Disclaimer that I feel seems obvious, but apparently needs to be said: don’t go burning your skin to a crisp.
If you want to hear the benefits of sunlight, why our bodies need it, the problem with sunglasses and sunscreen, tips for safe sun exposure, as well as reasons for why the sun shouldn’t be blamed for causing skin cancer; welcome! You’re in the right place — keep reading!
Our skin is our largest living organ, yet we smother it in carcinogenic chemicals in attempts to “protect” ourselves from the very thing that was created to heal us. Why would God create light if it was meant for harm?
My challenge to you by the end of reading this post is this: instead of slathering on sunscreen and putting on sunglasses immediately upon walking outside, let your skin soak up some sunshine and enjoy the benefits our bodies so desperately crave.
BENEFITS OF SUNLIGHT:
- Enhances immune system
- Draws out toxins
- Protects against pathogens
- Kills viruses, bacteria, mold & mites
- Sterilization of water, foods, etc
- Regulates blood pressure & blood sugar
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves cancers, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, gout, colitis, anemia, asthma, Alzheimer/dementia, myopia and macular degeneration, diabetes, herpes, lupus, sciatica and multiple sclerosis
- Improves skin issues such as eczema, acne, burns, psoriasis & cysts
- Stimulates our body to make vitamin D
- Improves bone density through increased calcium & phosphorus absorption
- Multiplies white blood cells
- Improves heart function & kidney problems
- Increases cardiac output & oxygen carrying capacity of the blood
- Improves brain function
- Improves energy levels
- Improves sleep quality
- Keeps internal balance & sleep/wake rhythms
- Improves mood & can ease mild depression
- And more! The hemoglobin in our red blood cells requires UV light to bind to the oxygen needed for ALL cellular functions.
The lack of sunlight has been found to contribute to heart disease, depression, fatigue, lowered immunity, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, lowered libido, poor bone and joint health, cavities, inflammatory bowel disease, weight gain, and more.
Heliotherapy, or sunlight therapy, involves intentional exposure to direct, natural sunlight, and was considered the most successful treatment for infectious diseases from the late 19th-20th century. It is even practiced in the Cancer Research Institute for successful DNA repair. It has been found that cancer cells begin to die within hours of light treatment, with 70-80% of the tumors responding following only one treatment while healthy tissue is retained and unharmed at the end of the procedure.
Dr. Niels Finsen won the Nobel prize in 1903 for his treatment of tuberculosis using UV light. In a span of 20 years, more than 2,000 cases of surgical tuberculosis were treated, and more than 80% were discharged as cured at Dr. Rollier’s clinics. Dr. Auguste Rollier was the most famous heliotherapist of his day, operating 36 clinics with over 1,000 beds in Switzerland to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, lupus, vulgaris, rickets and wounds. These clinics were strategically situated over 5,000 ft above sea level in order for his patients to catch more ultraviolet light. The intensity of UV light increases by 4% for every 1,000 ft increase in elevation, so at 5,000 ft, the sun’s UV intensity was increased by 20%. By 1933, there were over 165 different diseases proven to be relieved or cured by sunlight.
HOW IT WORKS
Sunlight activates cytochrome P-450, which is what converts vitamin D to the absorbable form. When exposed to sunshine, our skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate, which is water-soluble and can travel freely in our bloodstream, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements. On the topic of supplements — it is not possible for them to be an adequate replacement for the full spectrum of sunlight.
I’ll get into the topic of sunscreen later, but an SPF above 8 blocks your vitamin D production by more than 95%, which leads to vitamin D deficiency.
Not only does sunlight help us synthesize vitamin D in our skin, but it also helps our bodies break down vitamin A. This allows us to properly fuel thousands of important reactions in the body. When we supplement with high amounts of vitamin D, we prevent the proper breakdown and use of vitamin A, and when we cannot use vitamin A properly, we cannot have a healthy and thriving metabolism.
The ultraviolet rays in sunlight also stimulate the thyroid gland to increase hormone production. Thyroid secretions largely control our metabolism. Increased hormone production increases the body’s basal metabolic rate, which assists in weight loss and improved muscle development.
UV light also activates an important skin hormone called solitrol. Solitrol influences our immune system and many of our body’s regulatory centers, and in conjunction with the pineal hormone melatonin, causes changes in mood and daily biological rhythms.
Melanin is a substance in our bodies that produces hair, eye and skin pigmentation. The more melanin we produce, the darker our hair, eyes and skin will be. Each person has a different amount of melanin in their skin, and the amount depends on genetics as well as various other factors. But melanin levels can also increase with sun exposure, protecting itself from burning by absorbing light instead of reflecting it off. How cool is it that God made our skin to produce melanin as a natural form of sunscreen, protecting itself from overexposure?!
Exposure to sunlight triggers the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our body’s internal clock — known as our circadian rhythm. Every cell in our body runs on this 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, and when our unprotected eyes are exposed to morning sunshine on a regular basis, it aligns our circadian rhythm and boosts the chemicals our bodies need to release early in the day like cortisol, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Our circadian rhythm also directly impacts our immune system, detoxification, digestion, blood sugar regulation, stress and sex hormones, and the production of our master antioxidant (melatonin).
