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Antioxidants Vs. Sunscreen: Which Works Better?

on May 3 | in Natural Remedies | by | with 78 Comments

**Deep Breath**

Pressing the “Publish” button has been pretty difficult this week, but we are finally to the part of the series where I think everyone can find some common ground. While it’s true that sunlight improves mood and helps us sleep better, prevents cancer, and cannot be replaced by supplements something else is also true: reckless sun exposure is dangerous.

I’m not just talking about sunburns, though. In my opinion, “recklessness” is also going out in the sun without a protective diet rich in healthy fats and antioxidants. Now, I’m using the term “reckless” loosely here because back when I ate the Standard American Diet (SAD) I simply didn’t know any better. But regardless of intention, I found that when my skin was infused with nutrients from the Standard American Diet (SAD) it simply didn’t perform well in a sunlit environment. When I switched to a traditional diet that changed, and I think there’s a correlation.

Research Says Antioxidants Work Better Than Sunscreen

As you know, antioxidants are a hot topic right now because they eliminate free radicals and reduce cancer risk. Among the substances studied are omega-3 fatty acids, which used to be common in our diet but have been displaced by omega-6 fatty acids thanks to the prevalence of vegetable-based oils such as corn and soy. As our omega-3 ratios have dropped, skin cancer rates have risen. Researchers think there’s a connection.

An Australian study done over 10 years ago showed a 40 percent reduction in melanoma for those who were eating fish, which is rich in omega-3s. And this was without any attention to lowering omega-6 fats.

Slathering On Sunscreen Does Not Prevent Cancer

In this study, the omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA not only stopped cancer cells from continuing their production cycle, it also resulted in apoptosis, which means the cancer cells died. Another study reached the same conclusion, saying “Omega 3 (ω3) fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can effectively reduce the risk of skin cancer.”

So, what is going on here? When Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) who specialized in cancer and DNA research, was recently asked how people who spend a lot of time in the sun should protect themselves, she said:

“Antioxidants are the exact answer. [They] act exactly the same as the sunscreens, and in my book I have a whole chapter of all the antioxidants that have been proven to be protective . . . to act just like a sunscreen. And there’s many of them, there really are. 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.“(emphasis mine) ¹

Or better than sunscreen, actually. In her book, Sunscreen: Biohazard, Dr. Plourde explains:

“ROS are unstable molecules containing oxygen that function as free radicals, which are capable of causing cellular damage. The chemicals utilized for sunscreen cannot dissipate the energy as efficiently as the body’s own built-in defense, melanin, which is the brown pigment that is made by the melanocytes in the basal layer of the skin. The use of sunscreen stops the body’s natural process of creating more melanin to naturally protect the cells.

The use of UVB only sunscreens, allowing people to stay in the sun longer, does not stop the UVA rays from penetrating into the lower layers of the skin where they create a greater increase in the amount of free radicals and ROS than would have occurred without the use of sunscreen. Experiments show the sunscreens protect for the first 20 minutes, but after 60 minutes the three sunscreen chemicals octocrylene (OCO), the cinnamate OMC, and benzophenone BP3 actually generate more ROS in the skin compared to using no sunscreen.” (emphasis mine)

Now, if you’re thinking that antioxidants don’t really work because people who wear sunscreen stay pale and people who eat a nutrient dense diet and go out in the sun tan, consider this:

What is most amazing about melanin and which most people don’t know, is that its photochemical properties make it an excellent photoprotectant. This means it absorbs harmful UV-radiation and transforms the energy into harmless heat through a chemical reaction known as “ultrafast internal conversion”. This property enables melanin to disperse more than 99.9% of the absorbed UV radiation as heat, protecting us from UV damage. (source)

Melanin as a photoprotectant . . . kind of cool, huh?

