Is Your Sunscreen More Dangerous Than A Sunburn?


To be totally honest, sunscreen has never been something I was a fan of. Even when I was younger, I would pay very close attention to how long I could stay in the sun before I got burned so that I could avoid sunscreen all together. My skin has always been extremely sensitive and between the burning in my eyes, the greasy feeling on my skin or the seemingly toxic smell of most sunscreens… although I didn’t have the facts at the time, I always tried to avoid it.

When I adopted a paleo diet 6 years ago, my distaste for sunscreen became even more heightened. After learning about the importance of vitamin D and the potential carcinogens in conventional sunscreen, avoiding the entire thing entirely seemed like a no brainer. Of course I also thought I knew the dangers of burning, but I couldn’t wrap my head around slathering toxic chemicals and carcinogens all over my body. Our skin is our bodies largest organ and if I wasn’t comfortable eating those ingredients, why would I want to put them on my skin? What we put on our skin is absorbed into our body and I simply couldn’t bring myself to knowingly absorb those ingredients that I wouldn’t be okay consuming any other way.

For the past few years I can honestly say that I’ve tried to avoid sunscreen as much as possible, and this is coming from someone that lives 1 mile from the beach in sunny San Diego. Although I’d found a few brands that seemed to have reputable ingredients, the feeling of sunscreen was just never something I could get down with. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than being hot and sweaty and then applying something sticky and greasy all over my body. Applying sunscreen, for me, could easily turn a fun beach day into something extremely uncomfortable.

Having said that, there’s always been a voice in back of my head that would be fearful of skin cancer. Sure, most sunscreen might be toxic, but was I really doing my body any favors by avoiding it entirely?

Let’s talk about the facts.

As far back as 1998, The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that children who frequently wore sunscreen had a higher chance of developing freckles and moles (a predictor of melanoma), than those who did not. In 2007, The University of California reviewed 17 studies of sunscreen use as related to risk of melanoma and found that there is a significant correlation between melanoma and sunscreen.

Okay, so sunscreen might not be the best choice if you’re looking to avoid having a greater risk of skin caner. But what about exposure to the sun? Isn’t that dangerous too? The answer might surprise you…

In fact, in 2007, a randomized placebo-controlled study showed that vitamin D (which we absorb from sun exposure) can actually reduce overall cancer risk by up to 60 percent. This finding was so significant that in Canada they are actually endorsing sun exposure as a strategy for cancer prevention.

Not only that, but vitamin D has also been shown to potentially reduce the risk of not just skin cancer, but breast cancer as well. Children and adults who spend more time outside have been shown to have a lower risk of cancer than those who do not and even more shocking, skin cancer is uncommon for those living near the equator with frequent exposure to the sun.

So what gives??

The unfortunate truth is that while the media has suggested that sun exposure is the most important thing to avoid when it comes to preventing risk of skin cancer, the very solution they are proposing might actually be the cause. Not only that, but the thing they’re demonizing (sun exposure) might be the most important thing when it comes to preventing melanoma and other forms of cancer.

Although I didn’t have any of the facts when I was younger, my never-ending fear of sunscreen may not have been that crazy after all.

In spite of all of this information, none of us can deny that getting a sunburn is something we’d rather avoid. While it may not be a leading cause of cancer, it’s certainly uncomfortable and can lead to age spots and hyper pigmentation later in life that we’d all rather avoid.

Eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is actually a fantastic strategy for preventing sunburn, but often this isn’t enough. The fact of the matter is that hours upon hours in the sun, even for the healthiest among us, is often going to lead to an uncomfortable and painful sunburn that can easily ruin a summer vacation.

After years of failing to find an all-natural sunscreen that I loved, the wait is finally over!

Personally, I still love to spend about 30 minutes to an hour in the sun without wearing sunscreen. I find that if I’m sunbathing I am able to enjoy 30 minutes on each side of my body, sunscreen free, without risk of burning. However, after that hour or so has past, instead of hiding under the beach umbrella or going inside, I now use Beautycounter’s sunscreen products and can enjoy the rest of my day outside!


What’s so great about Beautycounter’s sunscreen products?

Not only are they formulated with non-toxic ingredients like all Beautycounter products, but they’re also extremely lightweight and perform just as well if not better than conventional products.

The Protect Stick Sunscreen (pictured on the far left) is probably my favorite product because it doesn’t break me out when I put it on my face. I have yet to find another sunscreen that I feel safe putting on my face!

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Have any questions about sun exposure or safe skincare? Comment and ask below!