Rethinking sunscreen

June 17, 2009

Those of us in the northern latitudes welcome the summer after a brutal winter season.  The thought of spending more time outdoors in the sun is a very pleasant thought, indeed.

Over the past 30 years, we’ve been taught that one of our outdoor rituals should include covering ourselves with sunscreen.  But some medical and environmental experts are rethinking the use of chemical sunscreens.

Consider the recent increase in childhood rickets.  Or the epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.  Or the rise in skin cancer and other diseases.  Or environmental damage like coral bleaching.   Or the health consequences of using products with endocrine disruptors.

According to the research in the articles cited above, we may need to take Vitamin D supplements, allow ourselves to enjoy the sun without sunscreen for 15 minutes a day, avoid the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. time when the sun’s rays are the strongest, and use sunhats and clothes with a good UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating instead of relying so heavily on sunscreens.

To avoid harming ourselves or the environment, we may need to rethink how we work and play in the sun.



  1. Having had several bouts of skin cancer (I am fair and freckled), I remain careful. But I do believe we need a little sun on our skin for mood and strong bones. Common sense helps. I still ride my bike without sunscreen on my arms (which have tougher skin) but never go without it on my face.

  2. Cindy, I believe that common sense is probably the key ingredient here. It’s good not to overdue the sun exposure, especially for people with fair skin.

    Here’s a link http://www.foe.org/healthy-people/nanotechnology-and-sunscreens about sunscreen products that may be safer than others.

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