Why I Eat My Sunscreen to Protect Skin From the Inside Out

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Eat your Sunscreen?
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Why I Eat My Sunscreen to Protect Skin From the Inside Out

As warmer weather approaches (yay!), it’s time to start thinking about digging out the kids’ clothes, bathing suits, and flip flops. This is also my cue to start getting my skin ready for the sun.

Why not wait until the first beach day? Because I now eat my sunscreen rather than just wear it.

I’ve long been fed up with the ingredients in sunscreen (more on that in this post) and believe it often does more harm than good. The more I researched the more I found that exposure to the sun isn’t a problem (it’s actually a benefit) if you feed your skin the right nutrients to get it ready for sun exposure.

The sun isn’t the problem, which is why I take a different approach. I get safe sun exposure and protect my skin from the inside out. (And of course, cover up or get out of the sun when my skin has had enough!)

Why the Sun Isn’t the Enemy

There seems to be an underlying idea that sun exposure = skin cancer and that sunscreen = protection from skin cancer. But the research doesn’t back this up. In fact, it may susggest the opposite. Think about this: Skin cancer rates are rising despite more sunscreen use and reduced sun exposure in recent decades.

Science backs up this approach. A 2016 review in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology concluded that while prevention of skin cancer is important, being afraid of the sun isn’t a good answer. From their findings:

This review considers the studies that have shown a wide range health benefits from sun/UV exposure. These benefits include among others various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease/dementia, myopia and macular degeneration, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The message of sun avoidance must be changed to acceptance of non-burning sun exposure sufficient to achieve serum 25(OH)D concentration of 30 ng/mL or higher in the sunny season and the general benefits of UV exposure beyond those of vitamin D. (emphasis added)

This is the reason I don’t avoid the sun, but rather make a point to get sun exposure every day. I also avoid sunscreen for the most part, and just get out of the sun or cover up when I have had enough sun exposure for the day.

How I Stopped Burning

Here was my dilemma…

I’m partially Irish-Scottish (which is Latin for very fair skinned!) and had always burned. In fact, even moderate sun exposure would leave me with a pinkish glow rather than a tan … until several years ago.

The research showed the importance of sun exposure for adequate levels of vitamin D and many other aspects of health. Wearing sunscreen greatly reduces vitamin D production, so that wasn’t the answer. I decided to follow the research and start protecting my skin from the inside out. And it worked.

I started working in the garden for hours at a time during the heat of the day without burning. We also went to Florida for vacation and I was at the beach for 4 hours between 11-3 with no sunscreen and I didn’t burn… at all!

To those of you blessed with olive skin (like my husband), this may not seem like a big deal, but to me, this is huge! Finally I no longer look like the pale-stepchild among my Italian in-laws for the first time.

How I Eat My Sunscreen with Diet + Supplements

Just as a poor diet has a negative effect on skin and overall health, a real food diet may offer protection from various health problems, including sun-related ones. Fortunately, the diet and lifestyle factors that are good for the skin have great benefits for general health as well.

Note: This is what worked for me and is in no way medical or dermatological advice. Please do you own research, know your own skin, and find what works best for you.

Here’s how I start preparing my skin for safe sun exposure this summer:

1. Eat a Real Food Diet With Enough Good Fats

A large part of my natural sun protection is eating an anti-inflammatory diet. To make sure the body has the proper building blocks for healthy skin and to reduce inflammation, I consume enough healthy saturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fats while avoiding polyunsaturated fatty acids and high omega-6 vegetable oils.

I focus on making sure that my diet is high in micronutrients from vegetables, omega-3s, and fat-soluble vitamins from fish, and monounsaturated and saturated fats from plant and animal sources.

This type of diet will also be beneficial for many other health conditions, and if you’ve been a Wellness Mama reader for any length of time, you know the drill:


  • processed foods
  • vegetable oils (this is the most important for sun exposure)
  • grains
  • sugars


  • healthy sources of saturated fats and monounsaturated fats
  • foods rich in omega-3s (fish, etc.)
  • lots of leafy greens
  • 2+ tablespoons of tomato paste daily (I sometimes add this in for the lycopene and skin protection)

2. Eat Antioxidants

Just by avoiding grains and omega-6 oils as well as focusing on proteins, fats, and vegetables instead, your diet will be higher in antioxidants than the standard American diet. Even real food “treats” like berries and dark chocolate are packed with antioxidants.

Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and free radicals. Research has shown a strong protective effect of antioxidants against inflammation and skin damage.
eat your sunscreen natural sun protection alternatives

3. Up the Vitamin D

I’ve noticed the biggest difference in how I feel from optimizing two things: omega-3 consumption and vitamin D levels. I talked about the importance of omega-3s above. Through blood testing, I found that my 25(OH)D level (one measure of vitamin D) was below 25 ng/mL. That was well below the recommendation for pregnant and nursing women and well below the 65 ng/mL recommended by some doctors for optimal health.

Through years of experimenting and continual testing, I found that in order to get my levels above 30 ng/mL I had to get sun exposure and take supplemental vitamin D. Now, with my levels in the 50-60 ng/mL range, my thyroid is doing great and I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I also don’t get sunburned any more!

Why it works: This is a logical if you think about it. 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 those with darker skin need more sun that those with fairer 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. Of course, this is a genetic and very personalized issue that is best handled with testing and the help of a qualified practitioner.

4. Gradual Sun Exposure

Seems simple and logical, but moderate and safe sun exposure has the most benefits for vitamin D levels. Sunburn is never good! I always get less sun exposure than I think I need at first and work up really slowly to avoid burning.

5. Natural Sun Protection

With the recent research on the benefits of sun exposure and the potential harmful substances in many sunscreens, I choose natural ways to protect from the sun once I’ve gotten enough exposure at any time. My first (and best) option is just to cover up or get in the shade if possible. A hat and shirt are reusable, don’t contain harmful chemicals, and do a great job of protecting from excess sun exposure.

If I have to be outside in the bright sun for extended periods of time and can’t seek shade or cover up I’ll sometimes use a natural homemade sunscreen or an EWG-recommended sunscreen.

6. Supplement Support

This time of year, I also start taking a specific regimen of supplements to help reduce inflammation and improve sun tolerance. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the Internet, and I’m only sharing the supplements I personally take and why. Check with your doctor before making any health or supplement changes, especially if you have any medical conditions.

The supplements I take are:

  • Vitamin D3 Drops – I take about 2,000 IU/day with sun exposure to keep my levels up. Those drops are 2,000 IU per drop so a bottle lasts us a really long time. I also test my levels a few times a year and stop taking D3 if my levels are high enough.
  • Vitamin C –  I take about 2,000 mg/day. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and also has many other benefits to the body.
  • Omega-3s and Krill oil – I’ve experimented with several different brands over the years. I’m currently trying these capsules at the recommendation of Dr. Rhonda Patrick in a recent podcast episode, and I like them so far.
  • Astaxanthin – A highly potent antioxidant that 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.
  • Polypodium Leucotomos
  • Sundaily “The Base Layer” – These tasty gummies help boost skin’s ability to resist solar damage. They contain polypodium leucotomos extract, a fancy name for a fern long used in parts of the world for sun protection.

Get Some Rays the Right Way

Avoid sunburn from the inside out and the outside in with nutritional support and a hat + rash guard. Take these measures a month or two before beach season starts and condition your skin to love the sun. It’s good for your health anyway and saves money on sunscreen!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Galamaga, whois a board-certified internal medicine physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

Do you eat your sunscreen? Still use the toxic stuff? Avoid the sun completely? Tell me below!

Diet and supplements can make a big difference in the bodys ability to tan instead of burn, without using sunscreen. Here is how...

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


315 responses to “Why I Eat My Sunscreen to Protect Skin From the Inside Out”

  1. Mary Ivester Avatar
    Mary Ivester

    This is great!! I’m Scotch-Irish but moreso than that I’m Norwegian, so going out in the sun is normally a death sentence. I can’t wait to start this!!

  2. Tonja Field Avatar
    Tonja Field

    Not sure if you follow Balanced Bites at all, but I asked her about takin Vitamin D WITH the FLCO/BO blend and she says it isn’t necessary. 1 tsp alone of it can have up to 5000IU of Vit D – wasn’t sure if you were aware of that. Anyway, I had been taking Vit D (4000 IU) for awhile and felt GREAT and she suggested I stop when I start the FLCO/BO blend and see how I felt before adding more in – just do I don’t over-do it. Just passing on the info I was told! Thanks for this post. I’ve been telling everyone! I usually burn before I tan and although I still get a little pink after a few hours in the sun, not nearly as much or as bad! Yay! 

