Avoiding Extremes: Natural Sun Protection Alternatives

Natural Sun Protection

As a society, we tend to extremes.

Some people avoid the sun like the plague, and slather on sunscreen when they can’t. Others worship the sun, baking in it to try to get a deep, dark tan. The truth is, sun exposure is essential to our health. Without it, our body can’t manufacture vitamin D, a crucial substance for multiple reasons, not the least of which is it’s protective effect against all forms of cancer.

What? Sun exposure helps prevent cancer? Yes, it does

Regular exposure to sunlight also helps regulate our melatonin and serotonin levels (affecting our circadian rhythm and moods), suppresses overactive immune systems and autoimmune diseases, and even improves Alzheimer’s symptoms.

And yet, as with most things, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Spending hours on end baking in the sun with no protection risks serious skin damage. But the evidence on the dangers of commercial sunscreens continues to mount. In fact, rather than preventing cancer, they promote it!

So, what are our options to avoid overexposure and skin damage for the times when we’ll be in the sun for prolonged periods of time?

The First Line of Defense: Providing the Right Building Blocks For Our Body’s Natural Defenses

The most critical factor in lowering our risk of overexposure is a healthy diet. Skin built from a diet high in vegetable oils and processed foods and low in omega 3 and healthy saturated fats is fragile, inefficient at producing vitamin D, and susceptible to burning and photosensitive reactions. Conversely, a diet high in antioxidants, omega 3s, and saturated fats, like those from pasture raised animals or coconut oil, is equipped with the proper raw materials and tools to manufacture vitamin D and to produce it’s own natural defense mechanisms against overexposure.

In fact, Dr. Elizabeth Pluorde, a Clinical Laboratory Scientist with extensive experience in cancer and DNA research, says:

“Our skin is so well-designed that when the solar rays hit it the antioxidants that are in the body actually move up and form a protective shield and act just like sunscreen.“  (source)

God’s design never fails to amaze me! The more I learn about the human body and creation in general, the more in awe I am.

Heather at Mommypotamus has gone into much more detail about how antioxidants are better than sunscreen and exactly how they work in our bodies, and the Natural Society offers more diet tips. I also recently wrote about how the sun and a nutrient-dense diet work together for our benefit.

Covering Up: Protective Clothing

Covering up with appropriate clothing: lightweight sleeves, rashguards, hats, etc., is a simple way to gain some protection. Of course, you shouldn’t cover up the entire time you’re outdoors. But when you’ll be in the sun for pronged periods, start with more skin exposed to allow vitamin D synthesis, and cover up after a reasonable amount of time. Each person’s tolerance level is going to depend on multiple factors, including the time of day, genetic level of melanin, previous exposure, and of course diet. Some people will need to cover up after twenty minutes, others will be fine for an hour or two. I have one child who can stay out all day and never burn, and one who I’ve always had to be more cautious with (although his sun tolerance has greatly increased with an improved diet!)

Non-Toxic Protection: Natural and Homemade Sunscreens

Finally, there are natural and homemade alternatives to commercial, chemical sunscreen. Did you know that coconut oil, avocado oil, wheat germ oil, raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, and shea butter, among others, all have natural SPF properties?

Here are some great resources:

For moderate protection, our family has used coconut oil with good results. We also keep one of the better rated commercial sunscreens at EWG, like Badger, on hand for occasional use. I’m looking forward to trying out some of these other options in the near future! When I do, I’ll be sure to report back.

God created the sun for our good, and provided everything we need to protect us from overexposure! We can follow His design by making sure our families eat a healthy diet to optimize the sun’s healthful benefits, getting enough exposure to realize those benefits, and being wise in using natural ingredients for additional protection when necessary.

Investigating Further

Believe it or not, I’ve barely skimmed the surface of the amazing processes triggered in our bodies by sun exposure and facilitated by antioxidants and healthy fats, not to mention the dangers of artificial methods of protection and healthy natural alternatives. Here are some excellent links if you’re interested in further exploration of the subject:

Don’t miss my first post about this topic:

Don’t Be Sun-Phobic: How the Sun and a Nutrient Dense Diet Work Together For Our Benefit

How do you handle sun exposure, especially during the summer months? Have you tried any natural sun protection methods? 

Linked with Monday ManiaReal Food WednesdaySimple Lives Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.

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  1. I just KNEW there had to be some homemade versions of sunscreens! Thanks for this nicely written and timely post. God bless!

  2. I've been needing the motivation to try these! Thanks!My big hesitation is that when I wore coconut oil as a facial moisturizer, my face started getting really brown. 🙂 I was tanning to much, which didn't help my pregnancy spots (I forget the actual name and don't feel like looking it up… how lazy am I, not wanting to google. Anyway… suggestions as I begin?

  3. Mindy, I haven't had as much problem with my face. For me it's my shoulders/back. THey get way darker than everything else! I think my suggestion would be judicious use of a hat, lol, plus maybe making one of the homemade sunscreens I linked to and using it on your face instead of the coconut oil alone. I use plain coconut oil as a daily moisturizer, but if I'm going to be in the direct sun for a couple of hours, I put a low-SPF natural sunscreen on my face.

  4. The pendulum is swinging. It never made sense that the sun was bad for us. It is necessary. Moderation and conditioning are they key. Some studies suggest the sunscreen lotions pose their own threat to health. Get more information. Check out this article from our site.http://www.fosteringwellness.net/doctor/chiropractor/10135S/rutland-chiropractor/soaking-up-sun.htm

  5. For me, it is ok to use sunscreen but not at all times. This is because we still need vitamin d to keep our immune system stronger. In fact, this is one of the reasons why we don't easily get sick. I personally believe in it because ever since I take vit d supplement and exposing myself directly to the sun, I felt that my immune system became stronger.

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