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Why I Don't Use Sunscreen

Last week at the pool...

Mother-in-Law: “You or the kids need any sunscreen? We’ve got some in our bag.”

Husband: “Uh, no – we’re good. Everything’s taken care of mom.”

Truth be told – we don’t use sunscreen.

Now, would I willingly divulge that information to ‘Grandma’ – hell no. Sometimes it’s just better to pretend your ‘normal’. Though, you can’t trick everyone.
- - -

As is stands, the majority of experts (including the FDA in 2007 and the National Cancer Institute) admit that there is no solid proof that using sunscreens can protect against skin cancer.[1][2][3][4]

According to research, it may do the opposite.[5][6][9][10]

Say what?!

Let me clarify exactly what is known and you determine if using sunscreen is a suitable option for you.

Type of Cancer Matters

According to an editorial published (Feb 2006) in Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI):

“Solar radiation is a well-established skin carcinogen, responsible for more cancers worldwide than any other single agent.”

Now, this is true (from what we currently understand). But wait - the type of skin cancer is not clarified.

Why does that matter? Well, it matters for two reasons:

Reason One: True, solar radiation (aka, being out in the sun) may cause you to develop benign tumor cells.

The cancer that solar radiation causes is not melanoma but rather other types of benign tumors.

Reason Two: Blocking solar radiation may cause you to develop malignant tumors/cancer called melanoma.

Melanoma is the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer – it is malignant and can quickly spread to other parts of the body which often leads to death.

Melanoma is caused by lack of sunlight. This is because vitamin D (which our bodies are able to produce from exposure to UVB rays emitted by the sun) is very important in preventing melanoma.

Vitamin D production is blocked by sunscreen over a SPF of 8 

In the same editorial mentioned above, the authors admit:

“Evidence is beginning to emerge that sunlight exposure, particularly as it relates to vitamin D synthesized in the skin under the influence of solar radiation, might have a beneficial influence for certain cancers.”

Vitamin D, Sunscreen and Cancer

Why does sunlight exposure benefit us and reduce the rate of the more deadly cancer – melanoma? This is because sunlight (UVB rays) stimulates production of vitamin D in the skin.

Vitamin D has been
shown to prevent all cancers in women (breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, brain tumors, multiple myeloma…etc). The use of sunscreen with as little as SPF8 blocks up to 95% of vitamin D production.[7][8]

Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is attained primarily through ultraviolet exposure alone. Although some foods such as anglefish liver, cow’s blood (no joke) and high-vitamin cod liver oil (HVCLO) do contain the highest sources for vitamin D – I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of us aren’t eating these foods regularly.

Combine the lack of intake in vitamin D foods and the habitual use of high-SPF sunscreen and you get a recipe for increasing your risk of cancer.

Carcinogenic Ingredients in Your Sunscreen

Vitamin A

Approximately half of all sunscreens on the market contain vitamin A (derivatives such as retinol and retinyl palmitate). According to studies completed in 2009 by the FDA, these ingredients are photocarcinogenic. This means that they become toxic when exposed to sunlight - causing tumors and lesions over 20% faster than if you are lucky enough to have a sunscreen without these derivatives.[9][10]

Other photocarcinogenic ingredients used in sunscreen are PABA, benzophenones, cinnamates, salicylates, certain fragrances such as musk and 6-methylcoumarin.[10] [11][12]

The Key is Moderation

The idea that sun exposure may have a beneficial effect on certain cancers is nothing new (dating back to as early as 1988).[13]

Where does this leave us exactly? Should we abandon the use of sunscreen and burn ourselves to a crisp? To do so would be clearly foolish because while some sun exposure is a good thing, excessive amounts can still burn us.

Clearly, our relationship with the sun is a paradoxical one: Sunburning initiates melanoma whereas long-term moderate sun exposure inhibits it.

‘All things in moderation’ is the advice of a Geek poet Hesiod (dating back as early as 700 BC). The evidence is mounting that this is very sound advice when it comes to sun exposure.

As we enjoy our summer, my advice would be the following:

1. Apply ample amounts of common sense as that what moderation is.

2. Use caution during peak hours (
10am-4pm) by covering up with light clothing, wearing a hat, using sunglasses, etc.

3. Check the local UV Index at the EPA website.

4. Use an internal sunscreen – astaxanthin. This antioxidant is more than 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times stronger than vitamin A. It can enhances the immune system, helping to reduce the inflammation that leads to sunburn.[14]

5. Throw away your sunscreen. It contributes to cancer.


[1]Sunscreen and Skin Cancer – the Science. 2012 Environmental Working Group 

[2]Rachel Haywood, Peter Wardman*, Roy Sanders and Claire Linge. Sunscreens Inadequately Protect Against Ultraviolet-A-Induced Free Radicals in Skin: Implications for Skin Aging and Melanoma?. Journal of Investigational Dermatology. Vol 121; 862-868.Jan 2003