Note: Suncreens made with zinc oxide and healthy oils/antioxidants work differently than chemical sunscreens. They are not perfect and the new generation of nano-particle sized zinc may actually increase cancer risk, but there are a few you can buy. I’ll be talking more about that later along with ideas for making your own. Titanium dioxide is not a good choice according to Dr. Pluorde because it rapidly photodegrades)

Now, I’d Love To Share . . .

My personal list of “must have” antioxidant-rich foods, but there are just way too many. A traditional, nutrient-dense diet is rich in them by default, but there are a few worth mentioning because they have been found effective for UV protection:

  • Virgin Coconut Oil – Dr. Pluorde did not specifically mention this one in her book and I am not aware of any studies to corroborate my experience, but I have used coconut oil topically with success on myself and my littles for the past few years (no burns). According to Pluorde, antioxidants work when taken internally and when applied directly to the skin, and research with several edible oils and tea solutions placed on the skin confirm this. For an deeper look at why virgin coconut oil is considered a sunscreen by many check out this post. (Please keep in mind that this is virgin coconut oil only because it contains the highest level of antioxidants, and that oils extracted with harsh solvents are not recommended. Here’s where to buy a good quality coconut oil.).
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO) – This one is not on Dr. Pluorde’s list either, but it is so much more than an omega-3 “fish oil.” It contains antioxidants, enzymes, and tons of co-factors and micronutrients we’re still in the process of discovering. In a study where it was placed on the skin it blocked 90% of the suns rays. (source) The only source of traditionally fermented cod liver oil is Green Pasture.
  • Wild salmon/Rainbow Trout and Veggies Such As Red Peppers/Carrots – They  contain astaxanthin, a carotenoid which provides “500 times more antioxidant protection than Vitamin E, and is ten time stronger than Vitamin A.”(source)
  • Fish Oil, Dried Rosemary, Avocado, Eggs, Milk & Yogurt, Spinach – They contain glutathione’s, “one of the body’s most important antioxidants that helps protect against free radical damage in the skin, as well as in the brain. Since glutathione cannot be taken orally, as it is destroyed by the stomach, the body needs to manufacture it from the amino acids: glycine, cysteine, and glutamate. However, selenium, sulfur and Vitamin D are also necessary parts and must be available for the process to take place. This is another benefit of making sure you have enough vitamin D [and sulfur, which many people are deficient in] from either sun exposure or from taking it as a supplement.”

Note: Personally, I avoid overly processed fish oils.Fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures and unrefined Salmon Oil from Vital Choice are the only products I’ll use.

  • Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables, Onions, Garlic & Cocoa – They contain quercetin, which has been found to protect against UV radiation in mice.
  • Blackberries, Wild Raw Blueberries, Raw Peanuts and Red Grapes – They contain resveratrol. “Researchers exposed epidermal skin cells to UVA wavelengths and found that resveratrol protects from ROS generation, increases cell viability, and increases the activity of antioxidant enzymes.”
  • Spices – Ounce for ounce, these are some of the most antioxidant rich sources on the planet.

Note: I buy organic and local whenever possible, because the chemicals used on conventional produce reduce the benefits of antioxidants. For times when that’s not possible The Environmental Working Group has a list of conventional produce that is most heavily sprayed (the dirty dozen) and also ones that usually have the fewest chemicals (the clean fifteen).

So that’s it? Just eat lots of antioxidants?

Birthday pic in the early morning light

Well, no, I think there’s more to it. Omega-3’s are an anti-oxidant, but they’re also a healthy fat. In traditional cultures, the ratio of omegs-6 fats to omega-3 fats was somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1.

However, now that most Americans consume vegetable oils instead of traditional fats such as tallow, lard, coconut oil and butter the ration is between 17:1 and 30:1(source). That’s important, because UVB rays interact the fats in our skin and traditional fats resist oxidation better than vegetable oils. In the studies about fish/fish oil listed above, I believe rebalancing the fat ratios in the body were a vital key to reducing cancer.

