The Benefits of Sun Exposure

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » The Benefits of Sun Exposure

There are few topics as controversial as safe sun exposure. Sunbathing and tanning often get a bad rap, but mounting evidence reveals that moderate sun exposure is not only safe but necessary. In fact, the most recent in-depth review found that avoiding the sun was similar to smoking as a risk for all-cause mortality. Put simply, avoiding the sun may be as dangerous as smoking cigarettes!

Is Sun Exposure Safe?

First, let’s collectively pause and take a deep breath. As I mentioned earlier, this is a controversial topic. I’m just here to share insights gleaned from personal research and blood tests conducted on myself and my family. 

Let’s also remember that anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove anything. Here are a few examples:

  1. You know someone who died from skin cancer, so you think all sun exposure is bad. (Even though science doesn’t back this up and that scenario doesn’t prove causation).
  2. You know someone who has been outside every day of his or her entire life and got sunburned all the time. Yet, they never got cancer; so, all sun exposure is safe. (Science also doesn’t back this up).

We all know people who have been affected by cancer and I’m sending hugs to all of you who have lost someone to this dreaded disease. However, knowing someone who died of cancer doesn’t equal a scientific study. I know someone who has gotten very little sun exposure, wears a hat and sunscreen daily, and still got skin cancer on his nose. This example is also not scientifically relevant.

A lot also depends on your skin pigmentation. As someone of Northern European descent, I have less melanin in my skin. So, I likely need less UV exposure to produce vitamin D than someone with darker skin. The current evidence shows that some sun exposure is safe for the vast majority of people. However, depending on skin color some people need more sunlight than others to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.

Ironically, some research suggests certain sunscreen ingredients can increase skin cancer risk. But read on…

Sunscreen, Sunburn, and Skin Cancer, Oh My!

In the last several decades, the push to use sunscreen and limit exposure to the sun has gotten stronger. It’s now possible to find sunscreen with an SPF of 100! Thanks to massive public health campaigns, most people are at least mildly aware of the “dangers” of sun exposure.

Surprisingly, sun exposure might not be as risky as we think. In fact, steering clear of the sun might be riskier than getting some moderate sun. Even though we’re told to wear sunscreen and avoid too much sun, skin cancer rates, especially melanoma, keep increasing.

Skin cancer rates are rising by 1.2% annually (2010-2019), even though we spend less time outdoors and wear more sunscreen. We’re doing the things we’re “supposed” to do and yet, the problem is getting worse.

But is Sun Exposure the Reason?

Here’s where things get interesting… Perhaps the problem isn’t lack of sunscreen or even sun exposure at all, but a deeper cause. A 2023 scientific review found that while sunburn is harmful, moderate non-burning sun exposure has many benefits. That was without wearing sunscreen.

A few of the benefits listed in the review include:

  • A significant decrease in blood pressure in those with hypertension
  • Improved symptoms in those with chronic kidney disease
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Lower rates of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced skin conditions like eczema

Scientists are now focusing more on the benefits of sunlight and the risks of not getting enough sunlight. In essence, not getting enough sun can be as or more detrimental than excessive sun exposure. As with many aspects of life, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

And Sunscreen May NOT Help Avoid Cancer

Many people believe that since sunscreen prevents sunburn, it must also stop skin cancer. But research doesn’t back up this idea.

Not only does sunscreen not prevent skin cancer, it may actually block some of the most beneficial aspects of sun exposure. While it may prevent or reduce sunburn, it can also inhibit the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin cells.

Vitamin D deficiency is already at epidemic levels, and it’s been that way for a long time. As of 2010, over a billion people worldwide were deficient or insufficient in their blood levels of vitamin D.

A 2016 review concluded: “We can find no consistent evidence that use of chemical sunscreens reduces the risk of melanoma.” The review authors even went on to suggest that sunscreens carry a warning label!

This review also stated that: 

“Since public health authorities recommend liberal use of sunscreens for good health, the labeling of sunscreens should contain a statement about the possibility of vitamin D deficiency that may result from excessive use of sunscreens. Labeling should also state that sunscreens have not been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of melanoma.”

Another study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics came to a similar conclusion:

“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.” 

Still, avoiding sunburn is a good idea. It’s the idea that sunscreen is the best way to do so that’s up for debate.

