Avoid Sunburn & Tan Better By Eating Real Food?

Avoid sunburn and tan more easily by eating real food

Here’s a recent question I got from a reader about sun exposure while eating a healthy diet. Perhaps some of you can relate. Leslie asks:

Since going grain free, sugar free, etc. and incorporating more healthy fats and vegetables about 6 months ago, I’ve noticed I have a higher tolerance to the sun. I not only don’t burn, but I’m able to stay out in the sun longer without turning the tiniest bit pink and I tan more easily than I ever have before (which is saying something since I have red hair!). I was wondering if there is any science to this or if it is just in my head? Any thoughts?

It is funny that Leslie brought this up, because I noticed the same thing after I transitioned to eating real foods. Other bloggers have reported a similar reaction (like here, here, and here).

This was one of the most surprising things for me, since I too, was typically fair skinned and did not tan well. In fact, until the last couple of years, I couldn’t remember a time that I had a real tan or had gone an entire summer without burning.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that a real food diet can offer some protection against sunburn, but is there any evidence to back it up?

Background Info

In the last several decades, the push to use sunscreen and limit sun exposure has gotten stronger and stronger. It is now possible to find SPF 70 or higher, and thanks to massive campaigns, most people are at least mildly aware of the “dangers” of sun exposure.

Despite the push for more awareness about sun exposure, and the advice to use sunscreen whenever we go outside, incidence of skin cancer, especially melanoma, is rising dramatically.

In fact, skin cancer rates are rising by 4.2% annually, despite the fact that we  spend less time outdoors and wear more sunscreen.

Perhaps the problem isn’t lack of sunscreen, or even sun exposure at all, but a deeper cause? (More on this in a minute).

Of course, this is not how the mainstream medical community is reacting at all. As evidenced by the recommendation to continue eating low fat despite the dismal failure of the lipid hypothesis over the last few decades, the conventional wisdom seems to be that if something doesn’t work, more of the same thing will definitely work.

Rather than consider that perhaps there is another cause to the rising rates of skin (and practically every other) cancer, the mainstream advice is: avoid the sun more, use more sunscreen, and should you be worried about your vitamin D levels, take a supplement.

Does Sunscreen Prevent Skin Cancer?

The general idea is that since sunscreen prevents sunburn, it also logically prevents skin cancer. While there might be some logic to this, there is not actually any science to back it up.

In fact, a study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics reports that:

Sunscreens protect against sunburn, but there is no evidence that they protect against basal cell carcinoma or melanoma. Problems lie in the behavior of individuals who use sunscreens to stay out longer in the sun than they otherwise would. Vitamin D inhibition is, at this stage, unlikely due to insufficient use by individuals. Safety of sunscreens is a concern, and sunscreen companies have emotionally and inaccurately promoted the use of sunscreens.

While it is certainly logical that avoiding sunburn is a good idea, the question of if sunscreen is the best way to do so is certainly up for debate. We do know that sunscreen inhibits Vitamin D production, especially when used regularly and that Vitamin D deficiency has been strongly linked to a variety of cancers, including the most dangerous types of breast and colon cancer.

So as a society, we avoid the sun, which helps our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D, and put chemical laden lotions on instead in hopes of reducing one type of cancer (skin) that is not commonly fatal.  In the process, we make ourselves vitamin D deficient and increase our chance of a host of other cancers, including some of the most fatal cancers.

The Role of Diet

In the quest for an easy (and profitable) solution to skin cancer, mainstream medicine and media have recommended sunscreen and limiting sun exposure while greatly ignoring any potential role diet can play in skin cancer formation or prevention.

Perhaps, since skin cancer rates are rising despite the highest rates of sunscreen use in history, it is time to look at alternative explanations.

In the same past few decades that skin cancer (and other cancer) rates have risen, some dietary factors have also changed, including: increased use of Omega-6 vegetable oils, higher consumption of processed foods, more chemical additives in foods, reduced consumption of saturated fats, increased grain consumption, etc.

Omega-6 Vegetable Oil Consumption

Omega-6 oils like canola, cottonseed, vegetable, soybean, etc., are a very new addition to our diets and there is no biological need to consume oils in this state. There is also evidence that when these oils are consumed, they can be used in place of the saturated and monounsaturated fats the body needs for skin formation and actually lead to skin cancer.

In fact, some studies have shown that the high linoleic acid content in vegetable oils increases the instance of skin cancer and other cancers, and lowers the body’s ability to fight cancer. As the article explains:

Thus, the amount of linoleic acid in the diet as well as the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 determine the susceptibility of the skin to damage from UV rays. This is a very straightforward explanation for the beautiful skin of people eating traditional fats like butter and coconut oil. It’s also a straightforward explanation for the poor skin and sharply rising melanoma incidence of Western nations (source). Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

While vegetable oil consumption has risen, saturated fat and Omega-3 fat consumption has dropped.