Good dietary cholesterol and sulfur are also important pieces to the puzzle says Dr. Seneff, who shared why they’re needed to produce Vitamin D in this post. Among other things, Vitamin D is needed for the body to synthesize the potent antioxidant glutathione.

A Real Food diet naturally contains cholesterol rich foods such as eggs, butter and lard, but sulfur is a little more tricky. Dr. Mercola writes that “Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed/pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered “complete” as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein.” Other sources include pastured eggs, garlic, onions, brussel sprouts, asparagus, legumes and wheat germ.

BUT -

Certain crops grown widely in the 1800’s rapidly depleted sulfur from the soil, so even making an effort to consume these foods may not be enough. “In addition to making sure you’re getting high amounts of [traditionally] sulfur-rich foods in your diet, Dr. Seneff recommends soaking your body in magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) baths to compensate and counteract sulfur deficiency. She uses about ¼ cup in a tub of water, twice a week. It’s particularly useful if you have joint problems or arthritis.” Another option is to add powdered MSM (biological sulfur) to your water.

So . . . Antioxidants + Fat?

Kind of. I wouldn’t break it down that way, exactly. A nutrient-dense diet is what I’m shooting for with my family because I know that in all aspects – not just sunlight exposure – it fuels beneficial processes within us everyday. For our family, I just don’t trust a SAD diet of processed foods to do that.

I’ve done my best to learn how to maximize the benefits of the sun without causing harm. For instance, I know that Vitamin D is synthesized on the surface of the skin and must stay there for 48 hours in order for us to absorb more than a minimal amount. So we rinse with water after a day in the sun, but only use soap on our armpits and groin area.² TMI, but I had to say it. I also know that sunburns are harmful, which is why I avoid them completely (and of course I make sure that my children do also!).

Here’s what I believe to be some common sense advice from Dr. Mercola:

“You must exercise caution. At the beginning of the season go out in the sun gradually, perhaps as little as 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.

Remember never to get burned, that is the key . . .  You can creatively use your clothing to block the sun’s rays during your build-up time.

The bottom line is, please avoid getting sucked into the hype that sunlight is dangerous. It is only dangerous if you are clueless about fat nutrition, which most medical doctors are. If you choose to ignore your omega 6:3 ratio and stay out of the sun, you could limit your risk of skin cancer, but is that worth the risk of getting MS, breast or prostate cancer?”

Slathering On Sunscreen Does Not Prevent Cancer

 

Wearing suncreen at the beach :)

I think that last statement could be worded in a kinder way, but the bottom line is that a lack of sunlight is correlated with many cancers.

When the Potamus family hits the beach we ease into things, using protective clothing because we know our bodies aren’t used to getting so much sunshine in one day. And sometimes when we can’t get out of the sun for long periods we even (GASP!) wear sunscreen. In my next post I’ll tell you how to make your own with antioxidants and non-nanopartical zinc oxide.

For me, the bottom line is that everything – even water – can be dangerous at high enough doses. Sunlight is no different, but rather than avoid it completely we need to use common sense and make the best choice possible based on our unique situations/families/climates.

What Do You Think?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and this site does not provide medical advice. Please see my full disclaimer here.

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78 Responses to Antioxidants Vs. Sunscreen: Which Works Better?

  1. I always knew that antioxidants from the food u eat would help protect against skin cancer. That and good saturated fats in the skin cells. People that get skin cancer I assume have poor immune systems from their SAD diet and are likely not taking in enough antioxidants and good fats!

  2. Will share! I get so tired of this argument!

  3. Melissa Haswell via FB says:

    I am fair-skinned and have experienced less burning (even when I worked outside for 3 summers!) while eating a nutrient dense diet. It really works!

    • Sandy (NZ) says:

      Yay! There’s hope for me too then! Thanks for posting this! From a fellow “burn like crazy” fair-skinned person… :)

  4. While I would agree that antioxidants work better and diet in general will go a LONG way toward preventing the majority of sunburns, sometimes you really do need sunscreen. I live in FLorida and my kids do outdoor sports and they need something on their face and neck when playing a soccer game for an hour or two at the sunniest part of the day.

