Our fear of skin cancer has a lot of people avoiding the sun and choosing toxic sunscreen that can also compromise your health. But you need the sun and it is possible to get safe sun exposure and have non-toxic sunscreen.


     Hey there, it’s Elaine Gardner, the founder of DesignYourHealthyLife.com. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of winter. This past winter I had the pleasure and the immense privilege of staying at a relative’s home in Florida for a week during the week of my birthday in January. It was a fantastic escape and I’m really grateful for that opportunity.

     My husband and I didn’t really make plans before we traveled in regards to what we would do while we were there because the weather had been really unpredictable up until that point. But we were extremely fortunate and so happy that the weather turned out to be absolutely gorgeous that entire week, with the exception of a little bit of rain the one day. So we ended up visiting some of our favorite beaches in the area.

     We’ve been to Sanibel Island more times than I can count. It’s just about a half hour from where we were staying so it was a really easy drive, and so wonderful for us to be able to walk the beaches there. It’s been a few years since we’ve been there so we were just beyond pleased to be able to do that. There were quite a few people at the beach because the weather was so fantastic, and there was this incredibly overwhelming, unnatural smell of sunscreen in the air.

     I was just blown away thinking about how much people overuse sunscreen. I can’t even begin to explain how prevalent the smell was and how shocked I was, especially for January. I understand that the sun is strong and you definitely want to avoid burning, and we’re going to talk about that in a minute, but the smell was just so incredibly strong and the sun isn’t that strong in January in Florida. We were walking on the beach all day and really didn’t need sunscreen. Coming from New England with our bright white skin, we didn’t burn on the beach all day.

     So I think people overdo it just a little bit. And one of those reasons is fear of the sun. We’ve been taught to believe that the sun is going to create cancer and kill us, but sunscreen didn’t even exist for a really, really long time. People found ways to get around this and they were out in the sun a whole lot more years and years ago than we ever are now. So I think our thoughts are very misguided in this area.

     The sun actually does amazing things for me. It changes my mood dramatically, which is why I’m not such a fan of winter. I really have a hard time with my mood and energy in the winter, less now than I used to, but I am still a whole lot happier when the sun is out and it’s beautiful, the doors can be open and I can be outside. And when you’re exposed to the sun, the interaction between the sun and your skin actually creates Vitamin D.

     You don’t get the same Vitamin D creation, obviously, if you’re not in the sun. But also if you’re covered with sunscreen, it compromises your body’s ability to create Vitamin D. It completely shuts down that process. And Vitamin D deficiency has become prevalent and is something you’ve probably heard a lot about. Vitamin D affects every function of our body and it’s really, really critical for our health. And while supplementing is helpful and important, it cannot replace the Vitamin D production that you get from the sun. It should be in addition to, which is what supplementation is – in addition to – not in replacement of. That’s why it’s called a “supplement”, not a “replacement”.

     So I really want to encourage you to shift your mindset about that and get some sun exposure without sunscreen; just do it in a safe way. Yes you can get a sunburn, yes you can get skin cancer, but it’s more complicated than that. When your body has the proper levels of nutrients that it needs to run and function optimally, you’re not going to have the same risk of skin cancer from sun exposure that you would if your body is already unhealthy. So you want to keep your body nice and strong and healthy, and that will protect you.

     Where we’ve lost our common sense is, avoiding the risks of skin cancer by putting toxins on our skin that compromise our body’s ability and also contribute to cancers. Anything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body. And if it’s a toxin, your body has to work really hard to process it. We’re surrounded by toxins in this day and age and our bodies have not evolved to be able to handle and process the level of toxins that we’re exposed to. So from a common sense perspective, you just want to avoid as many toxins as possible.

     You want good sun exposure, you want to be safe about it, you don’t want to get burned, but you don’t want to put chemicals on your skin. Thankfully, we do have non-toxic options available. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit institution that publishes a guide to healthy sunscreens every year. It’s something I always rely on, and their 2018 guide is out now. I’ve repeated this same message quite a few years in a row now, but our family favorite is on the list again. We really like Caribbean Solutions and get their Sol Guard SPF 30. It’s water resistant, eco-friendly and reef safe.

     We’ve tried many, many different sunscreens before our family settled on Caribbean Sol. Some were too greasy, some were too hard to apply, some didn’t work at all and we got some sunburns, but we all love this one. It’s effective, it’s easy to apply, and my oldest son spends a lot of time in really sensitive marine areas, so it’s really critical for him to have eco-friendly and reef-friendly sunscreen so that he’s not damaging those fragile environments that he’s working in. I just ordered a bottle because we are heading off for vacation in a couple weeks. I also have these TSA approved travel bottles. There’s one for my husband and one for myself. Most of this six ounce bottle will fit into these three ounce tubes so that we’ll be able to get through TSA without any trouble.

     Vacations are often when we need sunscreen the most. We’re typically going to be outside and in a warmer environment than usual, and that’s when we need our protection the most so we don’t get burned. And we’ll definitely be getting some sun exposure, probably earlier in the morning or late in the day, without sunscreen on so that we can still make our Vitamin D and don’t miss out on that important benefit. But we’re still going to have our non-toxic sunscreen so we don’t get burned and we’re not putting toxins on our skin, so it’s a win-win all around.