Saturated Fat and Omega-3 Fat Consumption

At the same time that Omega-6 oil consumption has risen, consumption of saturated fats and Omega-3 fats has declined. We’ve seen how well that’s worked out for us, but it turns out that it could have a pretty big impact on skin health, too.

The body needs healthy fats, including saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and Omega-3 fats, to regenerate skin tissue, and these fats are the preferred building blocks in the body. If the body doesn’t get these fats (and many people don’t these days), it will use whatever it has available, including Omega-6 fats, which are not the preferred fat for building skin and collagen and can cause mutation (cancer).

Increased Consumption of Grains and Chemicals

With the recommendation to limit saturated fats came the advice to eat “heart healthy whole grains” and this has been the standard dietary recommendation for the last few decades. Unfortunately, for many people, grains can cause inflammation in the body and lead to a host of problems.

Combine this with the plethora of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis from food, air, cosmetics and even *gasp* sunscreen, and there are many chances for skin mutation to occur!

Healthy Food Can Help!

Just as unhealthy food has a negative effect on skin and overall health, a real food diet can offer protection from various healthy problems, including sun related ones. Fortunately, the diet and lifestyle factors that help with skin health are probably already things you are doing, including:

1. Eating Enough Good Fats

To make sure your body has the proper building blocks for healthy skin and to reduce inflammation, make sure to get enough healthy saturated, monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats while avoiding polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid in Omega-6 vegetable oils.

2. Getting Enough Antioxidants

If you’re avoiding grains and Omega-6 oils and eating proteins, fats and vegetables instead, you are probably great in the antioxidant department. Even real food “treats” like berries and dark chocolate are packed with antioxidants.

Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and free radicals (which you also won’t have as much of if you’re not eating grains, sugars, and omega-6 oils). Research has shown a strong protective effect of antioxidants against sunburn and skin damage.

3. Optimizing Vitamin D

This is a logical step in protecting the skin and many other parts of the body. Melanin, the dark pigment that we get when we tan, is produced to shield the skin from further UV exposure by providing a type of barrier. This is why dark skinned people need more sun that those with fair skin to get the same amount of Vitamin D. When the body has enough Vitamin D, it will start producing Melanin to keep from getting too much. There is evidence that optimizing Vitamin D levels through sun exposure and even through supplementation will help the body produce melanin faster and retain it longer.

Research has shown that taking 5,000 to 10,000 IU of Vitamin D for several months can have a sunburn preventing effect and can improve the ability to tan.

4. Getting Sun Exposure Gradually

While the sun is very beneficial because it helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, sunburn is certainly not beneficial. The easiest way to avoid sunburn naturally is to increase sun exposure gradually, while eating a healthy diet. For most people, 15-30 minutes is enough at first, though many can work up to several hours without a problem.

If your activity level requires you to be out for longer than this, wear protective clothing or find some shade!

5. Avoiding Chemicals and Using Natural Options

Since your body needs Vitamin D and there is no conclusive evidence that sunscreen protects against skin cancer, it is best to avoid using sunscreen, especially the chemical laden varieties.

If you have to be out in the sun for extended periods of time and can’t seek shade, use a natural homemade sunscreen or plain coconut oil (which supposedly has a natural SPF of about 4).

At this point, I truly wonder what a healthy diet can’t help! I was happy with the weigh loss, additional energy, clearer skin, better sleep, etc., but it even helps reduce sunburn and improve tanning!

6. Taking Some Supporting Supplements

About this time of year, I also start taking a specific regimen of supplements that help reduce inflammation and improve sun tolerance. The supplements I take are:

  • Vitamin D3 (I take about 5,000 IU/day)- Emerging evidence shows that optimizing blood levels of Vitamin D can have a protective effect against sunburn and skin cancer
  • Vitamin C (I take about 2,000 mg/day)- A potent anti0inflammatory, and it is good for the immune system too.
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted in a cup of herbal tea per day- the Medium Chain Fatty Acids and saturated fat are easily utilized by the body for new skin formation and are protective against burning
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend  (also great for remineralizing teeth)-Probably the most important supplement for sun protection. I take double doses during the summer and the kids take it too. Since adding this and the coconut oil daily, none of us have burned. It’s also great for digestive and oral health. (Amazon finally has the capsules back in stock)
  • Astaxanthin– A highly potent antioxidant which research shows acts as an internal sunscreen. It’s also supposedly an anti-aging supplement. I don’t give this one to the kids though.

What do you do about sun protection? Do you tan better by eating real food? Let me know below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I have found that my skin has a much higher tolerance to the sun since going grain free and eating healthy fats. 

  2. I have eczema, and zinc oxide based sunscreen does wonders for my skin irritation derived from sun exposure. Only zinc oxide based ones, though. Actually, my skin seems to like zinc oxide a lot, so I am known to put zinc oxide based makeup (mineral foundations of the simplest sort, with only Z.O. and iron oxides), or zinc oxide based sunscreen, or zinc oxide + fish oil based nappy cream on my face whenever I have bad eczema days.

