Why you should throw away your sunscreen now


This post was originally published in 2015; I’ve updated it in May 2019 with new research. Enjoy!

If you’re like me, you’ve spent your life slathering on sunscreen every time you were out in the sun.

Everyone said to do it. It was a no brainer, right?

Well, guess what? As with many pieces of health advice, “everyone” turns out to be wrong!

The latest research shows that if you apply sunscreen every time you’re in the sun, you’re blocking the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. Adequate vitamin D may reduce your risk of up to 16 different types of cancer, including: pancreatic, lung, ovarian, breast, prostate and skin.

Vitamin D contributes to healthy bones, lowering blood pressure and protecting against a host of other diseases. Yes, you can take a supplement, but it will never be as good as the direct source of the sun.

In the USA, vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic levels. Ironically, vitamin D deficiency can lead to aggressive forms of skin cancer. A ground-breaking 2011 study published in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that optimal blood levels of vitamin D offers protection against sunburn and skin cancer.

Read on to learn the best sunscreen and sun protection.

The research on sunscreen and sun exposure

Researchers from the Northern California Cancer Center, University of Southern California and Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that:

  • Increased exposure to sunlight, which increases Vitamin D levels, may decrease the risk of advanced breast cancer. In fact, spending an average of three hours a day exposed to sunlight can slash the risk of breast cancer by up to 50%.
  • Women with high sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer, which is cancer that has spread beyond the breast, compared to women with low sun exposure.
  • Sun exposure in the summer months and Vitamin D3 supplements in the winter may be one of the best protections against breast cancer.
  • The risk of the chemicals in commercial sunscreen may outweigh any risk from sun exposure.

The Environmental Working Group [EWG] is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

Two-thirds of the sunscreens analyzed by the EWG were found to not work well or to contain potentially hazardous ingredients, including some of the most popular brands on the market.

Any sunscreen purchased from a drug store, grocery store or discount chain are likely to be on the EWG worst sunscreen list, including Coppertone, Neutrogena, Rite Aid, Walgreen’s “Well” brand and “Up and Up” from Target.

Most contained the following “red flag” ingredients:

  1. oxybenzone A study out of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Zurich determined that oxybenzone promotes the growth of cancer cells.
  2. retinyl Palmitate {Vitamin A palmitate]
  3. Fragrance

Safer sunscreens tend to use zinc oxide and titanium-based mineral ingredients which block the sun’s rays without penetrating the skin.

There is ample evidence that the chemicals in sunscreen promotes the spread of cancer instead of preventing it. And those chemicals are absorbed into your bloodstream in one day,

Sunscreen chemicals also pollute our water sources and testing reveals 97% of Americans have sunscreen chemicals in their blood. They also damage coral reefs. Take a look at this article from snorkelsandfins.com

According to a June 2014 article featured in The Independent UK, a major study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.

The epidemiological study followed 30,000 women for over 20 years and “showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group.”

Tips for using sunscreen

Use sunscreen only after getting your maximum daily vitamin D production from the sun: you can safely stay in the sun until your skin starts to turn a very light shade of pink.

In fact, instead of sunscreen it may be safer to cover up using a long-sleeved shirt, pants and hat. In Caucasion skin, this may take 20 minutes. It can take 3 to 6 times longer for darkly pigmented skin to reach the Vitamin D manufacture point.

Shield your face from the sun with a hat, not sun screen.

Understanding UVA and UVB 

The most dangerous rays, in terms of skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays, and most sunscreens don’t block UVA!

Europe, as usual, has higher standards then the U.S. when it comes to protecting consumers. The EWG estimates that about half of all beach and sport sunscreens sold in the U.S.A. could not be sold in Europe because they provide inadequate UVA protection.

Products with high SPFs may prevent sunburn but still leave users at risk of UVA related skin damage.

A healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another useful strategy for avoiding sun damage.

The mystery of melanoma

Melanoma lesions do not tend to appear primarily on sun-exposed skin, which is why sunscreens have been proven ineffective in preventing it.

Ironically, exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma [the deadliest form of skin cancer].

According to the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet: “Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.” 

Bernard Ackerman, M.D., one of the world’s foremost skin cancer authorities, says the link between melanoma and sun exposure is unproven:

  • There’s no evidence sunburns lead to cancer,
  • There’s no proof sunscreens protect against melanoma, and
  • There’s no proof increased exposure to the sun increases the risk of melanoma.
  • A 2000 Swedish study concluded there were higher rates of melanoma in people who used sunscreen versus those who did not.

Elizabeth Plourde, PhD, is a California-based scientist who authored the book Sunscreens – Biohazard: Treat As Hazardous Waste, which extensively documents the serious life-threatening dangers of sunscreens not only to people but to the environment as well.

Dr. Plourde provides proof that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She emphasizes that many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC).

Conclusions about sunscreen

So what are we to conclude?

  • As with most things in nature, the sun is our friend, not our enemy.
  • Use only non-toxic sunscreen with zinc oxide after getting some direct sun exposure.
  • And try to spend some time in the sun every day.
  • Wear sunglasses with total UV protection

The information in this post is new to me. I only stumbled upon it as I was researching last week’s post about the Sun.

But I think my inner guidance has tapped into it for years because I spend a lot of time outdoors and have usually tended to forget to use sunscreen. Even with fair skin from my Irish heritage, my sun exposure has never been a problem for me.

To find the best sunscreens, here is the EWG’s 2018 list of safe sunscreens:


And buy a sun hat. There’s a reason we see native peoples around the world wearing them!

Wishing you safe and enjoyable fun in the sun this year!


Sources for this post:
http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/10/23/undeniable-evidence-links-popular-sunscreens-to-cancer-how-ironic/  [This article lists 22 studies]



Molly Larkin

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller "The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman”  and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com

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