    That being said, that is the ONLY time we use a natural, safe ingredient sunscreen. Just regular sun exposure doesn’t ever give us any burning issues given our diet that is heavy on the protective traditional fats.

    • Heather says:

      I totally agree, Sarah! That last photo is of my Katie with suncreen on in the Florida sun. However, since I became aware that the new generation of nano-particles causes DNA deletions in mice I haven’t been able to find a non-nano version that doesn’t contains yuck ingredients like soybean oil (as the primary oil). I’m sharing my recipe for a homemade version later this week, but any product recommendations you have would be much appreciated!

  5. Brittany says:

    I have loved this series. Hubby and I are about to spend a MUCH NEEDED vacation in the Dominican Republic next week. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly increasing my layout time in the sun each day and loading up on fish oil in hopes to not burn my uber fair skin on vacation. I bought a good, safe sunscreen for while we are there and plan on slathering on the coconut oil too. I’ve got hats and light, long dresses. My sister was trying to convince me I needed to visit a tanning bed for a month before going so I don’t end up with a terrible burn. That wasn’t at all what I wanted to do! Thankfully, I got pregnant and could use that as an excuse to finally get her off my back about going to a tanning bed!! I really think I’m well prepared for a great time in the sun!

  6. Alexis D says:

    Very good post – very informative :)

    In regards to sunscreen, I found Katie’s list helpful – http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/07/20/natural-sunscreen-review-do-mineral-based-sunblocks-work-2/

  7. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write these posts. I fed my family the SAD for years, and really thought I was being smart. In October of 2009, my 6 year old was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Yes, OVARIAN CANCER at the age of 6. Her type of tumor had a 92% mortality rate. Fortunately, she survived and is a happy and healthy 9 year old. Now that we are finished with all of the chemo, radiation, and toxic medicines to kill her cancer, I have made it my mission to give her and my other two daughters the best chance at health. I started in January with an overhaul of our diet, skin care, and cleaning supplies in our house. Now the pool is open here in Alabama, and I couldn’t help but think that I am not doing the right thing by spraying my girls down with chemicals in the form of sunscreen when I am so careful to not let them consume processed foods. So, from a mom who has dealt with her child having cancer, thank you for being brave enough to put this info out there. You have helped me make more informed decisions. It is not easy to go against the grain, but know that I appreciate it!

    • Heather says:

      Thank you so much for this comment Amanda. I’ve upset some people this week and that’s hard, but this is the information I wish had been available when my dad died from colon cancer at 45. Healthy sunlight exposure is inversely correlated with colon cancer mortality rates, but back then we were slathering on harsh chemical sunscreens and eating junk.

      On a different note, I didn’t mention this in the post but I am very concerned about public swimming pools right now. Regular sunblock contains chemicals that are powerful endocrine disruptors, and when our kids swim in water that has them diluted they may potentially have disastrous effects. I hope this doesn’t sound alarmist, it’s just something that’s been on my mind a lot lately http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/opinion/kristof-how-chemicals-change-us.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share

      Also, knowing what to do when kids finish swimming is tricky for me. There are very good reasons to want to wash the chlorine off (http://www.mommypotamus.com/water-week-day-3-chlorine/) but if we do that we wash of the vitamin D that needs to sit on our skin for 48 hours to absorb. So many decisions!

      • Sandy (NZ) says:

        Just reflecting on this, my thoughts would be what I considered the lesser of the two evils, and also how much other sun exposure my children could get in the next few days. If so, I think I’d just decide it’s better to sacrifice the swimming pool day’s Vit D for the greater good, and look at another sunny session later in the week minus public pool water.