    I can also tell that ever since I increased my fish consumption and added some fish oil to my diet (like my grandmother used to do) my reactions to sun exposure became less severe (I’ve gone a full year without getting red and bumpy skin, which I used to get, almost like a rash, not really like sunburn).

    I am not doing a grain-free diet, but I did decrease my grain consumption (my nutritionist advised me to fill most of my plate with salad/cooked non-grainy vegetables, then protein and just a little of grains, and I seem to be thriving on that :) even though I am not getting thinner, but I do feel much healthier and more productive :) )

    • Also, chemical sunscreens make my skin itch a lot, so at least in my case I simply cannot do any other kind than pure physical barrier ones…

    • Just for the record, my wife and I were pale skinned fair Caucasians twelve months ago. We have since gone full LCHF. We both swim daily in strong sun and have great tans now. I can spend hours in the sun without any burning whatsoever, I used to be a red head before greying.
      Given the other comments supporting this phenomena I think more research is deserved; might make another blockbuster best seller.

  3. Awesome article! I agree with all the points you have made here. Surprise! Lol

    I can honestly say that I am less suspect to get sunburn these days. I tan easily however. I got one major burn in April while in California. I suspect that was from not being in the sun for months since I live in Michigan. I have not gotten burnt since then but have built up a nice tan instead. It’s awesome to say the least!

  4. Wonderful and informative article! Looking forward to sharing it on our FB page -Medicine Mama’s Apothecary- and following your blog in the future! Thanks!! 

  5. AWESOME article!! You’re probably going to see my name pop up under the comments of a bajillion of your posts – I’m in love! (And I found the 101 uses for coconut oil…) Haha :) This is so great though, I’ve been trying to explain that I don’t want my kids using sunscreen and I get that look like I’ve beaten them. I just printed this up AND shared it on my Facebook page! You are a rock star!!

  6. I have always burned, peeled, burned since I became an adult and work inside all day. Since going Paleo and taking Vitamin D, I barely burned, even at the beach. I can actually still see a faintl
    y hint of tan from last summer on my feet, and that is saying alot living in Upstate N.Y.

  7. What a phenomenal article!! I tend to not burn as badly anymore… But I do still burn. I wish I could just tan, but that’s just not in the cards for me, ha! Although ever since I started eating FAR HEALTHIER than I was (10 years ago) my skin pigment has changed colors, I am slightly orange thanks to the beta carotene, but I am okay with that!

  8. I definitely noticed this. I started eating Primal Sept 2011 and had no issue with sunburn (and never used sunscreen) last summer.
    I used to wear the second lightest shade in foundation formulas and would burn in about 5 minutes without SPF in the past. Now I am on the lighter end of medium shades (when I actually wear my mineral makeup) and don’t own any SPF.
    We just had our first 70+ degree days last week. I spent both days gardening in my bikini. I DID feel a little toasty at the end of the second day (Pacific NW winter=zero chance for sun for a LONG time, so no base tan) and I was red and tingly, but it calmed down overnight and I am now just tanned for April! Weird!
    Also, I take my Fermented Cod Liver Oil, 1 teaspoon daily. It has high vitamin D and is Omega 3-rich and highly anti-inflammatory, so I’m sure that helps from the inside…
    So glad I found your blog!

  9. I gave up grains 2 years ago to treat some gynaecological problems – and that, along with cutting out dairy, refined sugar, and caffeine worked a treat. It was bonus when I went away to a hot climate on holiday last year and discovered that I didn’t burn all week and started tanning immediately – which was particularly surprising as I’m also a redhead and normally used to burn before going a pale golden colour.

  10. I broadly agree with much of the above, but it may be wise to consider the effect(s) of pollution ozone, CO2, atmospheric conditions, etc may have a bearing on the rise in the incidence of cancer(s). Diet is probably a factor, but not the only one – although it is one over which we have [personal] control.

  11. i have had the same experience. through clean eating my sun tolerance has increased and burns have been nonexistent. i would take any sunburning as a sign to get out of the sun. i dose high on D3 during winter months but have always discontinued in the summer and now i’ll try the fermented oil/butter oil blend. thanks for such a great post, packed with information and solid common sense.

  12. I am sure eating healthy is optimal for everything. But my BF is a “red head” who eats an amazing diet vegan/raw very healthy and she is prone to sun burn. My son is part latino and he does not burn we eat the same diet (relatively healthy whole foods) and I am blue eyes and fair skin and i burn. I think skin tone plays a big part… None of the articles on this subject site any references to this information ?

    • To clarify- a “amazing vegan/raw diet” will definitely not help prevent burning as it lacks a lot of the needed animal fats that are so protective… the nutrients in certain levels are also very important. Certainly, genetics play a role (my italian in laws can eat junk and not burn) but this regimen helps me (pale, irish) not burn…

      • My son also extremely fair and a redhead burns extremely fast! We eat organically,gluten free and grass fed antibiotic free meat from farm and my son still burns so I don’t see the choice of foods always the case! I do not burn quickly,so I would think that being redheaded with fair skin has nothing to do with the food choices!

