Healthy Skin | Getting Tan is Safer than Sunscreen

Our relationship with the sun is complex.

Should we relax in the sun to obtain Vitamin D or shun the sun to avoid skin cancer?

The very rays (UV-B) that increase our risk for cancer by causing sunburn are also responsible for producing Vitamin D, which is protective against cancer.

So how do get the Vitamin D we need while avoid sun damage?

Our Internal Sun Protection

First, let’s look at the essential health benefits we need from the sun. In the next article in the series we’ll look at several problems with chemical sunscreens. In the third and final article in this series, we’ll explore what you can do to protect yourself from sun damage.

Vitamin D

In the last decade studies have revealed that Vitamin D has an important role in not just bone health but also kidney health, hormone balance and immune function.

Vitamin D plays an important role in reducing the risk of these conditions: multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

We have been urged to protect our skin from sun damage by using sunscreen anytime we are outside. However, sunscreens block both UV-A and UV-B rays, thus effectively blocking the skin from producing vitamin D.

Currently, over 70% of the population (USA) suffers from vitamin D deficiency, and vitamin D has proven anti-cancer properties.

Your Skin’s Built-In Defense – Tanning

The normal darkening of your skin from sun exposure is caused by the pigment called melanin. Melanin, by producing a tan, is our innate protection against burning. The higher the melanin production the lower the DNA damage from UV radiation.

That means getting a tan reduces your risk of sun damage.

Sunscreen blocks the formation of melanin, thereby lowering your innate protection from burns. According to the National Cancer Institute, increased tanning (not burning) especially during childhood and adolescence, reduces the risk of melanoma.

Another study found increased sun exposure was associated with higher survival rates from melanoma.

Free Radicals and Increased Cancer Risk

The way that UV light causes damage to the skin is by forming reactive oxygen species (free radicals) which damage your DNA. Anything that increases free radicals will, in turn, increase damage to your DNA.

Anything that lowers free radicals will reduce damage to your DNA. This explains the popularity of antioxidant vitamins and supplements.

Damage to DNA means your body will have coding errors when it follows the instructions to replace a cell. The result could be a cell that is cancerous.

So the question is, If tanning reduces DNA damage than why do have an epidemic of skin cancer?

Surprising Causes of Sun Damage

It is not sun exposure that causes damage to the skin.  The UV rays need to react with something in or on our skin that creates a chemical change and results in damage.

Anything that increases the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species) can cause damage to the skin. In the previous article in the Healthy Skin series we looked at how excess sugar in the diet can result in increased skin damage from the sun.

Ironically, one of the biggest factors that increases the damage the sun causes is wearing certain types of commercial sunscreen.

In the next article we’ll look at the different type of sunscreens and which ingredients are the most harmful.

I’d like to hear from you.

Have you been a loyal sunscreen user? How is your Vitamin D level?


This is the first in a series of three articles on Sun and Your Skin.

Part Two: Sunscreens | Find Out if Yours Could CAUSE Skin Cancer

Part Three: Safe Sun | Keep Your Skin (and Body) Healthy



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