Our eyes are receptors for the brain, so when full-spectrum sunlight hits the retina of our eyes, it triggers our pituitary gland to produce melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), which activates our melanocytes to produce melanin. This means that wearing sunglasses blocks this entire process, which prevents our body from releasing MSH and limits the amount of melanin our skin produces, leaving us vulnerable to sunburn. It also means that our eyes are not receiving the signal to align our circadian rhythm, control our metabolism, produce key hormones and neurotransmitters, and ultimately lacking the benefits listed at the beginning of this post.
PROBLEMS WITH SUNSCREEN
Not only are sunscreen ingredients trash – full of hormone disruptors causing fertility issues, cancers, allergies and more (keep reading below), but they block our skin from soaking up rays and producing melanin to protect itself. We end up spending too much time in the sun without recognizing our body’s natural pink signaling when it has had enough. This is why it’s important to practice safe sun exposure, so that we can get the benefits without the harm.
The chemicals in sunscreens typically fall under two categories: physical blockers that reflect ultraviolet rays and chemical blockers that absorb the rays. These chemicals have been found in large quantities in breastmilk, urine, blood and passed from mother to baby in utero. Studies also show the amount of chemicals found in blood is far greater than the FDA’s safety threshold after just one use. Below are the common chemicals found in US sunscreens:
- Oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream, and has been found to remain in our blood for 3+ weeks after one use. As an endocrine disruptor, oxybenzone acts similarly to estrogen in the body, is linked to endometriosis in older women and lower birth weights in newborn girls, and increases the risk of breast cancer. It can also trigger eczema-like allergic reactions. The National Toxicology Program found equivocal evidence of carcinogenicity in rats after observing increases in thyroid tumors and uterine hyperplasia in females with high exposure to oxybenzone.
- Octinoxate absorbs in the skin and has been found in blood 16 times above the proposed FDA safety threshold. Animal studies have proven it to be an endocrine disruptor on the metabolic system, affecting thyroid hormone production and other functions linked to androgen and progesterone signaling.
- Octisalate is another endocrine disruptor and skin irritant that is absorbed into the skin after just one use.
- Octinosalate has been linked to allergic contact dermatitis and may contribute to hormone dysfunction as it weakly binds to the estrogen receptor. The FDA has observed that there is insufficient data to determine whether it is classified as safe and effective to use in sunscreens.
- Octocrylene readily absorbs into the skin and has been found nearly 14 times above the proposed FDA safety threshold for systematic exposure. Octocrylene causes high rates of skin allergies, acts as an endocrine disruptor and is often contaminated with the carcinogen benzophenone.
- Homosalate is an organic UV filter which has been found to penetrate the skin, disrupt hormones and produce toxic breakdown byproducts over time. The FDA has also proposed that there is insufficient data to evaluate if it is safe and effective to use in sunscreens.
- Avobenzone is a widely used organic filter often used with other organic active ingredients. It has been detected in serum samples at levels 9 times above the FDA’s cutoff for systematic exposure. Avobenzone has been shown to cause allergic reactions, disrupt the endocrine system and block the effects of testosterone in cellular studies, and is also linked to birth defects.
- Methylisothiazolinone is an ingredient that won the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s dubious “Allergen of the Year” award in 2013, and has also been linked to lung toxicity and neurotoxicity.
- Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide are the most well-known sunscreen chemicals deemed “safe and effective” by the FDA. The biggest concern, according to EWG, is inhalation of these chemicals in the form of sunscreen sprays because they could be a “probable human carcinogen.” However, both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have been linked to an increased risk of cancer due to the formation of free radicals when exposed to UV rays. Zinc Oxide has been shown to cause DNA damage in cells due to its cytotoxic nature, also increasing the risk of cancer. While it is known that both nano and non-nano zinc oxide are absorbed into the skin, women absorb more zinc oxide than men, and it has also been concluded that there is a link between zinc oxide and ovarian cancer.
Better alternatives to these chemicals include products containing carrot seed oil, raspberry seed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, beeswax, shea butter, tallow, and more natural ingredients or saturated fats that contain small amounts of spf. While I typically include affiliate links to products in my blog posts, I didn’t want to share specific ones here for the sake of making this a purely informative post and not something to make a few dimes off of. If you are interested in hearing about safer alternatives to sunscreen, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to discuss!
EAT YOUR SUNSCREEN
NO, please don’t literally eat a bottle of sunscreen — that’s disgusting and would probably create more issues than lathering those chemicals on your skin would cause. The American diet full of highly processed acidic foods is what causes sunburns, but a diet rich in alkaline “living” foods with fruits and veggies lowers our PH level and helps our bodies function at their best. Dr. Weston A. Price has taught us that a diet rich in Vitamins A, D and K found in healthy fats keep our bodies strong and working properly inside and out. Saturated fats not only decrease our chances of sunburn but lower our risk of some skin cancers as well.