        • Note: gluten free is not the same as grain free.
          An organic gluten free diet did not help my health.
          However, a clean, organic, grain free, healthy fats, organic meat, no added sugar of any kind, only organic grass grazed butter no other dairy, lots of veggies, some fruits lower in sugar, high doses of vit D3 life style of eating has very much improved my health and even tho I have very fair skin I have not burned since eating this way.

      • My husband and I both live a vegan lifestyle…not raw so definitely not as healthy as Lisa and her family, but my husband who is naturally” caramel” has always tanned wonderfully, i on the other hand, being half ginger, have always had to “burn once to get it out of the way” and then lay or play in the sun for 5x as long as him to get half the tan. Since going vegan, I tan very very easily, and on the rare occasion i do get a little pink i heal at a much faster rate. There is a lot of bad press about vegan diets and also a lot of myths about “needing” animal products. Kinda like how people believe that sunscreen will prevent cancer, but we know better, dont we 😉 very informative article, but i do ask that you do a little more digging into the benefits of a plant based diet, or even take a thirty day challenge to see for yourself, before perpetrating the myths that the vegan community works really hard to combat <3 keep being awesome ,girlfriend!

  13. Recently I have been recieving comments on how nice my tan is (as I have noticed that it is a nice bronze and very even). I am on a raw vegan food diet and use coconut oil as sunscreen. My friends and family are horrified when I apply coconut oil to my skin as though I am a sun worshiping valley girl with my baby oil and sun reflector; I try to explain the benefits of coconut oil but mainstream has planted a very deep seed. I am so glad I came across this article, it helps support my argument and makes me think I am not crazy for not wearing sunscreen.

  14. I have noticed this, too! My son & I are very fair, but we tend not to burn when we’re eating “clean” now. I do use a bit of Badger sun block on him when we’ll be out extensively, but we rarely need it.

  15. Interesting :) I’m in Australia so it’s winter here, but I will be interested to see how I go next summer, now that I’m eating better. We also have higher exposure to UV radiation here because of the hole in the ozone layer which makes me nervous about going without sunscreen completely. I figure the body can cope with normal radiation, but not the amount that now comes through because of man-made problems. I think I will give your natural sunscreen a go for when I’m spending a while in the sun.

  16. A great article for the right time of year! However the NOW vitamin C/Ascorbic acid link that you posted raises a question. I’ve seen you post that link before and I thought that most ascorbic acid/vitamin C was genetically modified. Is this true? Is this a verified brand? Or do you feel that the benefits outweigh the risks? I’d love to hear your well-researched response! Thanks again for all your info!

  17. I was diagnosed with a nonspecific autoimmune disease about 6 months ago (a week before my 16th birthday) and immediately cut out all grains and processed food. Though I chose the other end of the diet spectrum (raw vegan), I am so grateful for your blog! I have used tons of your advice and herbal remedies to overcome various physical ailments. Since my diet and lifestyle change, my blood tests have improved, I can walk without intense joint pain, I don’t roll in agony each time I eat, and I don’t get sunburns. Also, I pointed a friend recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease toward your blog and she has since switched to a Primal diet with great success. I have no doubt that Primal/Paleo works miracles, but my body has never digested meat well. Your motherly advice is amazing and I think your kids are so lucky!!!

  18. I’ve been eating a ridiculous amount of tomatoes in the form of tomato paste in chili, and the result has been insane sun protection. I was out in the noon sun from 10am-4pm in New Orleans and I, the girl who used to get burned after 30 minutes in the sun, just tanned.
    Also, a random tidbit. This hot weather has me bathing in lukewarm-cold water. My skin has definitely improved despite the supposed pore clogging effects of a hot, sweaty, oily face. No soap. I just wash up with cold water to rinse the sweaty gunk off. I theorized that hot water is a major skin irritant and that it strips the skin.

    • I totally agree about the tomatoes! I read somewhere about lycopene being a sunscreen when eaten internally, and I ate tomatoes pretty much every day that I was in Italy. I didn’t burn at all in the hot Italian sun…definitely worth looking into I think!

  19. I’ve definitely noticed this. We were out on the lake all day this weekend without sunscreen. My husband had slightly pinker cheeks by the end of the day, but you couldn’t tell my fair-skinned boys had been out at all. I used to fry anytime I was in the sun, but had hardly even a tan.