Sunscreen DOES Block Vitamin D From the Sun

We know sunscreen can inhibit our natural production of vitamin D, especially when used regularly. Sunscreen helps to block ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths, which are what the body uses for vitamin D synthesis.

As a society, we often stay away from the sun, even though our bodies require sunlight to make vitamin D naturally. Then we use sunscreen, which contains chemicals, to try to lower the risk of one cancer (skin cancer).

Paradoxically, this habit could result in vitamin D deficiency and raise the risk of many chronic health conditions. The mentioned study demonstrated that sunscreen doesn’t actually prevent melanoma.

Why Safe Sun Exposure May REDUCE Cancer Risk

The most comprehensive current studies don’t recommend avoiding the sun. On the contrary, the recent review proposed changing the public health advice to recommend non-burning sun exposure for everyone. It should be enough that their blood levels of vitamin D stay at least 30 ng/mL throughout the year.

The review also found that sunbathing without burning seemed to reduce the risk of melanoma. On the flip side, sunburns were linked to twice the risk of melanoma. While it’s crucial to avoid sunburns, moderate sun exposure may lower the risk of melanoma. 

Another surprising realization from the study was that long term sun exposure may protect the skin. Non-burning sun exposure over time may protect against sunburn as well as melanoma. Researchers thought it might be because the skin adapts to the sun, increasing melanin and becoming thicker. Higher levels of vitamin D may also play a part in the protection.

Vitamin D may reduce cancer risk. The review study specifically found that vitamin D from UVB exposure converts to the active form in the liver. Increasing vitamin D is known to enhance DNA repair, lowering cancer risk. 

To sum it all up, staying out of the sun may be behind the rising skin cancer rates. The review found that it’s unlikely that sun exposure is why more people are getting cancer. In fact, the opposite may be true. Melanoma incidences are probably going up because of vitamin D deficiency. 

Because people aren’t building up their sun exposure over time, they’re not as protected when they are exposed to the sun. Then they’re more likely to get sunburn, leading to DNA damage. 

Common Claims About The Dangers of Sun Exposures

Besides cancer risk, here are some other common claims about the dangers of too much sun exposure (and my response): 

Rapid Aging

We often hear that too much or unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation speeds up skin aging. That’s because excessive UV can harm the skin’s elastin fibers and collagen. This results in fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin. 

However, it’s important to consider sun exposure within the context of diet and lifestyle. Those who have a high level of oxidative stress from other sources are likely to be more affected by photoaging.

The red light and near infrared radiation from the sun may actually benefit the skin. Photobiomodulation, as it’s often called, is considered anti-aging. In low doses, sunlight increases circulation and supports collagen production.

Eye Damage

Most commentary on sun exposure and eye health emphasizes the dangers rather than the benefits. Headlines emphasize the damaging effects of UV radiation on the eyes. They warn about the development of cataracts and macular degeneration. Then they tell us how important it is to wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. 

However, sunlight also has positive effects on the eyes. Exposing the eyes to UV light without sun protection may improve retinal health, increase tear production, and reduce eye inflammation.  

Other Health Benefits of Vitamin D From the Sun

A Better Sense of Well-Being

Getting out under the sun’s rays may also support your mental health. Sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that supports feelings of happiness. 

In scientific studies, adequate sunlight exposure is linked to improved mood. It may help alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that plays a key role in regulating your circadian rhythm. Without a healthy sleep-wake cycle, it’s difficult to get restorative sleep, which is so important for a healthy immune system.

Cardiovascular Health

Moderate sun exposure may also reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It may work by increasing vitamin D, lowering inflammation, improving the mood, or even enhancing nitric oxide production. 

Sunlight stimulates nitric oxide production in the skin, which then supports circulation. Improving blood flow can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. These two scenarios are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Bone Health

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. These two minerals are necessary for bone mineralization and overall health. They’re also essential for maintaining strong, cavity-resistant teeth.

Studies have linked low vitamin  D with bone diseases like osteomalacia and osteoporosis. Sufficient vitamin D levels can lower the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, in older adults.

Skin Health

Consistent exposure to small doses of UV light may help certain skin conditions. Moderate sun exposure stimulates the production of collagen, a protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin.

Researchers have found improvements in eczema, psoriasis, and acne with sunlight exposure. The anti-inflammatory effects of sunlight, along with the production of Vitamin D, may be the reason. 