  3. Nicole Avatar

    Do you have any suggestions on a good natural sunscreen that you can buy just for the times that I might need sunscreen?  I am slowly working up to be able to buy all the supplements and such but we still tend to get a little red when out in the sun.  I have been on the EWG’s website, but still some of the natural things out there have toxins in them and are hard to find.  Also, I know that you do have your sunscreen recipe on here and I might try it — I am a sucker for the coconut smell — is there a way to get that smell naturally — I love it for sunscreen, lotion, soap, etc.  Most natural soaps and such though don’t have a coconut smell to them and I miss that smell — any suggestions?  Would a coconut extract oil type work?  Thanks for everything.

  4. Daria Avatar

    When taking the supplements, do you have to space them out thru the day or can they be taken at the same time? 
    Also, I use coconut oil on my skin every day.  Would that be enough or do I have to ingest it?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It works best if you ingest it too since it works as an internal protector. I take the supplements at the same time, except the vitamin C, which I take at a different time than the magnesium..

  5. Charlotte Avatar

     I started following Weston Price and Nourishing Traditions type eating habits 2 years ago, and didn’t have any sunburns those summers. That was SO unusual for me, as a very pale Irish girl! I burned despite slathering on tons of chemical-ridden sunscreen every year until then. I kept wondering what changed, and you’ve solved the mystery! I never even thought diet could protect me this much. Thanks for this info — it makes me so relieved to know that my young kids will grow up without all the burns I had every year. 

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      As a fellow irish girl, I agree… that was the biggest relief for me to realize that my kids would be able to enjoy the sun without getting burned…

  6. Kara Maynard Avatar
    Kara Maynard

    I love that my kids will just munch fish oil tabs 🙂 Funny how when you introduce things early, it’s no big deal! Need to try cutting grains completely..it’s the hard one for us. Wish I had gone GF before the babes were born, would have made it alot easier than trying to get them to give up bread now 😉

  7. Goran Novakovic Avatar
    Goran Novakovic

    I hardly ever wear sunscreen anymore, havent for the past 3 years, never burnt, always got a nice tan, and Im really pale!

    I also try to eat primal/paleo and get my suplements in all year round! I was even in miami last summer in scorching 30C heat, and did not get burnt, while everyone else was red as a lobster, and they wore sunscreen! hahaha

  8. Karmann Avatar

    I have a 3 year old and could easily get the tomato paste and vitamin C into her diet, but do you have any suggestions for the coconut oil? I’ve done smoothies, but if you have other ideas, I’d really appreciate it!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      One of my kids favorite is to drink “coffee” with us each morning, except that their coffee is 1 cup of herbal tea (I use Red Raspberry Leaf- still warm) blended in a blender or food processor with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. It makes a frothy drink that looks like coffee but it completely healthy. You can also add a tiny pinch of stevia leaf or brew it into the tea for some sweetness.

  9. Ted Hutchinson Avatar
    Ted Hutchinson

    Readers who like this post may also enjoy HealthyFellow’s posting and the comments that follow it at Natural Sunscreen Options here
    Drinking GREEN TEA may be a good idea as well as understanding the cancer initiating damage to DNA  following sunburn is primarily caused by IRON escaping from our blood. Reducing iron overload (by regularly donating blood) may help prevent damage. as may increasing our natural iron chelation capacity by improving melatonin secretion, or by using raw milk, as pasteurization and homogenizing milk reduces it’s Lactorferrin content. Both lactoferrin and melatonin bond with iron to prevent it behaving badly. 

  10. Cathy Avatar

    I added the Butter Oil/FCLO capsules to my diet right after reading this the first time, as well as coconut oil some days (when I remember).  My husband commented the other night about how tan I’m getting and someone at church yesterday said I looked like I’ve gotten some sun.  This about the pale girl who usually burns then turns very reddish tan a bit and freckles.  So this must be working!  I also ordered the astaxanthin and am waiting for it’s arrival.

