3

votes

Sun Protection and VERY Fair Skin

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 22, 2012 at 11:27 PM

So I've read in varying places in the paleosphere that sunscreen is generally not recommended. However, as a very fair-skinned redhead, I have a hard time reconciling this advice with a more conventional anti-skin cancer protocol of daily sunscreen and limited sun exposure.

Currently, I don't really use a sunscreen on a daily basis. There's SPF in my makeup, but I don't wear it everyday, and I have a light hand with it on days I do. I rarely spend more than half an hour at a time outside. When I know I will though, I tend to go all out with the sun protection. T-shirt, SPF 500,000,000 sunscreen, fixing my hair so my part isn't exposed, etc. During my family reunion at a resort in Phoenix a few months ago I put on a thick layer of suncreen every half hour and tried to keep to the areas of the pool that were shaded by shrubs. I've had enough really bad sunburns in my life to know that they aren't worth it. Given the right conditions, my eyes and feet will burn. I don't tan without first burning very badly.

Do I continue doing what I'm doing? Any additional pointers? I take Vitamin D supplementation now, but I haven't spent an inordinate amount of time outside since I started.

EDIT - I also haven't reconciled the idea that ANY kind of tan is safe. Some input on this subject would also be greatly appreciated!

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on November 06, 2012
at 12:19 PM

I had asked a related question a while back. Some of the responses might be useful: http://paleohacks.com/questions/120749/did-paleo-man-get-skin-cancer

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on November 05, 2012
at 09:24 PM

Indeed. I've been cooking with more tallow and lard lately. My olive oil has been quite slow to empty these past six months or so. Working on cutting back on the nuts.

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 24, 2012
at 02:35 AM

My dermatologist has basically told me that he recommends sunscreen because it is "the party line", but that he worries that long-term, aggressive sunscreen use is a huge problem for long term skin health because it prevents the proper absorption of Vitamin D and encourages people to stay in the sun longer than they would otherwise. Obviously, it is not a good idea to get a sunburn, but I think beyond that, it's an open question as to whether or not you're better off using sunscreen or not.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:41 PM

So funny! I found that if I leave the henna on too long (I use Lush Caca Rouge), it becomes a bit too "cool" for my complexion--like it washes me out. The golden parts suit me! As for a grey streak, I'm hoping to be able to do that when I'm older! I have a three part hair plan for life: 20s/30s? - keep it roughly my original color, 40s/50s??? - two-tone it with the white streaks, and when I finally give up, I'll let it all get white and then I'll streak it pink or something.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:29 PM

I learned it when I was in Mexico and heard it more when I was in Honduras (that was actually kind of funny. We didn't understand any of what they said until they said that word--stunned them). Pretty much the only time I've really heard it used here is in reference to one of our grocery stores. We have two grocery stores in the same "family" (United Supermarkets). One is the Hispanic grocery store, and it's called Amigos. The other is technically called "United" but pretty much all the Hispanic here have nicknamed it either "the White United" or "Gringos."

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:24 PM

I think I've come to recognize when the sun is too "harsh" for me to be out in it. It's typically when being outside and feeling the sun on my skin actually "hurts" a little. Like a heat rays bearing down on my skin. I live in Texas so this is the case just about every summer afternoon! But it's October now, and this conversation is making me want to go play outside!

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:22 PM

With olivey tones, a little may work for you! My skin is definitely pink. Way pink. Henna gives my hair too much of a reddish/golden tint - I have to stay with the cooler, ashier tones or I look just awful. I also started going grey very young (my dad was completely grey by 28, so go fig) and there just got to be too many to just pull out. If I could have a cool white streak or something, that'd be rad, but greying temples? Not so cool when you're 27!

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:19 PM

re. dying hair. I can't judge! While I'm naturally a medium-strawberry blonde (see avatar), I do dye my hair with henna once a year. My hair has naturally become rather mousy over the last few years. And I'm already developing a lot of white hairs at age 24. About a month after I dye it, my hair looks about like it did in high school, and it stays that way for a good 9-10 months or so.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:14 PM

In doing a little more rough research on this topic, I found that even the American Cancer Society said that they have no research proving that sunscreen prevents skin cancer. That was a real shocker for me!

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:11 PM

Oh yeah, I forgot about the astaxathin thing.... gotta go stock up on some pink flamingo!