Sunlight can also enhance the body’s ability to heal wounds. Besides supporting collagen, it can promote the production of growth factors and enhance immune function. This can help alleviate symptoms and accelerate the healing process.

Benefits of Sunshine at Different Times of Day

The time of day you’re exposed to sunlight makes a difference. The benefits vary based on whether you’re getting morning, afternoon, or evening sunlight.

Benefits of Sunshine in the Morning 

Exposure to natural light in the morning may increase daytime alertness and focus. It can also help synchronize the body’s internal clock with the external environment. This circadian rhythm is crucial for many physiological functions, including hormone regulation. 

Getting sunshine in the morning can also promote a more consistent sleep-wake cycle, leading to better overall rest. It can help you feel sleepy when you’re supposed to in the evening. No staying up to read or binge TV series!

Some studies suggest morning sunlight has additional health benefits. Because it enhances the health of our mitochondria, it may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The cardiovascular and immune systems are highly dependent on those energy-producing organelles. 

I try to always start the day with morning sunlight (and getting hydrated) and I’ve really noticed the difference since starting this habit!

Benefits of Sunshine in Mid-Day 

According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, getting sunshine in mid-day supports an elevated mood and healthy hormone levels. Getting sunlight exposure at this time can support healthy testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women.

In a 2021 study, men who got 20 to 30 minutes of sun 2 to 3 times a week over a month had significantly higher levels of testosterone. Researchers found that the sun activated a gene in skin cells. This gene then triggered the pituitary and hypothalamus to enhance hormone production. 

The effects weren’t limited to testosterone. The increased FSH and LH released by the pituitary gland also stimulated the production of estrogen (estradiol) and progesterone in women, helping to normalize hormone levels.

Benefits of Sunshine in the Evening

Evening sun exposure reinforces a normal sleep-wake cycle through the higher red light exposure. Getting sun around sunset increases your exposure to red and near-infrared light. If your shadow is taller than you are, you’re getting the ideal levels of those wavelengths.

Be sure not to expose yourself to artificial bright light in the evening, as it can mess with your sleep, motivation levels, and mood.

Vitamin D is Important for Pregnancy, Babies, & Kids

Getting enough vitamin D is also a big deal during pregnancy and nursing. Healthy blood levels of vitamin D may reduce premature labor and other complications. On the other hand, low vitamin D levels can put a mom at higher risk for gestational diabetes and can lead to other problems for the baby.

Pregnancy & Vitamin D

This article from the Vitamin D Council explains the importance of vitamin D for a growing baby. It’s best for vitamin D to be above 30 ng/mL during pregnancy. Some doctors even recommend maintaining levels above 60 ng/mL during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, most women aren’t even close to those levels:

  • Dr. Joyce Lee and colleagues at the University of Michigan found that 37 of 40 pregnant women had levels below 40 ng/mL. The majority had levels below 20 ng/mL. Over 25% had levels below 10 ng/mL.
  • Dr. Lisa Bodnar, a vitamin D researcher, found that of 400 pregnant Pennsylvania women, 63% had levels below 30 ng/mL. Further, 44% of the black women in the study had levels below 15 ng/mL. Prenatal vitamins didn’t seem to make a difference.
  • Dr. Dijkstra and colleagues studied 70 pregnant women in the Netherlands. None had levels above 40 ng/mL and 50% had levels below 10 ng/mL. Again, prenatal vitamins had little effect. Of course, prenatal vitamins only contain 400 IU of Vitamin D.

The researchers concluded that at least 95% of pregnant women have 25(OH)D levels below 50 ng/mL. That’s not good! It can mean they’re using up the vitamin D they have quickly and don’t have enough to store for future use. 

These chronically low vitamin D levels during pregnancy can lead to all kinds of complications. Cesarean births, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and vaginal infections are all more likely. Low vitamin D can also lead to a higher risk of autism, mental disorders, infections, low birth weight, and organ problems in the baby.

Vitamin D for Infants & Children

Infants and children may also be suffering from vitamin D and sunlight deficiency. Getting enough vitamin D is critical for growing children. We’re not just talking about rickets. A lot of research links adequate vitamin D status in children to better mental and physical health.

