the time. There are other ways to age gracefully and protect yourself from free radicals and damaged cells.
All things considered, it doesn’t feel safe to assume that sunscreen application protects you from premature aging, skin cancer, or skin damage.
Studies Show Several Forms of Skin Cancer Are Actually Linked to Sunscreen Application
Before we dive into any numbers or stats, the prevalence of skin cancer alone shows us our sunscreens are clearly not working. Though, of course, it’s only fair to also consider that some of these numbers are missing context like negligent application.
Yet despite this “constant” use of sunscreen, skin cancers continue to increase.
The number of people treated for skin cancers has increased by 44% in a single decade (roughly 2002-2011).9
What’s even more harrowing: current estimates are that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.10
With these stats in mind, you might begin to wonder – so, is sunscreen safe?
Well, there are a lot of factors to consider to determine if YOUR sunscreen is safe.
Like many things in life, some are, and some aren’t.
Aside from the failure to prevent skin cancer, many sunscreens’ toxic ingredients + lack of broad-spectrum coverage can lead to other types of skin damage. These damages are usually precursors to premature aging and more specific concerns like glycation of the skin.
Science has also shown us other contributing factors to sunburns and skin cancers such as:
Sunscreens can contain ingredients that effect skin health by:
- Injuring cell makeup or DNA
- Creating oxidation and damage to the skin
- Interfering with skin homeostasis13
- Increasing signs of premature aging – far quicker than sun damage alone would (And no, we’re not advocating for sun damage. We’re just pointing out the irony here that the very products that promise to protect us from the sun are often toxic to our skin.)
So why aren’t these findings being reported and implemented into new, safer sunscreen development?
Unfortunately, health policy doesn’t catch up with the current scientific discoveries until years or even decades later.
There’s a surprising amount of evidence to suggest that sun exposure is NOT the only reason for skin cancer. It’s merely a factor in the spectrum of the context of our lives + environment.
It’s unfortunate because we know that Vitamin D from the sun reduces the risk of even developing cancer in the first place. Plus, it’s been proven to increase survival rates in cancer patients. Yet, we’re told to shield ourselves from the sun to protect AGAINST cancer.14
3. We Lose Our Connection to Ancestral Wisdom When We Wear Sunscreen Every Day.
With the opinion that we don’t need to wear sunscreen every day comes the question:
How much sun exposure is too much?
When life feels too complicated, we like to refer back to ancestral wisdom to guide us.
On the most basic level, our bodies are designed to live under the sun and, within reason, need a healthy amount of exposure to the sun. There are undeniable sun exposure benefits.
Let’s take a look from a logical perspective. Our ancestors didn’t have sunscreen, did they?
So what did they do?
They used shade, animal hides (clothing), and other methods to avoid intense sun exposure at certain times of the day.
Did they completely avoid the sun? Of course not.
Modern-day humans spend up to 90% of their time indoors.15 With this lack of exposure to the sun, is sunscreen safe to use when we’re already depleted from regular sun exposure?
This poses a very interesting discussion.
Sunburns Are Our Built-In Warning System
As crazy as it sounds, our sunburns are a gift. They actually warn us of excessive exposure to the sun. A sunburn is an inflammatory response from our body, designed to help us self-regulate our sun exposure and maintain homeostasis.16
Paying attention to your skin’s sun tolerance can provide guidance for when you need to find some shade or apply a non-toxic, natural sunscreen (we love Little Hands Hawaii or Raw Elements). So yes, there absolutely comes a time when your body needs rest from the sun.
But there’s more than one way to do it without having to leave the sun:
- Clothing with sun protection
- Hat for sun protection
- Natural sunscreen with zinc oxide (make sure it’s non-nano particles)
Paying more attention to our skin will help us figure out the amount of sunlight our unique biology (and other contributing factors) allows. Sun exposure would be much more simple.
Our Ancestors Lived in Areas That Geographically Matched the Melanin Levels in Their Skin
This is a fascinating discovery, but it’s pretty logical when you think about it. People used to have melanin levels that matched their sun exposure based on where they lived. Wow.
A Forbes article on the world’s skin cancer hot spots17 does a great job of breaking it down:
“Migration patterns over the past few hundred years have created a scenario in which most people's skin pigmentations are no longer suited to their environments…Fair-skinned populations that migrated to areas with high ambient levels of solar ultraviolet radiation have experienced a jump in the incidence of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers…”
More melanin in your skin means more pigment to protect yourself from the damaging effects of sunlight on your skin and actively prevent the formation of skin cancer.5
4. Instead Of Wearing Sunscreen Every Day, You Can Teach Your Skin to Be Resilient to Sun Exposure (Within Reason).
Contrary to what you’ve been told, we believe that sunscreen application isn’t always necessary if you expose your skin to the sun gradually and mindfully.
After all, the sun is not bad!
In fact, it’s wonderful for us.
