Back in 2017, I did two blog posts asking if Paleo or standard medical wisdom was correct on sunscreen.
After I summarize those two posts, I’ll share some things I learned and then tell you how I am going to proceed with suncare for myself. Of course, my view can always change as new information surfaces, but I think this will likely be the last word on this topic for this blog.
I outline the two positions in Part 1.
Paleo – Is mostly anti-sunscreen. They are concerned more with getting Vitamin D from the sun. Using gradual exposure to minimize burning and avoiding the chemicals found in sunscreens.
Mainstream – Sunscreen will protect you from skin cancer and aging. Lather up!
In Part 2, I did some research and discovered that traditional cultures have used nature-made sunscreen for ages and still do. So the narrative that Grok didn’t use sunscreen is false.
Seattle on a sunny day
The Two Sides to Skincare
Skincare is not just what we put on or don’t put on our skin under varying degrees of sun exposure. It is also what we eat. Mainstream nutritional advice is still peddling “heart healthy” vegetable fats, but that appears to be a bad thing for the skin.
The article Melanoma: The Scary Link Between Diet and Skin Cancer mentions how diets higher in Omega-6s make our skin more susceptible to UV damage. The average American (and many of you low-carbers too) are consuming a lot of Omega-6s. A diet full of industrialized easily-oxidized fats plus sunshine might not be the best idea.
We also know that eating tomatoes gives protection against the sun rays.
So if you are a mainstream health provider, it is easier to advise the public to put on sunscreen than to get their Omega-6 ratios down. One is an easy story that all can understand. The other takes time, effort, and discipline.
If you are reading this site, then you can handle eating a diet low in Omega 6s and eating tomatoes in the summer. The average person just wants their french fries.
The Middle Ground
At the end of Part 2, I decided to take a middle ground approach:
- Keep sun exposure brief, especially early in the summer.
- Wear a visor to protect the face,
- On sunny days where I will be out, put sunscreen on my cheeks, nose, forehead, ears, and neck.
But this still didn’t fully answer the question for me. I don’t want skin cancer and I don’t want the sun to age my skin prematurely. I think my diet and hedging strategy is enough to protect me from skin cancer. Now, I want to cover what I learned about the sun and skin aging.
Stay Pretty in the Sun
I recently listed to Brett Kotlus, M.D.: How to look younger while we live longer (EP.13) on the Peter Attia Drive podcast. This show connected a few dots for me.
As we age, we lose fat, collagen, and thickness of the skin in our face. The sun causes solar elastosis. UV exposure increases the breakdown of fat, which causes the face to look older.
- UVA – think Aging
- UVB – think Burning
Skin cancer can come from exposure to both, but UVB is more common. Most sunscreens on the market are only addressing UVB. They label themselves with an SPF score. Dr. Kotlus likes SPF 30.
In order to also protect against UVA rays, the sunscreen needs to be labeled Broad Spectrum. Organic Broad Spectrum uses zinc as a reflective agent against the sun rays. Inorganic absorbs the UVA rays and disperses it as heat.
At this point, I went to Amazon and looked up every brand of sunscreen that I recall buying in the last decade and guess what? Not a single one of them is Broad Spectrum. Lesson learned. I’m not spending another dollar on a sunscreen that only protects against UVB.
Dr. Kotlus even endorsed my Middle Ground approach of wearing a hat and just covering the face/ears/neck. But he added one should also cover the back of your hands and the top of the chest by the neck. Those points will be susceptible to accelerated aging as well. The reason is our skin ages faster in areas where the skin is not stretched. Our back is an example of an area of skin that is stretched and as a result, won’t develop wrinkles with aging.
I think I finally have the answers I need to make the best decision for me.
- Eat a diet very low in Omega 6s.
- Eat tomatoes or tomato paste.
- Wear a visor or hat.
- Use gradual exposure to the sun.
- Don’t stay out too long in the sun.
- Get Vitamin D exposure from arms and legs.
- Wear a Broad Spectrum sunscreen on my face, neck, and hands.