        • KarinSDCA says:

          I’m with you. I mostly encourage washing off the pool chemicals with soap. We live in a climate where we can get vitamin D most of the year and my daughter and I shower every other day, mostly. However, this article is the first I’ve read about leaving the sun exposed sun unwashed for 48 hours… I’ll have to mull this over for a bit…

          Thank you for the great article!

  8. Just to put this out there, my dad died of colon cancer when I was a little girl. He perfectly fits the profile of someone eating a Standard American Diet and avoiding sun exposure (which as I wrote about previously this week reduces the incidence of colon cancer). Though I know it’s true, reading an article blaming him for his cancer would infuriate me. I believe that people do the best they can with the information they have. My purpose in writing this post is simply to share the protective benefits of a good diet while asking real questions about whether or not sunscreens work as well as we’re told.

  9. Just to put this out there, my dad died of colon cancer when I was a little girl. He perfectly fits the profile of someone eating a Standard American Diet and avoiding sun exposure (which as I wrote about previously this week reduces the incidence of colon cancer). Though I know it’s true, reading an article blaming him for his cancer would infuriate me. I believe that people do the best they can with the information they have. My purpose in writing this post is simply to share the protective benefits of a good diet while asking real questions about whether or not sunscreens work as well as we’re told.

  10. Loretta King McElwee via FB says:

    Really looking forward to your sunscreen recipe! Thanks for a great article!! <3

  11. There’s a great book called ‘The Coconut Oil Miracle’ that does in fact list one of the benefits of coconut oil as a sunscreen, and states that primitive/island cultures use it for that purpose! Great blog post. Thanks. :)

  12. Not sure why comments keep disappearing and reappearing here. Sorry, ya’ll!

  13. Melissa says:

    If you are having a hard time finding a “non-nano version that doesn’t contains yuck ingredients like soybean oil” try Badger Balm sunscreen. It has non-nano uncoated zinc oxide and the oils are extra virgin olive oil and jojoba oil. Here’s the link with ingredients listed:
    http://www.badgerbalm.com/p-462-spf-30-unscented-sunscreen.aspx

    I use this one on my whole family with great success, and it is widely available (Whole Foods, Natural Grocer, Central Market, etc.) My skin burns after even 15 minutes in the sun, so sunscreen is imperative for me. Especially since my mother died of metastatic malignant melanoma, just last month. This issue hits very close to home for me. Thanks for this post. I will definitely look into changing my diet as extra protection. It would be nice to be able to enjoy some gentle sun without having to slather up. :)

    • Heather says:

      Melissa, I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to cancer when I was a little girl. It is one of the factors that inspired the lifestyle changes I wrote about here. Prayers and love to you and your family.

  14. [...] attitudes about sunlight.  I strongly believe that sunlight positively affects our health when a good diet with plenty of healthy fats/ antioxidants are present, and my writing reflects a commitment to that lifestyle. Comments are welcome no [...]

  15. Anita says:

    We really like Badger unscented Sunscreen….I hardly use it, but, when needed, this is the brand we go to! Most of the time, we rely on our healthy diet and commonsense to keep us protected. :)

  16. Erin says:

    Thank you for this series! It’s coming at a good time for me as I just leaned yesterday that I have ridiculously low D levels and I need to find the best way to improve that. It appears that my transition to the GAPS program to address other issues will also be a big piece of the vit D issue as well. I feel rather silly being as excited as I am to find out my body is functioning so poorly (I’ve always felt pretty healthy) but instead of feeling hopeless I’m feeling very empowered. I’m so thankful for people like you who take the time to share so much knowledge that runs counter to the mainstream.

  17. deb says:

    Thank you so much for this. Just in time for me to already be working on my “starter tan” (given how hot March was here near Washington, DC, I actually started 2 months ago this year LOL) and already I’m hearing blowback from people who are convinced I’m doin’ it wrong. It’s never bad to have a reminder to use the good stuff already in my kitchen to keep my family healthy, more so in the summer.