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:09 PM

Yeah, I think I agree with you on that healthy tan note. My skin, while being extremely fair, is slightly on the golden/olive side of things, so I figure at least being outside on a reasonable regular basis would at least make my skin...warmer, if not noticeably "darker." Which would suit my appearance better anyway.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:17 PM

I agree with you about the sunscreen! I am not sure about its safety one way or the other, so I only use it if I'm in a situation, like an outdoor summer weekend festival or something, where I KNOW I'll burn horribly if I don't use it. But for the most part, depending on your location, it's usually not hard to try and keep in the shade. I also dress pretty modestly most of the time, so my skin has a clothing layer.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:15 PM

Just making sure! My uncles taught me that word at a young age, so that I would know when I was being called mean things. :D

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:42 AM

Oh I know it. My town is predominately Hispanic...

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:40 AM

Heh, "gringa" means a little something different than "white lady..." something a little less complimentary. (I am in the same boat with the super pale, though!)

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:05 AM

I don't think about tans much. So, dunno.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Edited the original question to add that that I haven't reconciled the idea that any sort of tan to be safe. Any input on that?

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Edited the original question to add that that I haven't reconciled the idea that any sort of tan to be safe. Any input on that?

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 22, 2012
at 11:55 PM

Never heard the term "ranga" here. Closest I get are "gringa" (white lady in Spanish slang) and "ginger."

81348acb7b886e2b32ca915d250268f3

(1022)

on October 22, 2012
at 11:48 PM

I'm a ranga (does that word translate to US slang?) too. In Australia, if I get burnt, it f-ing sucks! It means a good week or two of painful showers, laying down in bed and even wearing clothes. Not very nice. I've got to be very careful in the sun, though I also recognise that I need some sun, so I do spend about 15-20mins in direct sunlight before applying sunscreen and/or covering up. I spent a year traveling Sth America, and since coming back my skin has definitely become more resilient and is a slight shade darker! So it will be interesting to see how I handle the sun this Summer.

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14 Answers

4
Medium avatar

(2923)

on October 23, 2012
at 01:35 AM

re: "safe tans" - Sisson, Wolf, Taubes (and I think also Jaminet) have pointed out in one way or another that societies growing up with high sun exposure don't have the rates of melanomas that us "sun safe" populations do - highest rates of melanomas are among those of us who spend everyday inside, stay pasty white, and then we go and give ourselves a nasty sunburn ...

To repeat everyone's above points:

  • Up your Vitamin D3 levels (sun exposure ideally, Carlson D Drops are good)
  • Definitely get rid of grains (rickets was originally seen as wheat toxicity rather than D deficiency)
  • Regular sun exposure (don't need to go for a tan, 15-20 minutes a day is a good place to start)
  • Get out of the sun or cover up (hat, long sleeves) before you start to burn
  • Avoid sunscreen, most of the stuff is more toxic than a sunburn :-(
  • If you do burn, coconut oil and aloe vera are your two best friends

3
782d92f4127823bdfb2ddfcbcf961d0e

on October 23, 2012
at 12:36 AM

When I was young I tanned very easily but as I got older I began to burn. A few years ago, while visiting my parents in Florida I got a very nasty burn (skin peeling off in sheets) and swore that I would never go outside without sun protection again. Fast forward to this past winter. I spent a couple of months in the Los Angeles area and really increased my Vitamin D intake to 10,000IU/d. One of the effects that I noticed was that I didn't burn.

I guess that if your Vitamin D levels are adequate then there is no reason to tan and so use your sunscreen. My question then would be, is sunscreen safe to use? It may come down to a cost/benefit ratio and I can't see myself spending all my time indoors.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:17 PM

I agree with you about the sunscreen! I am not sure about its safety one way or the other, so I only use it if I'm in a situation, like an outdoor summer weekend festival or something, where I KNOW I'll burn horribly if I don't use it. But for the most part, depending on your location, it's usually not hard to try and keep in the shade. I also dress pretty modestly most of the time, so my skin has a clothing layer.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:24 PM

I think I've come to recognize when the sun is too "harsh" for me to be out in it. It's typically when being outside and feeling the sun on my skin actually "hurts" a little. Like a heat rays bearing down on my skin. I live in Texas so this is the case just about every summer afternoon! But it's October now, and this conversation is making me want to go play outside!

2
D5d982a898721d3392c85f951d0bf0aa

(2417)

on October 23, 2012
at 02:09 AM

I'm super fair, too. I burn and like you, it takes a gnarly burn to get any kind of a tan. There's no way around it - D levels, coconut oil, nothing. So I use Elta MD UV Sport 50 in the summer. It kept me from burning during 3 weeks near the equator - it's GOOD, worth every penny. Also a bit less sketchy chemically. I've cut out almost all the chemical crap from my beauty routine. I'm going to keep using the Elta MD in the summer. Some of us are of Northern European extraction and there's no sense pretending otherwise.

