Skin can take care of itself.
Say goodbye to sunscreen, forever.
I've had a lot of positive feedback from my post about the app Dminder, and thought I would follow up with even more of the research about how the skin adapts to solar exposure. Since sunscreen blocks most Vitamin D production, it isn’t compatible with the sunbathing lifestyle. But how can we make sure not to get sunburned?
Should you ditch sunscreen as part of your skin-fast?
This sunscreen issue is part of an even longer conversation about the benefits of ditching skin products you don’t need. Substack writer Jessica DeFino was the first to bring the practice of skin-fasting to my attention, and I love the term! Here’s one of her exellent posts on the topic:
In line with my recent topic of solar exposure, I wanted to share some tips for skin fasting that relate to sunscreen. I’ve never liked the chemical smell or the greasy feel, so it is great to learn how to protect my skin without it. Because, yes, you can can definitely avoid sunscreen during your skin-fast as long as you are careful. Most of the bad effects of sunlight happen to people who suddenly experience a lot of sunlight after an extended period of living an indoor lifestyle. For example, Northerners who take Tropical vacations at Christmas.
So, if you are deciding now to make the switch to an outdoors-based lifestyle full of sunbathing, these tips can save you a world of hurt. These tips work for all skin-types.
You Don’t Need Sunscreen If You:
Avoid photosensitizers. This includes many pharmaceutical drugs, skincare products, and certain essential oils. Question pretty much anything you put in or on your body on a regular basis. Here’s a research list to get you started: FDA List of Medications that Increase Sensitivity to Light (1990)
Build a solar callus over time. Spend early mornings outdoors to get up to SPF 15 naturally by absorbing IR-light in the cool weather. Eat plenty of orange foods to stock up internally on protective astaxanthins and carotenes. Limit your PUFA intake to make sure your cells are filled with oxidation-resistant fats instead. Nurture lipophilic skin flora by minimizing soap use and extended time in hot water. Dr. Jack Kruse has a lot of wisdom to offer about this: How Do You Build a Solar Callus Nature’s Way? (2017).
Respect time under overhead sun. Either use charts to estimate your safe time under the current UV index, or use an app like Dminder. Remember that if your shadow is shorter than you are, sunburn is a possibility.
More about Dminder: One more app suggestion (March, 2022).
Wear protective clothing. Avoid endocrine-disrupting factors in flame redardant, anti-oder, anti-wrinkle, UV-blocking, commercially dyed and other newfangled fabrics. Opt for natural linen and 100% cotton and hemp fabrics treated with low-impact dyes instead. For more on the reasons to opt for natural as opposed to synthetic fabrics, read: Endocrine Disruptors: A Review of some sources, effects, and mechanisms of actions on behavior and neuroendocrine systems (2012).
Seek shade. Listen to your body. When you start to feel burn-ey, get in the shade ASAP! Many of the negative skin outcomes attributed to UV are actually from heat, so if you feel hot, cool off.
Post-condition. Spend evenings outdoors to soak up collagen-boosting infrared and speed skin repair. For more about solar post-conditioning, read: Infared and Skin: Friend or foe? (2016)
Have a healthy gut biome full of pre- and pro- biotics. Skin health and gut health are connected. Consumption of many common probiotic strains are known to mediate UV-dependent pathways in the skin. Learn more about skin health and probiotics here: Challenging Cosmetic Innovation: The skin microbiota and probiotics protect the skin from UV-induced damage (2021).
Generate healing nights for yourself. The body needs complete darkness to regenerate itself after daytime wear-and-tear. For more info about the need for nighttime darkness, check out my past post about evening light and melatonin. The body also can't heal if digesting, so bump dinner back a bit and stay a little hungry through the night. This is even true for night shift and night owls. For more about the benefits of daytime eating, read: Daytime eating prevents internal circadian misalignment and glucose intolerance in night work (2021).
So there you have it: eight lifestyle choices that boost your skin's natural ability to thrive under the sun. To recap:
Look for chemical photosensitizers in your life and get rid of them
Nurture a solar callous (ie, eat shrimp and salmon, watch the sunrise, build yourself up over time, avoid polyunsaturated fats in your diet)
Know and respect your limits with overhead sunlight
Wear natural-fiber hats and breezy linen and muslin clothing
Cool off in the shade
Watch the sunset
Take care of your gut biome