    I also didn’t know about the Vitamin D needing to remain on the skin to be absorbed – always glad to learn something new. :-)

  18. Great info! Lots I didn’t know. Thanks, so much… even for the TMI. ;)

  19. Sandy (NZ) says:

    Such a useful post, thank you!

  20. Pamela Rogers says:

    Decided to read the blog ‘coz i don’t know the answer to that question. I’m glad I did! From now on, I will try to eat more antioxidant-rich foods.

  21. [...] I like my alarm to function so I try to get my sunscreen through food and go inside before I burn. However, there are times when that’s just not possible (Or [...]

  22. [...] that many of them use omega-6 rich oils such as soy and sunflower/safflower, which may disturb the healthy balance of fats most likely to resist [...]

  23. [...] all, but it is my opinion that responsible sunlight exposure positively affects our health when a good diet with plenty of healthy fats/ antioxidants are present. My writing reflects a commitment to that lifestyle. Comments are welcome no matter [...]

  24. [...] at all, but it is my opinion that responsible sunlight exposure positively affects our health when a good diet with plenty of healthy fats/ antioxidants are present. My writing reflects a commitment to that lifestyle. Comments are welcome no matter [...]

  25. Megan says:

    I am loving this post about the sun. My family has a history of skin cancer and I am now obsessed with avoiding that pain. I have been doing my best to change my diet in the last year. (Am currently avoiding gluten and dairy due to health issues) and eating more whole foods. Here’s my issue – I am extremely allergic to all things fish. Anaphylaxis allergic. What are some good ways for me to add omega 3 to my diet with avoiding all seafood/fish? I am using flaxseed oil currently.

    • Heather says:

      HI Megan! According to Dr. Campbell-McBride (author of Gut & Psychology Syndrome) fish oil has preformed EPA and DHA, while oils such as flax and some nuts only have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert to DHA and EPA under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, most of us these days have compromised digestion which may make us inefficient at making the conversion. Taking more is not a good idea in my opinion, as the body has to use other vitamins/minerals to process out the excess and there is still no guarantee that our body will make the conversion. If it were me I would contact a GAPS practitioner for more insights. I’m not saying it can’t be done, only that I don’t have an alternative recommendation that I **know** provides DHA and EPA. For more info you might consider contacting a Gut & Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) practitioner http://gaps.me/preview/?page_id=496

  26. kara says:

    Thanks for all the great info!
    Lycopene from tomatoes may protect your skin also. Here’s my post about it
    http://www.new19thcenturykitchen.com/salsa-the-new-sunscreen/

  27. Kyria says:

    So wait, can CLO be used as “sunscreen?”

  28. [...] to DNA and cancer researcher Dr. Elisabeth Pluorde , antioxidants work better than sunscreen to prevent cancer when taken internally or applied directly to the skin. They do this not by blocking UV rays which [...]

  29. [...] (Note: According to Kristen, this is one of those instances in which Vitamin D supplements cannot replace sunshine. Studies comparing fermented cod liver oi vs. sunlight show that magnesium absorption goes WAY up when you get real sunlight! More info  on how to get the benefits of sunlight without burning here.) [...]

  30. Alita says:

    Are these ratios listed right? From how I am reading it, it appears that our current ratios which I have highlighted with ** ** below, are extremely high in Omega-3, when I thought it was Omega-3 that we were low in?

    Quoted from the text above:
    Well, no, I think there’s more to it. Omega-3′s are an anti-oxidant, but they’re also a healthy fat. In traditional cultures, the ratio of omegs-3 fats to omega-6 fats was somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1.

    However, now that most Americans consume vegetable oils instead of traditional fats such as tallow, lard, coconut oil and butter the ration is between ** 17:1 and 30:1(source). **

    I appreciate your clarification, and your post(s)!

  31. [...] got home, nicely sunned (but not reddened after one application of coconut oil for sunscreen). My husband (gratitude to him) cut them all and kept them in a bowl, ready to [...]