2
910404bebbcbd2505810c8cd8db31966

(380)

on October 22, 2012
at 11:44 PM

I thought I didn't tan too, I am also very pale. When I started taking high doses of vitamin D (6,000/day) with vitamin E on days when I was getting more exposure, I noticed I actually DID tan and didn't burn except in very long exposures. I can now spend the entire afternoon into evening on the beach in full sun and not burn.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Edited the original question to add that that I haven't reconciled the idea that any sort of tan to be safe. Any input on that?

1
D9247efab707604457569c9209d75498

on November 05, 2012
at 12:34 AM

This may not be a popular answer but keep unsaturated fats low, especially polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils, nuts, seeds). Stick to more saturated fats (coconut oil, beef and lamb fat, dairy fat). This will probably have the largest impact on how well your skin tolerates sunlight.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on November 05, 2012
at 09:24 PM

Indeed. I've been cooking with more tallow and lard lately. My olive oil has been quite slow to empty these past six months or so. Working on cutting back on the nuts.

1
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on October 23, 2012
at 02:53 PM

I'm been experimenting on my kids and myself the last two summers. (Don't call social services!) I feed them a ton of saturated fat all summer. I read on Cheeseslave at some point about the saturated fat...more research revealed it has something to do with the instability of un-saturated fat when heated. I'm not completely versed on the science of it but the point is it works! They don't burn and they are both very fair.

I only put sunscreen on them when they are going to be in the sun longer than 4 hours straight which is extremely rare. I also don't let them wear sunglasses and I try not to wear them as well to soak up vitamin D.

1
61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:03 PM

I, too, am a super pale girl - see my avatar?! I'm also a natural blonde (I know, I know, dying your hair isn't Paleo) with blue eyes, so I feel your pain. Unlike you, though, I don't tan even after burning. Just doesn't happen.

My BareMinerals has some SPF in it, so that protects my face when I do wear the stuff, but I only use sunscreen/blocks when absolutely necessary - outdoor festival kind of things. I don't use it on a daily basis. I'd kinda like to try the vitamin D idea - but scared of the consequences if it doesn't work and I do burn. It hurts, it's certainly very unhealthy, it's unnattractive, and it leads to freckling (I'm not a freckled person, but I do have some freckles on my shoulders now from sun damage).

On the healthy tan note, I think that if you've got the kind of coloring that you easily get a light tan without trying, just from walking about doing your normal thing, that's probably pretty healthy. But going out of your way trying to tan or trying to get really dark? I doubt that's healthy, even for someone who tans easily.

Basically, if I were you I'd keep on keeping on, and if the opportunity presents itself to test the Vitamin D theory, give it a try if you can take the consequences if it fails. I would be very interested in a follow-up, if you do it.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:22 PM

With olivey tones, a little may work for you! My skin is definitely pink. Way pink. Henna gives my hair too much of a reddish/golden tint - I have to stay with the cooler, ashier tones or I look just awful. I also started going grey very young (my dad was completely grey by 28, so go fig) and there just got to be too many to just pull out. If I could have a cool white streak or something, that'd be rad, but greying temples? Not so cool when you're 27!

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:41 PM

So funny! I found that if I leave the henna on too long (I use Lush Caca Rouge), it becomes a bit too "cool" for my complexion--like it washes me out. The golden parts suit me! As for a grey streak, I'm hoping to be able to do that when I'm older! I have a three part hair plan for life: 20s/30s? - keep it roughly my original color, 40s/50s??? - two-tone it with the white streaks, and when I finally give up, I'll let it all get white and then I'll streak it pink or something.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:19 PM

re. dying hair. I can't judge! While I'm naturally a medium-strawberry blonde (see avatar), I do dye my hair with henna once a year. My hair has naturally become rather mousy over the last few years. And I'm already developing a lot of white hairs at age 24. About a month after I dye it, my hair looks about like it did in high school, and it stays that way for a good 9-10 months or so.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:09 PM

Yeah, I think I agree with you on that healthy tan note. My skin, while being extremely fair, is slightly on the golden/olive side of things, so I figure at least being outside on a reasonable regular basis would at least make my skin...warmer, if not noticeably "darker." Which would suit my appearance better anyway.

0
Medium avatar

(2923)

on November 04, 2012
at 10:06 PM

Late addition via Ars Technica: For redheads, skin cancer may be in the genes

Refers to an article in Nature that redheads may have a genetic predisposition to melanomas ...