    We eat a lot of healthy fats, fruits and veggies and avoid processed sugar. However, we are not grain-free. We eat a good amount of soaked/sourdough whole grains (1-3 servings a day, on average), and we still are in great health and don’t burn. So it’s not all grain’s fault. 😉

  20. Hi Kate- I really like this article a lot, and I can’t get enough of your blog! One question though; the Amazon Fish/butter oil says is contains Omega 6 oils, which are the ones the article says to avoid. Just wondering if in the fish oil they are the safe ones? Thanks

  21. Very nice article!!!

    To add up a few things, which has changed for me, after i went Paleo, is as follows:

    I have become faster in every way.
    The reflexes are insane.
    Stamina is crazy.
    Since my early teens, i suffered daily from heart cramps, i don’t get that anymore.
    I also ended up having some breathing issues, that wen’t away as well.
    Both my knees and my back, have been painful since my teens, due to sports related injuries, but after ditching the sugar and starch, it is like it all just healed up!
    I’m stronger.
    I don’t get heartburn anymore!
    Blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, is perfect!
    Tastebuds is enhanced, as are my scent sanses.
    I am more observant, and my concentration is better.
    I never feel hungry, and oh my the weight loss!
    My immunesystem is good ( I used to get sick 2 – 4 times a year, now i haven’t been sick once over 2 years ), i feel more on top, way more energy throughout the day!
    Flexibility has become better, and i don’t get muscle cramps, not even after walking for hours.
    I’ve always been weak with my left arm, but that has somehow equaled out, so body arms throw a punch now.
    I used to get these sand-like corns in the palms of my hands, and so did my mom, it went on for years, but that is also gone now ( Sugar crystalizes in the body, causing THAT, as well as kidney stones etc, you get the idea ).
    Even my handwriting, has now become better!

    Other friends, who has cut sugar and starch out of their diet, and gotten cured includes:

    Asthma, Diabetes, ADHD, PCOS…

    I hope more people soon get their eyes opened, and that the food industry stop selling crap products to ignorant people, by hiding their bad products in a lot of different names and descriptions!!!

    • I’m 50 and live in New Zealand. Years of harsh sun and insulin resistance from a diet fearful of fats. After reading Diet for a Small Planet I thought I didn’t need much protein. So my skin is very damaged, liver spotted. If only I knew this in my early 20’s when I read that damn book. Since going paleo, (and for me it needs to be quite low carb due to the metabolic damage), I have had a lessening of the liver spots on my hands and some large flat rough patches on my face have done a healing thing …the 1cm wide brown mark flares up red and raw, worries me enough to go to the Dr, she says, lets wait till it heals and see, and it disappears altogether. I don’t know if this is due to the healthier diet or if this would happen on my old wheat/vege oil/sugar ridden diet, but I suspect not. Have other people had this happen?

      • I am 53, grew up doing a lot of beach time in California, am blonde and fair-skinned and have had some scary rough spots show up on my face a few years ago. My doctor panicked and wanted them burned off. I decided to try a natural approach. I bought some aloe vera plants and every night, put fresh aloe on my face. The biggest spots disappeared, but I still had a couple left. I have been treating those with a nightly application of castor oil. The spots are almost gone now! These were some pretty serious spots that were peeling so deeply that they would cause my skin to bleed, but now they’re just about gone.

        I would say to anybody before disfiguring their skin by having these patches burnt off, ask if your doctor would hold off and give this a try.

          • I apply a liberal amount to problem spots, gently rub it in and leave the excess on overnight. I started treating the biggest spot that would bleed with fresh aloe vera from the plant for a couple of months, probably. When it was almost better is when I started using the castor oil and after a few weeks of that, it was gone. I’ve had a few other patches get better just from the castor oil. But I have to be consistent. It probably also helps that I only use natural moisturizers and products now (no parabens, etc.). Who knows that it wasn’t the years of sun exposure, but the applying of carcinogen-containing products that wrecked havoc with my skin?

  22. Why do you suggest Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend vs. just cod liver oil? And what is the difference.

  23. One quick point, a sunburn and a tan both cause skin damage. In fact a tan is your skin saying it is being injured…

  24. so when you say grains does that include chick peas, lentils, quinoa etc? and if yes, why because they are said to be the healthiest proteins. thx!!

  25. Since taking 10,000 IU vitamin D per day for some years and a blood level of 85 nanograms/mililiter of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, it may be a phenomena but I have not sun burned when exposed to the tropical sun for 4-6 hours. I no longer use sun screen. Could higher blood levels of 25 hydroxy actually prevent sunburn? Being a blond guy, I used to have to slather on the sun screen prior to taking vitamin D.

    • Please be careful with the amount of Vitamin D you take daily! 10,000 IU is really high, that’s the sort of dose you would give to someone with a severe Vitamin D deficiency and you would usually only take such a high dose for a short amount of time, maybe a few months. Your Vitamin D levels should be around 75, a little higher than this is not usually a problem but taking supplements of 10,000 IU daily would probably eventually bring your Vitamin D level up to a dangerous amount. Having too much Vitamin D in your blood can cause side effects like irregular heart beats and high levels of calcium in the blood which can lead to many health problems including kidney damage.
      Obviously if you have been told to take that amount of Vitamin D by a doctor who has been regularly testing your blood and overall health then what I said doesn’t need to bother you! But I would hate for someone to read your comment and end up making themselves ill by taking a Vitamin D supplement that was far too high!

