A natural approach to functioning optimally
Boost Your Body's Resistance to the Sun
and Avoid Toxic Sunscreens

                                         By Karen Calomino  June 3, 2014

The sun is the fuel of life. Just like oxygen and water, it is needed to maintain living things on Earth. We are drawn to its warmth as well as its many healing and beneficial properties. For example, it is known to directly or indirectly:    

  • lower blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide into the blood vessels when it touches the skin.
  • treat skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema.
  • enhance mood and energy through the release of neurotransmitters.
  • treat depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  • improve sleep by regulating melatonin.
  • protect against many cancers, including melanoma.

As a human race, we evolved for millions of years under the protection of the sun, however during the last 30 years or so we have been told to stay clear from it unless we lather on tons of toxic sunscreen. Otherwise we risk getting skin cancer. While these scare tactics have benefited the sales of sunscreens, which generate about $1 billion annually, ironically there have been no improvements in the rate of new melanoma cases. Rather, Americans diagnosed with this skin cancer has tripled since the 1970s [1]. Despite the fact that we are repeatedly told the opposite, available data do not support the statement that sunscreens prevent melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.

To the contrary, sunscreens may contribute to skin cancer by blocking the absorption of UVB rays, which triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, a protector against melanoma and other cancers. In one study, continued exposure to the sun was linked to an increase in survival rates in people with early stage melanoma [2]. Another study showed that outdoor workers exposed to UVB rays had fewer cases of melanoma than indoor workers, who were only exposed to the deeper penetrating UVA rays through the windows. This study explained that, while sunburns initiate melanoma, increased UVA exposures combined with inadequate levels of D3 promotes this skin cancer [3].

UVA and UVB rays from the sun can both damage our skin. The UVB rays are stronger in the summer and have more harmful UV radiation, but they cannot penetrate beyond the superficial layer of skin. They are responsible for sunburns, which we want to avoid at all costs since this is known to cause different forms of skin cancer, and they can also cause skin aging. UVA rays on the other hand, are constantly present in any season and can penetrate clouds, clothing, and glass windows. They make up the majority of the rays from the sun and they penetrate deeper into the tissue, generating free radicals and  also contributing to skin aging and cancer. Unlike UVB, UVA does not make vitamin D.

While the sun can have a damaging effect on our skin, sunscreens are not the solution. According to the Environmental Working Group, every major public health authority has come to the conclusion that sunscreens alone do not appear to reduce the rate of skin cancer. In addition, at least four different studies prove that many people who use sunscreen actually end up with more sunburns [1].

Reasons to avoid most sunscreens

1. Sunscreen blocks the body's natural production of Vitamin D.

When exposed to sunlight (UVB), our body turns cholesterol in the skin into a previtamin D3, which is transported to the liver and kidneys and converted into the biologically active form of D3. Sunscreen use often blocks this natural transformation and may result in a vitamin D deficiency. While we can obtain this vitamin from certain foods and supplements, there is a risk that we might get too much of it. This could set a chain reaction in motion, causing imbalances in other minerals such as an increase in calcium tissue levels (away from bones), and a decrease in potassium and magnesium levels, which can result in many other problems. Unlike supplements, when vitamin D is obtained from the sun, our bodies regulate the amount through a negative feedback loop that prevents toxicity.

Vitamin D has important anti-cancer properties. It is also essential for many other functions including the regulation of calcium and phosphorus levels, blood pressure, immune function, and the strengthening of bone and teeth.

2. Sunscreen contains toxic chemicals.

Some of the chemicals in sunscreens have potentially dangerous side effects. They include:

  • Octocrylene - One study proved that this UV filter increased the production of free radicals, which can damage DNA and cause cancer [4].
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate - One study in Norway found that this chemical, which is an ingredient in 90 percent of sunscreens worldwide, killed animal cells at much lower concentrations than occurs in the sun lotions [5].
  • Oxybenzone - This sun filter showed up in about 50% of the sunscreens that EWG tested this year. It accumulates in the skin and enters the bloodstream triggering allergic reactions and skin problems such as eczema. It also acts like estrogen in the body, which may disrupt the hormone system, and could also damage the skins protective barrier. In the EU, cosmetic products containing more than 0.5% of this chemical must have a warning label attached to it [6].
  • Retinyl palmitate and retinol (vitamin A) - This is a common anti-aging ingredient in many cosmetics and is not toxic by itself, however, according to the EWG, it could speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when used on sun-exposed skin.

3. Sunscreen gives a false sense of protection.

Most high SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreens only protect against sunburns from UVB rays and do not protect against the deeper radical forming UVA rays. But the high SPF number fools many users into feeling safe and overexposing themselves to both UVB and UVA rays. In addition, many sunscreens have added anti-inflammatory chemicals that trick users into thinking they were protected from harmful UVB rays by preventing the skin from looking sunburn when it actually is.

Boost your resistance to the sun with safe tanning and antioxidants

According to Dr. Mercola, the best way to maximize vitamin D absorption from the sun is to expose about 40 percent of your body for about 20 minutes between 10 am and 2 pm [7]. This is because the vitamin D producing UVB rays are strongest at that point. If you are in the sun any other time then you are being exposed to the more dangerous UVA rays, which actually destroy vitamin D. The darker your skin, the longer you need be out in the sun to get the same amount of vitamin D. 

The skin on your face, especially around the eyes, is quite thin and will therefore not produce as much vitamin D. It is best to protect this area to avoid premature wrinkling or other damage.