0
B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0

(3159)

on October 23, 2012
at 07:21 PM

I too have very fair skin. I recently moved to Arizona and looked into how to prevent sunburn without sunscreen. This is what I've found works:

  • Increase vitamin D intake - I vary my dosage from 1500 IU/ day to 5000 IU; contingent on other supplements with vitamin D and my sun exposure
  • Astaxanthin - BEST antioxidant known (I believe), it's what gives salmon and flamingos their vibrant color but also gives them stamina and .... great sun protection! :)
  • Consuming coconut oil and putting it on your skin (I don't do this too often because my skin doesn't like coconut oil, but if your's tolerates it, it's wonderful to protect from UV)
  • Saturated fat consumption (which you're probably already doing)

I hope that helps! And good luck. :)

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:11 PM

Oh yeah, I forgot about the astaxathin thing.... gotta go stock up on some pink flamingo!

0
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on October 23, 2012
at 06:27 PM

Tanning is the body's way of protecting against too much sun, so no need to get a tan to get sufficient D3.

Like the others, my very fair (Scots/English) husband burned like crazy until he got his D3 levels up via supplementation. He barely has tanned on most of his exposed skin (just his face & arms from frequent hikes at 7,000 ft.)

0
366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 23, 2012
at 01:11 PM

I gave up sunscreen a couple years ago. It is easy to find data showing that skin cancer incidence has increased with sunscreen use and that Vitamin D is protective against skin cancer. There is less long term evidence about whether Vitamin D supplements protect against skin cancer. So I use the supplements in winter, but try to get natural Vitamin D in summer.

But I am also lucky to work at home, and so can start slow sun exposure as soon as it's warm enough: I lie out for 15 minutes a day, sometimes starting as early as April, and eventually move up to 30 minutes a day. By June I have a reasonable enough base layer. Still, at the beach or other places with heavy sun exposure, I tend to put on an SPF shirt after an hour or so, or get under an umbrella, and I usually wear a hat to protect my face -- my goal is not to get a deep tan, just to get Vitamin D.

Also find that my skin doesn't burn as easily since I changed my fat intake (more saturated fat, very little omega 6 vegetable fat) and started eating healthy in general.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 09:14 PM

In doing a little more rough research on this topic, I found that even the American Cancer Society said that they have no research proving that sunscreen prevents skin cancer. That was a real shocker for me!

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 24, 2012
at 02:35 AM

My dermatologist has basically told me that he recommends sunscreen because it is "the party line", but that he worries that long-term, aggressive sunscreen use is a huge problem for long term skin health because it prevents the proper absorption of Vitamin D and encourages people to stay in the sun longer than they would otherwise. Obviously, it is not a good idea to get a sunburn, but I think beyond that, it's an open question as to whether or not you're better off using sunscreen or not.

0
6d64cd6dc98d6ab763bd03678a317964

(2177)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:59 PM

Astaxanthin is profoundly protective against sunburn.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/1108-sunscreen_in_a_pill.htm

http://www.jdsjournal.com/article/S0923-1811%2802%2900063-4/abstract

http://www.jdsjournal.com/article/S0923-1811%2897%2900058-3/abstract

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/25/sunscreen-and-wrinkle-prevention-in-a-pill.aspx

I've actually seen the results personally. I have a very pale skinned friend (almost albino) that will severely sunburn after just a few hours in the sun (3rd degree). 10 minutes in the tanning bed is enough for a 1st degree burn. She told me she was going out in a few weeks on a mini-vacation so I suggested 12mg a day of astaxanthin.

Guess what? After 3 weeks supplementation: Hours in the sun and no sunblock...no sunburn. She was even brave enough to take 30 minutes in the tanning bed... same beds, same settings that that burned her earlier in the year....no sunburn whatsoever. At least something to think about.

0
Ef26f888ed248de197c37a4cb04ef4a7

on October 23, 2012
at 08:19 AM

Incorporate tomato paste into your diet. It's rich in lycopene which has been shown to protect skin from sun damage.

0
35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on October 22, 2012
at 11:55 PM

I used to burn very easily. I'm blond with blue eyes and I have fairly pale skin. I've been taking 5,000 units of Vitamin D3 a day for some months. I can be out for a good hour or hour and a half in the mid-day sun and I don't burn. I don't push it beyond that, though. And, my arms are tanned, at least the outside of my arms!

You might also find this article from Mark's Daily Apple of interest:

8 Natural Ways to Prevent a Sunburn (And Sunscreen’s Not One of Them)

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:05 AM

I don't think about tans much. So, dunno.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on October 23, 2012
at 12:03 AM

Edited the original question to add that that I haven't reconciled the idea that any sort of tan to be safe. Any input on that?

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