  11. Denise Avatar

    Just happened to see this before our vacation in the Florida Keys. I’ve been eating Paleo for about 9 months and happened to be taking all the supplements you described…except for astaxanthin (never heard of it). I have always burned easily, but decided to go without sunscreen and see how I would do. Amazing! After five days of boating and swimming I have not sunburned at all. Thanks for getting this info out there 🙂

  12. Kranzush Kate Avatar
    Kranzush Kate

    A 1/4 cup of coconut oil in your tea??  really?  That seems like a lot for just a cup of tea…

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It is, and it is definitely hard to get it down. It would probably be easier in a smoothie, but I prefer just to melt in tea and chug…

  13. Kathy Avatar

    Thank you for such wonderful information. I am wondering about the Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend  . My kiddos and I have a milk allergy so I don’t think we would be able to take it. Is there anything else we could use instead? I’m assuming just omega 3s isn’t enough.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      You can just get the fermented cod liver oil without the butter blend and it will still be great for boosting the Omega-3s

  14. Charlotte H. Avatar
    Charlotte H.

    Fantastic and very interesting. I noticed when my husband and I switched from a highly processed diet to a diet very high in whole foods (basically we started home-cooking all of our food) that I recovered from general burns much faster than I used to. For example, before my diet change, I was burned by my hair straightener so much that it caused a blister. After my diet change, I once accidentally put my thumb directly on my hot hair straightener (stupid hair straighteners!). When I pulled my thumb away, I was scared of the burn I would get considering the direct contact. To my utter surprise, I had no mark at all. I have since moved to Australia where sun burns and skin cancer are a serious problem. I have to wear sunscreen EVERY DAY during the summer, but on occasion I forget to put sunscreen on my part (my hairline part) then go on a long walk. I find I don’t suffer the same pain as I used to if I forgot to put sunscreen on.  Now that I mostly eat whole foods and a negligible amount of junk food, not only do I get sick less often and for a shorter amount of time, but yes I notice I don’t suffer from burns nearly as often as I used to. I’m glad to see an article dedicated to informing people of this phenomenon. 😀

  15. Natalie Avatar

    Where do you buy your vitamins? I know they are extremely important, but I’m really struggling to afford it all…how do you do it?

    1. Kara Avatar

      I just saw this and I feel the same, I’m a struggling student and Mum trying to keep everyone healthy but vitamins are really expensive in store. I buy mine from i Herb and I tend to stick to their house brands because they are cheaper and have excellent ratings, and I can trace where they are made which is important to me. I live in Australia and it’s much cheaper here to buy them online. If I order on a friday, I tend to get my order by Tuesday which is really fast considering they come all the way from California! I buy my heavy items like coconut oil from the supermarket here, but I buy my vitamins, skin care and quite a lot of grocery items from iHrb.
      The Now Vitamin C powder is so cheap and the best way to get a lot of C and a bottle will last you months, maybe even a year. Also, you can get two trial products with every order, so you can trial for eg, probiotics and vitamin c for about a dollar each, and heaps of other items like protein powders, teas and skincare. Also iHerbs has a rewards program which makes things even cheaper. You get 10% of your spend on your order, back into your account for your next order. So if you spend $100 you will have $10 off you next order for eg. Everyone who buys off them gets a referral co de to give out giving others $5 off their first order ( it’s DVN855 ). Basically how it works is you get $5, the next person gets $5 and i Herb then donates $5 to charities, which is really cool. I recommend you get the probiotics for $1 (and all their house brands are 20% today). I am not allowed to give out links on here but you will find the site.

  16. Gloria Avatar

    Great post. Two supplements that have helped us are MSM (the good form of sulfur) and a broad spectrum liquid mineral supplement, plus drinking enough water. One day we were out on the ocean in a kayak for 3-4 hours, had our water (with MSM and minerals in it), and came home without any burn. — I found that my children did not burn when I was breastfeeding them. Then I found out that breastmilk is high in MSM. Plus, I was taking a good mineral supplement then, too. Those things putt the idea of “eating my sunscreen” into my head. Your post gave me some more “food for thought.” Thank you.

  17. Kat Stevens Avatar
    Kat Stevens

    no lotion for me, I take 2000 mg vitamin C with bioflavonoids before I go out and 1000 mg every hour I am out in the sun and I do not burn.  

  18. Kat Stevens Avatar
    Kat Stevens

    Yes I eat my sunscreen!  I do not use sunscreen lotion but I take 2000 mg Vitamin C with bioflavonoids before I go out and another 100o mg every hour or hour 1/2 while I am out in the sun and it keeps me from burning.

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