The goal is to prevent burning since this may increase your risk for skin cancer. If you plan on being out longer in the sun for longer periods, then a non-toxic, zinc-oxide lotion works well. Examples can be found on EWG's website at http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/.

One way to minimize sunburns is to load up on antioxidants that fight free radical damage. Eating a diet loaded with a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is one way to get a built-in sunscreen that naturally protects against too many harmful rays. According to Mike Adams, the editor of Natural News, "UV exposure alone does not cause skin cancer," rather "skin cancer can only be caused when UV exposure is combined with chronic nutritional deficiencies that create skin vulnerabilities." If you eat junk food, avoid antioxidants, and spend excessive time in the sun, there is a high chance of creating skin cancer [8].

You skin will be able to handle more sunlight without burning if you include more antioxidants in your diet. Some of the best researched antioxidants and superfoods that protect against sunburn and skin cancer include:

Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants around. It occurs naturally in shrimp, wild pacific salmon, crab, and algae, however supplements are found in many health food stores. Compared to the power of other antioxidants it is found to be 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins, and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid [9]. It is also both water and fat soluble, which means it is able to enter and protect every cell of the body.

Another source of astaxantin is goji berries. Goji juice provided significant protection against photodamage induced in the skin of mice from UV radiation in one study [10]. Other studies have also shown this supplement to significantly prevent and counteract damage induced by UVA rays, including increases in free radicals, decreases in antioxidant enzymes, and cell death [11,12]. In an independant study, participants showed a significant increase in the amount of time for UV radiation to redden their skin after taking only 4mg per day for three weeks.  Dr. Mercola recommends starting with at least 2 mg per day [13].


Curcumin is a major component of the spice turmeric, which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a yellow-colored powder and a common ingredient in curries. Supplements are also available.
Numerous studies have shown how both oral and topical curcumin exhibits anti-melanoma activity and prevents chemically induced skin cancer [14]. Others have found creams with turmeric to improve skin health, including skin hydration in sun-damaged skin [15].


Reservatrol is an antioxidant found in grapes, red wine, and cranberries. One study proved that it could effectively increase the viability of skin cells after UVA exposure and protect them from oxidative damage [16].


Regular consumption of chocolate rich in flavanols may protect human skin from sun damage, including sunburns. Women in one study who consumed a high flavanol cocoa beverage showed improvements in the sensitivity of their skin after exposure to sunlight, as well as decreases in skin roughness and scaling, and increases in skin hydration. Skin sensitivity, including redness, was decreased by 25% after 12 weeks of drinking cocoa containing 329 mg of total flavanols, which is similar to that found in 100g of dark chocolate [17].

All natural cocoa beans contain high amounts of flavanols, however the chocolate we buy in stores may be either flavanol-rich or poor depending on the processing procedure. An alkalization step called "dutching" improves flavor by eliminating the bitterness, but it eliminates flavanols at the same time. This step may actually darken cocoa, so don't be fooled into thinking dark chocolate is better. Neither the cocoa content nor color indicate the amount of flavanols in the final product. Hopefully though, one day we will be able to read the flavanol content on packages. A couple of cocoa powder suggestions are Chococru® 100% cocoa powder with 415 mg of flavanols per serving and Now cocoa powder with about 107.5 mg per serving.


Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring compound found in cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. It is know to have anti-cancer properties and has exhibited activity against melanoma cells. It also may potentially protect against UVB-induced skin inflammation [18,19].


Lycopene is a major carotenoid found in tomatoes, guava, papayas, watermelon, and sweet red peppers. Studies have demonstrated photoprotective effects after eating lycopene or tomato products rich in this compound. In one study, participants that ate tomato paste along with olive oil for 10 weeks had a 40% decrease in skin sensitivity (erythema) from ultraviolet rays compared to a group that ate olive oil without the tomatoes [20,21].

Green Tea

There appears to be an inverse association between tea consumption and non-melanoma skin cancers. Consuming tea is associated with a significantly lower risk of squamous and basal cell cancers especially among long-term drinkers who drink two or more cups per day. This may be due to the tea's ability to quickly repair DNA damage from the sun [22].


Acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
, and strawberries all have very high ORAC, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, values. High ORAC values indicate the ability to fight free radicals formed from oxidative stress, which includes damage from ultraviolet rays, so it makes sense to load up on these powerful cancer-fighting foods.  


[1]  http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/skin-cancer-on-the-rise/

[2] http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/97/3/195

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19155143

[4] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584906004138

[5[ http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16822591.900-sinister-side-of-sunscreens.html

[6] http://en.phenome.pl/en/main/baza-wiedzy/niebezpieczne-skladniki-w-kosmetykach/chemiczne-filtry-uv/oxybenzone

[7] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/12/vitamin-d-may-prevent-breast-cancer.aspx

[8] http://www.naturalnews.com/032815_sunscreen_chemicals.html

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-cohen-rph/astaxanthin_b_2750910.html

[10]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20354657

[11]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12354422

[12]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18803658

[13]  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/25/sunscreen-and-wrinkle-prevention-in-a-pill.aspx

[14]  http://www.greenmedinfo.com/sites/default/files/focus_pdf/topic-22029-focus-5655-uid-70126-1401849205.pdf

[15]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22151933

[16]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20951123

[17]  http://grupo.us.es/gcucera/images/pdf/fellows/karin/2.pdf

[18]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19576749

[19]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21649489

[20]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16465309

[21]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11340098

[22]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094124



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