If they don’t get enough sun exposure, it’s important to supplement. In a 2008 paper, researchers concluded that most healthy children need to supplement about 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily for every 25 pounds of body weight. Otherwise, it will be difficult to maintain enough vitamin D in their systems. Those with chronic illnesses may need even more.

Many kids aren’t even getting a quarter of that on a good day. When they do, it often comes from the less usable vitamin D2, added to foods like breakfast cereals, orange juice, and whole (“vitamin D”) milk.

Our whole family has tested our vitamin D levels (including me — during pregnancy and after). Even with moderate daily sun exposure, we were all low (in the high 20s or 30s). I work with a doctor to test and supplement (while still getting sun exposure) when necessary.

Does Diet Impact Sun Exposure Risk?

Mainstream medicine and media often suggest limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen. Funny how these simple solutions for preventing skin cancer are also highly lucrative…

But at the same time, they’ve ignored any potential role diet might play in skin cancer. Since skin cancer is rising despite the highest sunscreen use in history… it’s time to look at other causes and solutions.

Over the same decades that skin cancer rates have risen, certain dietary factors have also changed. We now eat more cereal grains, omega-6 vegetable oils, ultra-processed foods, and chemical additives. There’s also an overall lower intake of saturated fats, omega-3 fats, and grass-fed red meats, including organ meats.

It’s evident just looking at breakfast. These days, it’s not uncommon for people to have cereal, skim milk, and orange juice for breakfast. It’s a classic example of ultra-processed food, omega-6 oils, and lack of healthy fats. It’s a far cry from bacon, eggs, and coffee with cream that used to be the go-to breakfast menu. 

Increased Omega-6 Vegetable Oil Consumption

Omega-6-rich oils, like canola, cottonseed, “vegetable”, and soybean, are a new addition to our diets. There’s no biological need to consume these highly processed seed oils. There’s some evidence that eating these oils can cause them to be used in place of the saturated and monounsaturated fats in skin. This switch can make the skin more susceptible to disease.

Some studies show high linoleic acid vegetable oils increase the risk of skin cancer and other cancers. A 2011 study published in the journal Carcinogenesis looked at omega-6s vs. omega-3s and skin cancer. This was a follow-up to studies showing skin tissue fat may affect susceptibility to UV damage.

They found that high-fat diets rich in omega-3s seemed to be protective compared to the omega-6 rich diet. The omega-3 diet slowed the development of skin tumors and decreased their size by 80 to 90%. 

Reduced Saturated Fat and Omega-3 Fat Consumption 

As omega-6 oil consumption has risen, the intake of omega-3 and saturated 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, especially saturated fats and omega-3 fats, to regenerate skin tissue. If the body doesn’t get these fats (and many people don’t these days), it will use whatever it has available. It may even use those omega-6 fats, which aren’t the preferred fat for building skin and collagen.

Avoidance of Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Due to the shift away from omega-3s and saturated fats towards omega-6s, we’re decreasing our intake of vitamin D through food. Food sources of vitamin D that Americans avoid or don’t get enough of include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, cod liver oil, egg yolks, organ meats, and liver.

A drugstore multivitamin cannot make up for the lack of a traditional, nutrient-dense diet. There are plenty of recipes on this website to get you started. Adding salmon and eggs a couple of times a week is an excellent place to start!

Bottom Line: It’s Time to Rethink Getting Vitamin D From the Sun

Based on the largest review of evidence we have to date, it’s time to rethink sun exposure. While we’ve stayed away from the sun to avoid skin cancer, our rates of cancer and other chronic conditions continue to rise. By avoiding the sun, we’ve increased our risk of vitamin D deficiency. As a result, rates of all-cause mortality are going up.

Embrace the sun! Just do so at moderate levels, while following a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Sun Exposure: What I Do

In light of this, and so much other evidence, I don’t avoid the sun or use harmful sunscreens. In fact, I make it a point to spend time in the sun daily. I also test my vitamin D levels and take vitamin D supplements in the winter months

While 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D is the amount of vitamin D typically recommended, it may be too low for some people. I take more than that but do your own research. Vitamin D toxicity is possible if you overdo it. Taking too much vitamin D over time can increase blood calcium levels, which can require hospitalization if they get too high. Getting your vitamin D from the sun is ideal.