Like many things in life, this is all about context and common sense, and that’s where much of the conventional advice we hear today leaves us confused. Sun exposure benefits are plentiful when we practice sun exposure in a responsible manner.
Several studies have even suggested that suddenly getting a lot of sun exposure at once is more dangerous than steady sun exposure over time.6
You Can Build Your Protective Melanin With Gradual Sun Exposure
Our bodies are pretty incredible. When it comes to sun exposure, you can build resilience in your skin, so you aren’t as prone to sun damage.
It sounds crazy, but many surfers do this, and it works!
→ Start with morning or late afternoon light when the sun is less intense.
→ Stay in the sun for 10-15 minutes the first day.
→ Gradually work your way up to going out later in the day and then for more time.
Over time, you’ll build up melanin in your skin at a healthy rate, become more resistant to sunburn, + reap the benefits of sun exposure!
5. We Don’t Need to Wear Sunscreen Every Day Because Nature Has Provided Us Sun Protection For Skin Health.
True to our roots, at Primally Pure, we believe that nature has provided us with some pretty incredible (and valuable) remedies and protection when it comes to time in the sun!
Create Sun Protection by Nourishing Your Body Inside
You can provide your body with powerful superfoods AND protect your skin from harsh sun exposure by prioritizing the type of foods you eat.
→ Try to focus on choices like:
- Healthy foods – especially more healthy fats – they’re the building blocks of our cells! (Nourishing your skin with healthy fats is beneficial too.)
- Sources of Vitamin D – Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring, along with cod liver oil and fish roe.
- Antioxidant-rich foods – foods like berries, green tea, or beets fight inflammation, and sunburn is an inflammatory response of the body… you’re welcome.
→ It’s also essential to stay away from choices like:
- Industrial seed oils (Omega-6’s) – increase your risk for skin cancer and sunburn because they’re damaged fats that your cells try to use, causing increased oxidation and compromising the health of your cells.18
- Inflammatory foods – gluten, processed dairy, and sugar – these foods decrease skin health and contribute to premature aging like glycation of the skin.
You can also try supplements like Astaxanthin. We love this antioxidant-rich supplement derived from algae – what salmon eat that gives them their red hue. A lot of surfers take this internally to prime their skin for sun exposure. You’ll also find it in our plumping serum to help build resilient skin.
When you’re conscious of what you’re putting in your body, everything can work together harmoniously, and your skin will become far more resilient to sun exposure.
We’ll Choose Sun Exposure Benefits Over Wearing Sunscreen Every Day
With such a wide range of contexts to consider, the debate over wearing sunscreen every day is probably not going to be resolved soon. But for us, based on the research, we know where we stand:
We’ll choose to responsibly partake in the sun’s many benefits, letting common sense lead the way. If we’re outside in peak sun or for an extended time, we’ll find shade, cover up with protective clothing/headwear, or use a safe, natural, non-nano zinc-based sunscreen free from toxins.
Of course, we don’t claim to be medical professionals, and this post isn’t intended to be medical advice. It’s our honest research, experience, and thoughts on a widely debated topic.
We believe that with the right mindset and sun protection resources at hand, you’re all set for sunny days ahead. No need to fear the sun – yes, it’s powerful, but it’s all about moderation.
What are your thoughts on sun exposure + wearing sunscreen every day after reading this?
- Web MD | FDA Sunscreen Report Raises Concern Over Chemicals
- Ewg Study | UVA Protection of Most Sunscreens Only a Quarter of Touted Spf
- The Skin Cancer Foundation | UV Radiation & Your Skin
- National Library of Medicine | Vitamin D Metabolism, Mechanism of Action, and Clinical Applications
- Harvard Nutrition Source | Vitamin D
- Harvard Health Publishing | Benefits of Moderate Sun Exposure
- Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | Exposure to Sunlight Boosts Good Gut Microbiome Bacteria, and Vitamin D Levels
- Science Direct | Sunlight Exposure vs. Vitamin D Supplementation on Bone Homeostasis of Vitamin D Deficient Rats
- National Library of Medicine | Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure and Its Impact on Skin Cancer Risk
- American Academy of Dermatology | Skin Cancer
- National Library of Medicine | Dependence of Photocarcinogenesis and Photoimmunosuppression in the Hairless Mouse on Dietary Polyunsaturated Fat
- Heal With Food | Foods That Contain Psoralen
- National Library of Medicine | Homeostasis in Topical Photoprotection: Getting the Spectral Balance Right
- National Library of Medicine | How Strong Is the Evidence That Solar Ultraviolet B and Vitamin D Reduce the Risk of Cancer?
- EPA | Indoor Air Quality
- National Library of Medicine | Homeostasis in Topical Photoprotection: Getting the Spectral Balance Right
- Forbes | World's Skin Cancer Hot Spots
- National Library of Medicine | Effects of High-Fat Diets Rich in either Omega-3 or Omega-6 Fatty Acids on Uvb-Induced Skin Carcinogenesis in Skh-1 Mice