The oils from polyunsaturated fatty acids interact with radiation in the form of ultraviolet light from the sun to cause cellular damage. This is why we want to avoid PUFAS in skincare and also our diet. The sun oxidizes the lipids in the oil, but can also extend the damage to the lipids in your skin. When these unsaturated fatty acids are ingested, many of them are likely to be stored in adipose tissues vs. being burned for energy.
A study with two groups of rabbits were fed diets containing either corn oil or coconut oil, and their backs were shaved so sunlight could directly hit their skin. The group that ate corn oil developed prematurely wrinkled skin, while the ones who ate coconut oil didn’t show any harm from sun exposure.
In another study at the University of California, photographs of two groups of people were selected pairing people of the same age group — one who had eaten a diet rich in unsaturated fats and the other low in unsaturated fats. A panel of judges was asked to sort them by age, and the people who consumed larger amounts of the unsaturated oils were consistently judged to be older than those who ate less, showing the same age-accelerating effects as the rabbits. The unsaturated fat in the skin is a major target for the aging and carcinogenic effects of ultraviolet light.
Did you know that 94% of skin cancer cases in the US are NOT life threatening? There are lethal kinds of skin cancers called malignant melanomas, but these comprise only 6% of the overall number of skin cancer cases in the US each year. The most common types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell skin tumors) are not even considered as cancer by the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database, which gathers epidemiological information on the incidence and survival rates of cancer in the US. Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers rarely metastasize, are almost always readily cured, and very rarely result in death.
According to Dr. Ackerman, founder of the world’s largest center for dermatopathology training, there is no proof that sun exposure causes melanoma. He cites a recently published article in the Archives of Dermatology concluding that no evidence exists supporting the notion that sunscreen prevents melanoma, a claim the mega-million dollar sunscreen industry and those in the medical mainstream have falsely made for decades.
In August 1982, an article titled ‘Malignant Melanoma and Exposure to Fluorescent Lighting at Work’ was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal The Lange. The authors of the study were the first to examine the relationship between indoor fluorescent lights and the rising rates of melanoma. It was found that working under fluorescent lights had doubled the risk of melanoma in the subjects of research. In Australia & England, it was people that worked indoors that suffered from melanoma more than those who worked outdoors. They concluded that tanned skin from regular sun exposure actually protects the skin and that people who received more sunlight were less vulnerable to the dangerous effects of fluorescent lights. He also challenged the medical mainstream to explain why nearly all cases of melanoma occur in areas of the body that are almost never exposed to the sun – places like the palms, soles of feet and mucous membranes.
It has actually been found that lack of sunshine is more than likely to contribute to cancer. As you travel from pole to equator, UV exposure increases by 5,000%! Studies have shown that populations in areas with high UV exposure, namely locations nearest the equator or at high altitudes, have significantly less rates of malignant melanoma. Places like London, Denmark, Finland, Scotland and Canada are found to have very little sun exposure, yet more vitamin D deficiency, fatigue, illness, insomnia, irritability, depression, alcoholism and suicide, as well as higher rates of skin cancer. In fact, the incidence of melanoma on the Orkney and Shetland Isles, North of Scotland, is 10 times that of the Mediterranean Islands. Another study looking at 300,000 women in Sweden over a 20 year period found that the risk of death from all causes approximately doubled among women who tended to avoid the sun compared to women who got the greatest amount of UV exposure.
Circling back to heliotherapy, cancer cells have been shown to begin dying within hours of light treatment, and on average, 75% of tumors reduced in size after just one treatment. Even more surprising, light treatment was ineffective when sunglasses were worn.
Melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens. As we know, sunscreen is composed of dozens of carcinogenic chemicals. Since these chemicals are highly absorbable, they enter the bloodstream and throw our liver into overdrive trying to break it down. Some even accumulate in connective tissues, saturating the skin in specific areas to create skin cancer.
According to cancer research, cancer cannot occur unless there are unsaturated (PUFA) oils in the diet. [C. Ip, et al., Cancer Res. 45, 1985.] In another animal study at Baylor University, two groups of animals were fed a highly nutritious diet vs. a “standard American diet.” After both groups were exposed to the sun’s UV rays, 25% of the standard American diet group developed skin cancer, and not one in the other group. Cancer is and will always be instigated by a toxic body. The focus on skin cancer prevention should be on reducing the bodies of toxic load and eliminating or greatly reducing our PUFA intake.
TIPS FOR SAFE SUN EXPOSURE:
- Get 10-15 minutes of morning sunlight on your eyes
- Expose your bare skin (and eyes) to morning and evening sunlight to build up your tolerance, then increase the amount slowly
- Avoid long hours in the sun during peak hours
- Find shade or cover up when needed
- Avoid sun BURN & know your body’s limits
- Eat foods high in animal fats, vitamin A, C, E and K (egg yolk, coconut oil, lard & tallow, butter, oysters, fish eggs, green tea, watermelon, tomatoes & other red-colored fruits)
- Avoid PUFAS, seed oils, alcohol, fortified & overly-processed sugary foods
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