[3]Harri Vainio*, Anthony B. Miller, Franca Bianchini. An international evaluation of the cancer–preventive potential of sunscreens. International Journal of Cancer. Vol 88, Issue 5; 838-842. Dec 2000

[4]Johan Westerdahl, Christian Ingvar, Anna Måsbäck, Håkan Olsson.Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma. Internaional Journal of Cancer. Vol87, Issue 1; 145-150. Jul 2000

[5]Philippe Autier, Jean-François Doré, Eugène Schifflers, Jean-Pierre Cesarini, Anne Bollaerts, Klaus F. Koelmel, Olaf Gefeller, André Liabeuf, Ferdy Lejeune,Danièle Lienard, Marie Joarlette, Philippe Chemaly, Ulrich R. Kleeberg. Melanoma and use of sunscreens: An EORTC case-control study in germany, belgium and france. International Journal of Cancer. Vol 61 Issue 6 749-755. June 1995

[6]Johan Westerdahl, Christian Ingvar, Anna Måsbäck, Håkan Olsson.Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma. Internaional Journal of Cancer. Vol87, Issue 1; 145-150. Jul 2000

[7]Holick MF . Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dec 2004

[8]Sayre, Robert M.; John C. Dowdy . Darkness at Noon: Sunscreens and Vitamin D3. Photochemistry and Photobiology 83 (2): 459–63.2007

[9]Sonya Lunder, MPH

. What Scientists Say About Vitamin A In Sunscreen. Environmental Working Group (EWG). June 2001

[10] Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients, Sunscreen Ratings. 

[11]Sarah Malburg. Hidden Sunscreen Dangers, Causing Cancer?. Environmental Working Group (EWG). May 2011

[12] Liz Witter. Sunscreen Ingredient May Cause Cancer.Your News Now (YNN). June 2010

[13] Matsuoka LY, Wortsman J, Hanifan N, Holick MF. Chronic sunscreen use decreases circulating concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. A preliminary study. Arch Dermatol. Vol 124(12);1802-1804. Dec 1988

[14] Sunscreen in a Pill. ScienceDaily. Nov 2007



  1. lovely post Amanda"! Very timely as many of us are engaging in summer fun activities!!
    Ha!!! The quarter century old irony..."Common Sense; not so common".....wait,wait perhaps it was on sale last week in the 12oz. bottle ?!?
    As we welcome LO into this BRAVE NEW WORLD...continually i find it is he who educates us about how to live----Simplyand Naturally ;-) ARE the perfect person to post about a Natural First Aid Kit for bee stings, insect munchings, scrapes, owees and such!!!

  2. This is a fantastic post, and I plan to link to it on my Cage Free Family and Healin Reble sites. I have written before about the toxicity of sunscreen and the fact that as a family we do not ever use it, but never covered the topic to this extent. Perfectly done.

    I wonder too if you have heard of using St. Johns Wort oil on the skin. Herbalist Susun Weed swears by it as an effective method for reducing the skin's tendency to burn. It is the flowers of St. Johns Wort plant soaked in olive oil. It is nourishing for the skin, but it has many, many healing properties as well. This is what my husband has used for years because we homestead and he must be in the high desert sun for many hours a day and covering up is just too hot for many hours of the sun's cycle.

    1. thank you so much Aimee!! I put a lot of work into this one!!

      I have not heard about the benefits of SJW oil as a protectant from UVA/UVB exposure... I'll have to look into this more - thanks for the info! ; )

  3. There is no such thing as "benign cancer". There can be growths/tumors that are benign, but since those cells don't fit the definition of malignancy, they are not cancer. All cancer is malignant, period. It's the very definition of cancer. To say otherwise is completely false and misleading. Please, don't give out medical information if you're not a medical professional, or at the very least don't know what you're talking about. Hell, I'm not a medical professional but even I know the difference between benign and malignant. A simple dictionary explains the difference.

    1. I appreciate your comment - I use the term cancer to refer to 'diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues'.

      However, I will change the term 'cancer' to 'tumor' when refering to a benign mass so there is no future confusion.


  4. How about making you own sunscreen? Would that be bad too?{%2210201031432609252%22%3A136312766556333}&action_type_map={%2210201031432609252%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map

    1. I try not to look at things as 'bad' and 'good' - it think learning about the importance of natural sun exposure is benefical... I also think knowing what the ingredients are in the sunscreen a person chooses to use on themselves and their children is advantageous as well. So I'm all for trying to make your own!


Please be respectful. If you are about to say something that you would not let your child hear, then please refrain from saying it.