      • Sam, I’ve read that sitting in the sun for just 15 minutes will make the body produce something like 5000 to 7000 IU of vitamin D, maybe even more? If true then taking 10,000 IU a day is not insane, imo, but I’d make sure it’s a good quality D3 supplement.

  26. OMG. I am so excited for summer now! It’s so weird how things are making more sense: when we were young (up until college) my sister and I would tan gorgeously. We also ate our of our parents vegetable garden year round and had very little refined foods (country folk). Now we are in our 30s (spending our adult life eating the SAD) and get a sunburn just THINKING about it. I’ve been AIP Paleo for 43 days (hooray!) and cannot WAIT to see how I do in the sun come May-June. So freaking glad I found your site :-) Thanks!

  27. Is Astaxanthin safe while pregnant? Should I still take the extra vitamin c and d if taking raw prenatal?

  28. I always burned – no sunscreen in my childhood. About 30 years ago, I read a book called “The Natural Way To Beauty” that started me on good vitamin intake. The burning threshold went way down – noticeable & surprising. Then in 1999, I started a low carb diet that I have done since, greatly reducing grains & increasing good fats & vegetables. Now I tan in what seems like no time at all. I can take a 40 min nap in the hammock after 4:00 pm & see dramatic color increase. I just thought old skin must tan faster. I realize now there may be a diet connection.

  29. funny i just finished whiiping a batch of your sunscreen recipe up and then i saw this article pop up………… was wondering what oil you would use for frying and/or mayo besides coconut or olive oil. my husband doesn’t like the subtle taste of coconut that coconut oil leaves … i dont mind it but id like for us both to enjoy our food . i use olive for every other application pretty much.

    • I do everything in your protocol except the Fermented Fish Oil. I’ve been holding out but with your prompting I’m finally taking the plunge and adding that to my regimen. I read the Fermentd Fish Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend has Vit K for absorbtion. The Vit D3 I take has vit K2 (1100 mcg) in it as well. Will there be a problem with too much vit K?

  30. I was wondering about if wearing sunglasses has negative or neutral effects to the eyes/ body.
    I live where it snows and when the sun is out it can be blinding. Plus I’ve heard that people with lighter colored eyes are more sensitive to the sun. However, I’ve read that wearing sunglasses inhibits the “good” cellular reactions to the sun.
    Any ideas?

  31. I notice on Amazon the Royal Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil is $52 a bottle, can you recommend anything cheaper? Would just plain Fermented Cod Liver oil do the same job. Thanks

  32. Love your blog! Just curious why you don’t give Astaxanthin to your kiddos? I was thinking of getting it to give my kids, but now I’m not so sure….Any advice?

  33. Great article… can you comment on sun exposure and wrinkling?… :) does sun exposure cause premature aging in skin? (or is that a myth promoted by the skincare industry), and do you have any recommendations for products, that in addition to a diet as described above, could help with the aging effects of sun exposure for those of us fair-skinned folks?


    • I’ve read that vitamin C is good for collagen production, thus helping skin not wrinkle. Also coconut oil has collagen in it, and I’m sure many other foods out there. When melanin is built up to high amounts, I think this will help the skin from wrinkling as well, but probably not the only thing that is needed, as mentioned before: the foods with collagen in them also help!

      I had a few creases in my forehead from raising my brows for the years that I used to pluck my brows and then I read one day about coconut oil, rubbing it into those creases vigorously for 30 seconds to 45 seconds and I actually saw a difference after just one try. They suggested to keep it up daily for weeks, if memory is correct, but I am not that worried about it, so I just did it like 3-4 more times and left it as is. lol

  34. Why do you say that the fermented cod liver oil is probably the most important supplement for preventing skin damage? Does it have something to do with the vitamin A content?

  35. Everyone is talking about getting tans instead of sunburns. You do realize tanning is still causing skin damage, right? A “base tan” does not protect you.

  36. Our diet also affects the make up of our sweat. The sun’s reaction with our sweat may have a lot to do with the incidence of skin problems too. Since I have been taking zinc supplements I have noticed that any skin blemishes (perhaps sun damage as I’m 56) have all but disappeared or at least not deteriorated.

  37. I gave up sugar about 10 days ago and by day 5 I started getting really scaley skin which has now turned into something like sunburn. The strange thing is that the sunburn took 2 days to manifest (it rained the day before it flared up, but I had been in the sun 48 hours before). I wonder whether my body is reacting to the lack of sugar… any ideas?

  38. Katie,
    I gave up sunscreen ever since reading Andreas Moritz’ book, “Timeless Secrets to Health and Healing” years ago… so I’m right on board with everything you’re saying. HOWEVER, I’m a bit confused now about linoleic acid. Do you think this connection between linoleic acid in vegetable oils and cancer could be considering only refined linoleic acid? What about the raw linoleic acid found in raw, cold-pressed hemp oil? Hemp oil is the only oil with a perfect ratio of EFAs, and it is great used externally and taken internally for skin (our sebum is comprised primarily of linoleic acid, so taking hemp oil helps keep the sebum healthy by not allowing our bodies to resort to using oleic acid, which leads to blackheads and acne). Anyone have any thoughts on this?
    Very interested in figuring this out! Thanks!