I make sure to get out of the sun before getting close to burning. If I get enough sun exposure and want to stay outside, I just cover up and wear a hat. And for the first time in my adult life, my blood concentrations of vitamin D are in the healthy range. I also “eat my sunscreen” by eating a real food diet and taking specific nutrients that help protect the body from the inside out.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

What do you do when it comes to sun exposure? Share with us below!

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.

Comments

127 responses to “The Benefits of Sun Exposure”

  1. Brittany Avatar
    Brittany

    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. 😉

  2. Eli Avatar

    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.

    1. Prkrst Avatar

      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!

  3. Kailani Avatar

    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!!!

  4. Lowen Avatar

    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!

  5. Liz Avatar

    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.

  6. Leah Trahan Avatar
    Leah Trahan

    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.

  7. Jenna Avatar

    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.

    1. Nikki Avatar

      Same here with the coconut oil. I’ve read it offers a natural SPF of 4. I also make sure to lie in the sun as close to solar noon as possible to get the UVB rays. 20 min front and 20 min back and that’s it. Works beautifully for me. Also, I do use a mineral sunscreen on my face with SPF 50 to prevent wrinkles.

  8. Lisa Avatar

    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 ?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      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…

      1. Jacqueline Avatar
        Jacqueline

        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!

        1. Suzie Avatar

          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.

      2. Bailey Avatar
        Bailey

        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!

        1. Julia Avatar

          I am a new vegan (for health and environmental reasons) and I am in the same boat. I’ve been trying to increase my coconut and olive oil consumption quite a bit but I’m afraid that won’t be enough of a natural sun buffer. Are there any other plant based foods (I know of tomato paste) that can help prevent sunburn?

  9. Oryoki Avatar

    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.

  10. Ian Groves Avatar
    Ian Groves

    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. Sarah Avatar

    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.

  12. Lauren Kent Avatar
    Lauren Kent

    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!

  13. GiGi Avatar

    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!

  14. Fiona Avatar

    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.

  15. Kim Wojcuilewicz Avatar
    Kim Wojcuilewicz

    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!!

  16. Sabrina Avatar
    Sabrina

    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!! 

  17. Todd Avatar

    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!

  18. Tarocha Avatar
    Tarocha

    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 🙂 )

    1. Tarocha Avatar
      Tarocha

      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…

      1. Nicolette Avatar
        Nicolette

        Thank you for this great article!
        I’m with you all the way!
        Years ago I heard a doctor talk about sunscreens and skincancer…his credo was: use more and higher sunscreens and for heavens sake stay out of the sun!!
        It seemed clear to me, that the heavy use of sunscreens and rising skincancer was directly correlated. As I would not put anything on my skin which I would not put in my mouth, my path was clear.
        Go into the sun, eat whole foods, supplement vit D and don’t use sunscreen!!
        Another thing.
        I’ m asthmatic, but after years of supplementing vit.D I don’t need my asthma spray anymore and had not had a single asthmatic seizure or attack! For years!!
        This might be OT, but I thougt it might be interesting for fellow asthmatics.
        Greetings from Bavaria, Germany

    2. Chris Avatar

      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.

        1. Erica Avatar

          Katie you mentioned having your family and yourself tested for vitamin d levels, how did you go about this?

    3. Scot Mills Avatar
      Scot Mills

      Thanks for bringing this up Tarocha, as I have been dealing with itchy, welt-covered elbows for much of my adult life. However, it has gotten MUCH worse lately, to the point I have been using sun sleeves and a hat, which also coincides with me moving inland, away from all the seafood I used to enjoy almost daily!

      Thank you again, since as a VERY outdoorsy person, I find it quite hard to stay out of the sun (nor do I want to, much to Katie’s points in her excellent post), and I since I also seem to have an allergy to my own perspiration which is triggered with tight-fitting clothing (ala sun sleeves), this is something which has been driving me NUTS!

      Now, I’m off to find some good seafood here in Colorado:)!

  19. Stephanie Avatar
    Stephanie

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

    1. bill Avatar

      I work outside. Have for 25 + year’s. Since eating more fruit and veggies, cutting back on meats and breads, adding exercise and supplementing D3, E, and B complex (all vegan certified) I have not burned from the sun. Again, I am in the sun a lot. No sunscreen.
      The old saying about “an apple a day”, should be an avocado a day.

    2. Rita Avatar

      The most important issue about low vitamin D levels that hopefully you can look into is MS which there was no mention in your article.

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