  32. Lucy says:

    Great post! I recently bought fermented cod liver oil. I can barely eat the stuff myself without gagging. Any ideas on how to give it to a 3 year old?

  33. [...] of coconut oil (which by the way, has an excellent saturated fat ratio) and continue to plan to use it as sunscreen and a whole body moisturizer (because it spreads more quickly and I’m always in a hurry!), [...]

  34. Kirstyn says:

    Heather– a couple months back I experimented with using Tropical Traditions coconut oil lotion in lieu of sunscreen. It failed miserably and I ended up with a nasty sunburn that hurt for three days and peeled as usual for fair skinned me. I was disappointed in how that turned out because I thought I remembered (and just now reread to verify) that coconut oil was a good option as a natural variation of sunscreen. SO- what I’m wondering, is your opinion on the lotion versus the actual oil. I use EVCO from Tropical Traditions, typically, so between that and the lotion that the same company makes, do you think the lotion would just be so much less potent in oil that it wouldn’t serve the sunscreen purpose? Or did I completely misunderstand your point about EVCO?
    Thanks in advance if you have time to answer. :-)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Kirstyn! I’ve never tried the TT lotion so I can speak from experience, but given that most lotions contain a fair amount of water I’d think there’s a good chance they function differently from the oils. Of course, Dr. Mercola also says that even with a good diet and antioxidants on the skin it’s important to build up sun time gradually – that might be a factor worth considering too. (P.S. I am not a doctor and nothing I say should be considered medical advice :))

  35. [...] I consider sunlight exposure to be a good thing, most days we skip sunscreen altogether and use antioxidants instead However, on days we are going to be out much longer than usual here’s what we [...]

  36. BeckyS says:

    I like to Put coconut oil on my skin when I’m gardening, but it clogs my pores terribly when I put it on my face. Does anyone know of an oil or other natural substance that I could put on my face for a little extra protection when I’m outside?

  37. Maygen says:

    This is great!

  38. Wow your series about sunscreen are amazing! I am at the beginning of starting my family on a nutrient rich diet, for pre-pregnancy preparation and allergies. It is so telling how all the research I’ve done all leads back to eating a nutrient dense diet, going back to the nourishing traditions of our past. We are now starting to discover all the bad that comes from a SAD diet, will it change the mass production…probably not.

    I am so happy to read about alternatives for sun screen, I unfortunately will always have to wear something on certain parts of my skin because I have vitiligo (lost skin pigment) and have no protection on my spots. But I appreciate your non toxic options! Thanks for laying it out very easily for us!

  39. [...] the surface and actually form a protective shield that act like sunscreen.  Pretty cool, huh?   This is a fantastic article explaining with research how antioxidants work even better than sunscreen to prevent burns. [...]

  40. [...] extra work and ingredients. Information on the toxic effects of commercial sunscreen. Recommended diet changes for sun [...]

  41. [...] Eating more anti-oxidants may protect your skin better than sunscreen. They can reduce the free radicals formed by sun exposure in the deeper skin levels. This is a very interesting article on this topic by Mommypotomus. [...]

  42. Bonnie says:

    With regard to zinc nano particles etc – is Badger Badger lavender 30 spf ok or not please? We are ovo vegetarian but our son eats butter. We’re considering adding butter and fish to our diets but are struggling because of ethics. We were vegan for 18 months until now. Would this help our health Heather?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Bonnie, I’m not sure if Badger is non-nano, but if you contact them I’m sure they can tell you. Regarding adding butter and fish, I personally think it is very beneficial.

  43. [...] (to use after you’ve absorbed your vitamin D for the day.) There is also research supporting diet as a natural sunscreen. I certainly noticed this effect myself. Prior to developing rheumatoid arthritis, I ate a low-fat [...]

