bright sunshine

Every year, just before summer begins, newspapers and magazines are filled with articles reminding you to use sunblock or risk getting skin cancer.

The advice is always the same – avoid going out in the sun at peak times, and always wear sunblock with a high SPF. If you don’t, you’ll get skin cancer!

At the same time, there are plenty of alternative news stations which delve further into the sun exposure debate. It turns out it’s not as simple as “wear sunblock, stay healthy.”

In this article, I will go through both sides of the debate and give you my advice for dealing with the sun and avoiding sunburns. You’ll learn the pros and cons of sunscreen and sunlight.

Use Sunscreen?

First of all, the “mainstream” opinion is that you must wear sunscreen any time you’ll be out in the sun. That’s because getting a sunburn can greatly increase your risk for skin cancer (and they do indeed have studies to prove that.)

Sunscreen is also supposed to increase your athletic performance. Without sunscreen, your body absorbs almost all of the sun’s rays. By blocking some of the sun’s rays, sunscreen keeps your skin cooler, which is supposed to keep your body up to 20% cooler than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. If you’re cooler, you’ll perform noticeably better. (The study that showed this was mentioned in Bicycling Magazine at least once, although I’m not positive about the original source.)

Don’t Use Sunscreen?

However, the mainstream media outlets don’t mention the dangers of the sunscreens themselves or the importance of sun exposure for a healthy and happy life. Luckily I had a smart health teacher who told me the whole story. (I also researched the issue online and got some insight from Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has some good advice, if you look at the 20% of the page that isn’t an ad for his own products.)

Sunscreens today are typically composed of dangerous chemicals that you wouldn’t want to put on your skin if you really knew what they were. Some of the ingredients are suspected to be carcinogens. In other words, sunscreen itself may lead to cancer and disease, which is what it is supposed to prevent!

Plus, the sun doesn’t deserve this bad reputation. It provides us with Vitamin D (an essential vitamin) and other health benefits such as fighting depression and protection against several types of cancer. Not to mention that the sun is the only natural source for Vitamin D!

A big problem is that sunblock with an SPF higher than 8 will block the UV rays necessary to make Vitamin D. So if you want your Vitamin D, you’ll need to brave the sun unprotected. (That’s another study I read about in Bicycling Magazine.)

As you can see, regular sun exposure is very important. But as with some other substances, you need to get it in moderation. It’s not actually sun exposure that leads to skin cancer, it’s sunburn. If you avoid getting burnt, you can still enjoy the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

What’s the real deal then?

The key to getting the health benefits of sun exposure without risking skin cancer is to start slow. Play in the sun for a few minutes at a time, and gradually work your way up. It’s good if you start to tan slightly, because the added melanin offers increased protection for future sun exposure. In other words, a sun tan will help protect you from getting a sun burn.

But what if you don’t have a tan yet or you’ll be out in the sun A LOT during the peak hours of 10 AM and 2 PM?

In that case, which is pretty common for us cyclists, you need to lather on the sunblock. However, you don’t need to use sunblock that is full of harsh chemicals. I was lucky enough to find a natural/organic sunscreen from Aubrey Organics, and I’m happy with it. There are also natural sunscreens from Badger, All Good, and Soleo that you should look into.

Now, if you want to trust the big corporations and their snazzy TV commercials and the doctors that get special “perks” for prescribing certain drugs, that’s your right. But if you want to live healthier and happier, think twice about that sunscreen full of harsh chemicals.

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Photo credit: Zanastardust

7 Comments
  1. I’m using Coppertone’s Sports Sunscreen. Living in S. Texas and riding from 10-4, I think it’s a requirement. What do you think about Coppertone’s stuff?

    CHEERS!

  2. @Dave C

    I used to use Coppertone Sport. But I quit using it once I did more research and realized that I’d rather get the sunlight than cover my body in chemicals.

    (My bottle of Coppertone Sport lists numerous chemical ingredients, much like all the other traditional sunblocks. That’s why I quit using it.)

  3. Your review of sunscreen products is seriously flawed. It would appear that you have found your sunscreen research from a Cracker Jack box! Aubrey’s natural sunscreen DOES contain a toxic and harmful ingredient – PABA, Padimate O. This ingredient should be avoided more so than other sunscreen ingredients. Do your research!

  4. @Trenton

    They are giving out health advice on Cracker Jack boxes these days? I had no idea! Is that in addition to or instead of the prize inside the box?

    Silly me, I was just looking to other sources, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG.) According to their Skindeep database, all the sunscreens I listed above (Aubrey Organics, Soleo Organics, and Badger) received the lowest-risk rating available for cosmetics.

    • @Levi

      I highly suggest getting your information from a board certified dermatologist/a trustworthy page that looks at how toxic the chemicals are instead of the number of toxin in the ingredients. This would make your information much more reliable.

  5. So why is sun screen bad for you?

  6. @Josie

    As stated in the article, most sunscreens contain carcinogens. So you are coating your body with substances known to cause cancer.

    You are also blocking Vitamin D production.

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