Naturally Healthy Living

Summer & Sun: The Controversy

Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns. 

I was at the pool last week with my daughter and grandchildren. We went in the late afternoon to avoid the intense noon sun on delicate toddler skin. It was obvious to me that many of the families had been playing in the sun all day. How did I know? Sunburn! Many of the children, and adults, already had a pretty intense looking burn.

Some people feel that summer and sunburns go together. Others slather themselves in sunblock to guard against burns.

We Need the Sun

A book that I have been reading, Eat the Yolks:  Discover Paleo, Fight Food Lies, and Reclaim Your Health, explains how necessary vitamin D is to our bodies. Where is the best place to get it? Yup! The best source is the sun!! The author explains that because of sunblock use and little time in the sun, much of us are “clinically” deficient in vitamin D.

I also learned that we get more than sunburns and vitamin D from the sun. There are other co-products from sun exposure. Sulfate is one of these co-products. It works to protect the skin from ultraviolet damage, strengthens the immune system, helps prevent cancer and heart disease, and helps the body process toxins. Also, melanin, an antioxidant that can destroy DNA-damaging free radicals. These are just two of the beneficial co-products of vitamin D synthesis…there are many others.

Ultraviolet Rays

There are two types of ultraviolet rays:

  • UVB rays stimulate vitamin D and melanin production. Melanin is what causes us to tan and protects us from UV damage. They are also known as the “burning rays”. When exposure exceeds melanin’s ability to protect us we begin to burn. Burning is the body’s signal to get out of the sun, or at least cover up! Excessive burning can contribute to melanoma risk.
  • UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin, causing far more damage than UVB rays. They cause oxidative damage which leads to wrinkles and collagen loss. They can even damage our DNA. The scary thing about UVA rays is that they come with no “danger” signal (sunburn). They are linked with the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.

Here’s the scary part. UVB rays are easily blocked by sunblocks and windows. Yay! Right? NO, because UVA rays are not blocked by sunblocks or windows. When we cover ourselves in sunblock we are protecting ourselves from the surface burn and disabling our body’s warning mechanism that alerts us to get out of the sun. Using sunblock stops the body’s production of melanin and vitamin D. Both are needed for protection from the deeply penetrating UVA rays. Because we don’t see the burn, we think we are safe.

Do Sunblocks Really Protect Us

Buying a sunblock that is “broad-spectrum” and claims to protect against both UVA and UVB should protect us. Unfortunately the United States’ FDA criteria for this is “the weakest in the modern world”. Also, check the label. Many broad-spectrum sunblocks contain retinyl palmitate. This chemical has been found by the FDA to increase the growth of skin cancers.

So we need the sun for health, but it’s bad for us? Does that make sense? There must be a way to receive the benefits of sun exposure without the risks associated!

Responsible sun Exposure

Hmmm…how about responsible sun exposure? Our beautifully designed bodies will let us know when we have had too much sun…stop before you burn! Gradually build up your exposure time. As your body tans your protection increases. What if you are fair-skinned and burn easily? You might not like the answer, but its the same. Increase sun exposure gradually and cover up or get out of the sun before you burn!

Coming from a long line of freckled red-heads, I am one of those who tends to burn easily. I have discovered another tactic that dramatically increased my time in the sun. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants. I learned this when I started juicing everyday. That summer I had a nice golden tan (the first in my life), with no burning. Eat the Yolks author, Liz Wolfe says that you also receive this benefit from nutrient-dense foods that are rich in cholesterol and vitamins A, D and K2.

An Ongoing Controversy

The information for this article was gleaned from the well-referenced book listed below. This is only a very small portion of the vast amounts of material presented. I searched the internet for supporting information and discovered sites claiming that any sun exposure is dangerous and other sites explaining the importance of vitamin D and your need for sun exposure to obtain it. This is an interesting topic and one well worth taking some time to research for your health.

The Healthy Place team wants to help you navigate the sometimes confusing path to good health. We are available to answer your questions about which supplements will best suit your individual needs. Contact us by phone or email, or stop at our store, located in Madison, Wisconsin. Let us help you “Find Your Healthy Place”!


Wolfe, Liz., NTP. Eat the Yolks, Discover Paleo, Fight Food Lies, and Reclaim Your Health. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc., Las Vegas, 2013.

*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”

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