It seems recently that everywhere I turn there are warnings to use sunscreen at every possible moment that you might have even the tiniest bit of exposure to the sun. Including in the rain. Or through a window. In the winter. There are advertisements in magazines for sunscreens with SPF ratings of 100! I have to say, I think this is insane.
Of course, I can appreciate that because of human actions, our ozone layer is compromised and more harmful rays make their way down to us. But despite this, I cannot embrace the idea that the sun is this deadly heavenly body that could only bring us harm.
Ancient peoples worshiped, celebrated, and honored the sun because they recognized it as the source of all life. Without it, we are finished. Plants need it to photosynthesize and we need plants for food. But we need the sun in a more direct way as well: without the sun, human beings (and many other animals) cannot synthesize vitamin D, an essential vitamin.
In many of these magazines that I've been reading that are so pro-sunscreen, I have read that even a daily 10 minutes unprotected in the sun could be deadly and that the *best* way to get Vitamin D is through supplements. They rarely make any distinctions in the supplements when they are making the recommendations: D2 versus D3? There are some studies that say that the body can't really use D2, the vegan form of vitamin D. Natural types of vitamin D supplementation (like cod liver oil and eggs) versus synthetic forms? Is it really all the same? Somehow I doubt it.
And what's perhaps the most troublesome to me is that they never seem to consider darker-hued individuals in their recommendations. I read somewhere once that highly melinated skin (i.e. dark skin) is equivalent to SPF 50 on it's own. I would guess that lighter skinned folks of color would have skin that's at least naturally SPF 15 or 30. That means that for a darker-skinned persons, sunscreen would not be as necessary especially if the person is not in the direct sun for hours and hours. But I have yet to see any sunscreen guidelines for darker skinned people. I am worried about what the repercussions will be if all people follow the general guidelines for sunscreen. For many months out of the year in my neck of the woods, the sun does not shine at all. Are we to understand that supplements really are an acceptable alternative to synthesizing our own vitamin D naturally? Do we really want to go by those guidelines only to find ourselves in 10-15 years seriously lacking vitamin D in our systems and dealing with all the issues that come from such a deficiency?
I am well aware that mainstream medicine and media will not take the time to make guidelines specific to people of color. I am kind of in a teetering position--worrying about the dangers of the sun (which have come about as a direct result of human actions) but not being able to trust the establishment as to what to do in terms of sunscreen and vitamin D supplementation. I fully expect to hear some crazy statistic in a few years about how babies of color are suffering from rickets and other bone disease because whatever supplement was prescribed (Oops!) just doesn't work. Then they'll change their recommendation again and say everyone should strive for at least some unprotected time in the sun but by then, the damage will already have been done. I feel this whole thing could turn out to be just the same situation as when margarine was far better than butter but then they turned around and said that in terms of bad food, trans-fats are the devil incarnate. I mean, really? I ate margarine my whole childhood!
In the winter or when my kids get sick, I am an avowed cod liver oil user. I like Carlson's brand because it is a high vitamin D oil that is triple purified so there is no mercury present. I'm also able to buy it at my local market. I feel that cod liver oil, at least, is a more natural form of vitamin D than something made in the lab. And I do use sunscreen but I'm not crazy with it. I always use SPF 30. If we're at the pool, I'll apply it once and leave it at that. It we're at the beach, maybe twice (because the beach is really the only place I've gotten a sunburn). But if we're going about our business, ducking in and out of stores, the library, the car, etc. and not really in direct sunlight for any extended length of time, I don't put it on.
I won't even talk about the myriad of unnatural and questionable ingredients in most mainstream sunscreens. My favorite brands of sunscreen: The Naked Bee (which is a butter) and All Terrain TerrasSport, which both have ingredients that I'm more comfortable with.
Anyway, I feel my conspiracy theorist alter ego rearing up whenever I read yet another article on using sunscreen . . . who is in bed with who here? Who stands to benefit? What's with all the propaganda? Essential questions to ask.