    • I have Hemp oil in the refrigerator. Guess I’ll try using that more often too. :)

      There is a bit of confusion between the overly processed, overly used and concentrated junk that is mainstream, as compared to the unrefined, raw types that you speak of, imo. There’s always a balance that must be made though, especially now that we can buy such concentrated forms of these things, like the healthy balance of omega fatty acids. Omega 6 is not bad, but too much of omega 6 without omega 3 (and other thing, I’m sure) to balance is bad.

  39. Hi, im not sure if you can answer this but ill give it a go. I have a lot of red hyperpigmentation from acne (still have a few breakouts) since i started tanning a couple years ago. I was very pale and had a bad diet including smoking but i always had a few breakouts that did not scar, jawline and chin. Since ive changed my diet and quit smoking i have a little better skin. I just started the fermented cod liver oil. Even though i go use sunbeds now and only use some mineral powder on my face for sunscreen, my body gets a nice tan but my face and neck wont tan. So i tried to use self tanning on my face and neck (good quality stuff and organic) but my face then turn to a strange orange color. Im just about to give up on ever having Nice skin and tan and just be pale. I would love to get some advice from you!

  40. Diet definitely makes a huge difference. I am very interested and very glad that the news is getting out! I have been listening to a lot of interviews and lectures by Charlotte Gerson of the Gerson Institute and the patients they see are usually terminally ill cancer patients with only months left to live, sent home to die by doctors as medicine can do nothing for them anymore. By CHANGING THEIR DIET most of these patients are COMPLETELY HEALED by following the Gerson Therapy but the medical profession at large won’t accept it. I wish that everyone would know this and not wait until its too late to find out how good the body is at healing itself if we feed it the right nutrients that promote an immune system that can fight disease.

  41. I might have missed this in the article, but what affect does this diet have on long-term problems associated with sun exposure, such as premature skin ageing and wrinkling?

  42. My wife and I went LCHF about 18 months ago. We both have fair skin and burned easily in the past. Now we swim daily for around an hour in full sun and never burn, in fact we have great tans now. Not sure if there’s a connection but my numerous small solar keratoses on arms and back have completely dissapeared! My skin specialist is mysterfied and sad to loose my custom. We do not eat seed oils but use a lot of coconut oil, butter, cream, cheese and avocado. I’m seventy next b’ day and at my lowest weight since puberty, have robust good health and a blood picture that bewilders my GP, who pestered me to use statins in the past to control my high cholesterol. I spent almost forty years eating a fanatically “healthy” vegetarian diet. Things change slowly in human nutrition land unfortunately.

  43. In Australia there seems to be a trend towards doctors prescribing vit D after noting low blood levels. This may be because so many people are on statins now. These compounds do lower blood D and Coenzyme Q10. Wonder why the GP’s aren’t pushing them too? The statin manufacturers originally recommended supplementation with statins but dropped the idea because it brought unwanted attention to the side effects of these insidious and largely unnecessary drugs. Taking vitamin supplements to compensate for an inadequate diet is now regarded as an act of dangerous oversimplification and at best, placebo theropy.

  44. My face and chest area used to burn badly after only 10-15 minutes in the sun. I no longer burn on my chest from such short exposure since going paleo.

    I continue to tweak my diet, mainly lowering overall carbs and sugars, and continue to see improvements in my overall health. The crushing, daily fatigue that I used to experience on a daily basis is gone. The “brain fog” is gone. My skin is looking clearer and younger, in my opinion. The lingering vertigo from an onset years ago is nearly gone. I no longer have intestinal issues as long as I stay away from grains/legumes and limit beans. Overall, not a bad trade for giving up some foods that I like!

    I’ll be taking a trip to Maui and will find out how I’m doing lately with sun exposure, but I already know that I don’t burn as easily as I used to.

  45. Its so funny that I just now came across this article. We just moved to Miami and this past summer we were at the beach and pool almost everyday. I never once put sunscreen on my kids, partly bc I didn’t believe in it, and partly bc I was lazy. We eat a pretty clean diet, all organics, home made food and my kids take FCLO every day. We eat a lot of coconut oil as well. Not one of my 5 kids got burned the entire summer, and I kept wondering why! This is a new concept for me that I never even thought about, so Im happy I chanced upon it as we are getting ready for pool days again here in Miami!

  46. What do you recommend for a child who has photosensitivity issues? My daughter has Vitiligo on one eyelid and possible cutaneous lupus (not in blood)- a ring shaped lesion on her cheek that comes on with sun exposure. I have taken her to a nutritionist and have eliminated gluten, dairy and processed sugars. She is on a lot of supplements – vitamin D, vitamin C, multi-vitamins, fish oil, turmeric etc. But, after 3 months on this protocol her rash is coming out again slightly :( with the warmer weather. I currently use Badger sunscreen whenever she is outdoors for her face whenever she is outside more than 2 minutes.