  44. […] of healthy fats from pasture raised animals, with a proper proportion of omega 6 to omega 3, and plenty of antioxidants, gives our bodies the building blocks to manufacture healthy skin cells that can withstand moderate […]

  45. Petra says:

    While my husband was in the Marine Corps he had to fly to Italy for almost two months. It was during the summer time and when he returned, he started using olive oil when he was out in the sun. I though, what in the world is he doing? But he told me that in Italy everyone used olive oil on their skin. He might’ve smelled like fried chicken, but it seemed to work for him. I haven’t tried it, but am planning to try coconut oil. Any info on olive oil as sunscreen?

  46. Sue says:

    Thank you! My family thinks I’m bonkers When I tell them things like this. I appreciate all you do.

  47. Astaxanthin has shown that it can protect the skin from sun damage and premature aging, in fact astaxanthin not only protects the skin from sun damage, new studies are showing that it can actually reverse signs of past damage :)

  48. […] Antioxidants vs. Sunscreen: Which Works Better? […]

  49. Trisha says:

    thanks for the great info, as usual! i was wondering if you would advise using more caution with kids than adults, taking into consideration the sensitivity of a baby or toddler’s skin. do you find you need to put the clothes or sunscreen on your kids sooner than yourself?
    my 18-month-old is fair-skinned and seems to turn pink moments after being in the sun. is it true that their skin is thinner, or is is just that i’ve had a lifetime of steady exposure and he has not? we both have a diet rich in the antioxidants and fats you mentioned above.
    i am trying to find a balance between giving him some healthy sun exposure and avoiding a burn–which he has not had yet. i get nervous because it seems like the bad burns show themselves after it’s too late.

  50. […] is shorter than those preserved with chemicals. Most days we skip sunscreen altogether and use antioxidants instead, but on days we are going to be out much longer than usual we do use […]

  51. Lan says:

    Please bear with me… but what exactly is a sunburn? It’s considered one when it hurts, right? If one spend time in the sun (not sunbathing but just doing outdoor activities) and their skin gets a bit darker it’s tan not burned, is that right?

    • Heather says:

      I believe it’s considered a sunburn when it turns pink/red :)

      • Lan says:

        (Bear with me again…) We are not fair-skinned, so it’s rare that we turn pink/red. There is typically no such immediate change in color, but after a day or two of outdoor activities we noticed our skin has become a bit darker. I’ve been wondering what exactly constitutes a sunburn for a while…

  52. Jason says:

    Regarding the no washing for 48 hours after sun exposure: Do you think it’s fair to say that if someone has been out in the sun long enough to get a substantial amount of vitamin D, but washes with soap after 12 hours, roughly 25% of the vitamin D may be absorbed? Also, since I’ve read that the skin of younger people do a better job at synthesizing vitamin D, couldn’t it be feasible that some people may not actually need 48 hours? I’ve heard conflicting information on the length of time it takes for vitamin D to be absorbed from the skin and have heard as little as 90 minutes.

    • Heather says:

      Yes, it’s feasible that not everyone needs 48 hours, but without individual testing I don’t think we could determine who that applies to.

  53. This is by far the very best article I have read about the sun, sunscreen, and fats. I am a professional esthetician and I see it all the time,,, bad diet makes bad skin. I can almost always tell someones diet by examining their skin I “preach ” what you say, and sometimes people listen. I would like to add that millions of gallons of toxic sunscreen wash off into our water systems every year, poisoning aquatic life. Another reason to follow this very good advice that you have given.

  54. Barbara says:

    Do you use the cod liver oil topically and internally? Thanks so much for the helpful information. I’m passing it on to my daughters.

  55. […] us against harmful UV rays. It’s an even greater excuse to eat more delicious blueberries! This is one of my favorite articles comparing antioxidants and sunscreen, written by Heather over at Mommypotamus. As you’ll note, it’s not just about eating […]

  56. What if I have no melanin? I have vitiligo and am trying to not burn or let whatever normal color i have darken.

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