  47. Hi, im not sure if you can answer this but ill give it a go. I have a lot of red hyperpigmentation from acne (still have a few breakouts) since i started tanning a couple years ago. I was very pale and had a bad diet including smoking but i always had a few breakouts that did not scar, jawline and chin. Since ive changed my diet and quit smoking i have a little better skin. I just started the fermented cod liver oil. Even though i go use sunbeds now and only use some mineral powder on my face for sunscreen, my body gets a nice tan but my face and neck wont tan. So i tried to use self tanning on my face and neck (good quality stuff and organic) but my face then turn to a strange orange color. Im just about to give up on ever having Nice skin and tan and just be pale. I would love to get some advice from you!

  48. Love your site! I was looking at family supplements of cod liver oil, but while looking up some info, I came across this site by Dr Mercola, which states the supplements available today do more harm than good, which made me rethink my decision. I am pretty ignorant on supplements, but it seemed to make sense. I was wondering your take on it, as you seem to have a pretty level head about this type of thing. I’d love to hear what you think!


    • He’s talking about plain cod liver oil, which is unbalanced. What Katie recommends here is a fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil blend. As the Mercola article notes, K2 balances the toxicity of high levels of vitamin D. Butter (or in this case, butter oil) is a potent source of K2.

  49. Just like Eli said in earlier replyt: Eat tomatoes! But you have to cook them in order for the lycopene to ‘work’. Tomatoes will block UV-light – not necessarily protect you from sunburn, but it will help.

    So…organic tomato and garlic sauce with whole grain pasta before venturing out into the sun, yum!

  50. Hello, Katie!

    How is your day, hope it’s going well for ya! Anyway I was wondering since Omega 6 fatty acids are bad for consumption, is it still okay to use it for the skin and body for it’s moisturizing effects? For example, I found Hemp Seed oil to be high in linoleic acid and I heard that it’s great for acne-prone skin because it has comedogenic rating of 0, so I’ve been using it recently and I think it has helped me quite a bit but I still had one little pimple here and there however I think that is caused by other factors like diet, but yeah, it’s been a couple weeks and I haven’t had a very a huge breakout.. So I think it’s helping. I also used it on my hands too and it has done a great job of moisturizing.. hands don’t feel so dry anymore; so now since I’ve found and read this blog randomly from a Yahoo search, yikes!! It causes cancer? Does this mean I should seriously quit using Hemp seed oil for my face and body? Especially when I’m out in the sun?

    If you can respond, I’d greatly appreciate it! :) Thanks, Katie! Have a awesome day.


    • Omega 6 isn’t bad, it’s just overused in our diets! It’s quite healthy, it’s just more prevalent. If you are going to use it topically, there is a chance you may absorb some, so you could just increase your omega 3 intake to balance it out!

  51. I found this article on Google after searching, We just spent the entire day at the zoo with my little ones and none of us burned … including my red headed husband who used to burn easily. We didn’t use any sunscreen at all, but did take care to go in buildings at times. We do all this art5 suggests except a couple of the supplements and I don’t think our cod liver oil is fermented. My friend mentioned yesterday my 2 year old has only ever burned once and we are outside a lot. She turns really red in the heat but isn’t ever burned and it goes away as soon as she child’s down. Of course we still must always be vigilant about over exposure, but I’ve always wondered how people in the old days didn’t fry in the fields.

  52. These are always such interesting discussions! I absolutely believe diet helps skin health — if I eat too much sugar or don’t get enough sleep, the first place I see it is on my face. However, I just want to toss in my own experience to help others make an informed decisions.

    I’m of strong Lithuanian and English heritage, blonde hair, always the palest makeup color, grew up in Ohio. I moved to Texas for college and, until I discovered Primal, I used a lot of sunblock to prevent myself from burning when I walked to and from classes. I even took up the hat trend and the umbrella trend. When my brother, who lives in San Francisco, and I met up for a family vacation, he was dismayed at how much more easily I tanned than he did!

    Fast forward a few years, and I ended up moving to Hawaii. It was August, we were living it up, and while I wore sunblock, I seemed unstoppable. Then I made the horrible mistake of going snorkeling without sunblock, and my pale Eastern European butt turned the brightest shade of red I’ve ever seen. Hawaii has great all-natural products that helped my skin heal quickly with no damage and minimal peeling, and now when I go out for a long period of time, I have a cute, brightly colored long sleeve one-piece swimsuit with UPF 50+ so I’m not using an entire bottle of sunblock every day. But the combination of my genetics and the intense summer sun means that I have to have that extra level of protection. Diet helps me heal and recover faster, but even that is not fail-safe. I’ve been craving nothing but avocado, tomatoes, and fish for the last several weeks, but I also have to be sensitive to my body’s needs and sensitivities.

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