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A Summer Debate: Sunscreen or No Sunscreen?

With summer here in our part of the country, there is a debate on whether the sun or sunscreen are worse for you. An article is floating around FB and the internet titled, "Recent Study Shows How Sunscreen Causes Cancer, Not the Sun". In this article they state, "Firstly, the sun doesn’t harm us. It only nourishes us. There’s even really good science to prove this. One of the latest major studies was published by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2014."

Well....... The study the article referenced above is on It's dated July 2014 and titled, Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. In the study they state "We assessed the avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for all-cause mortality for 29,518 Swedish women in a prospective 20-year follow-up of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden (MISS) cohort. Women were recruited from 1990 to 1992 and were aged 25 to 64 years at the start of the study. We obtained detailed information at baseline on their sun exposure habits and potential cofounders." Nothing is mentioned regarding health of the individual, how long they were outside in the sun, how often or during what times of the day or other mitigating factors. Their conclusion based on what was stated above is "CONCLUSION: The results of this study provide observational evidence that avoiding sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality. Following sun exposure advice that is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful to women's health." This study is NOT conclusive, unless I'm missing the majority of it.

I do not believe only the sun does not cause cancer, but sunscreen does. Both can. Even in the article above it states the sun can be damaging. "Ultraviolet B rays (UVB) are the primary cause of sunburn and non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma. The chemicals that form a product’s sun protection factor are aimed at blocking those UVB rays." That isn't entirely true. According to Harvard Health Publishing - Harvard Medical School ".... since SPFs apply only to UVB, look for a "broad spectrum" sunscreen that also protects against UVA; most contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789). Above all, apply your sunscreen early, often, and liberally."

"Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) penetrate deeper into the skin and are harder to block. Scientists know less about the dangers of UVA radiation and this could potentially be very dangerous. The general consensus now is that whilst UVA ray damage is much less obvious than UVB, it is probably a lot more serious!!"

So, in one breath, they are saying the sun doesn't cause cancer but the sunscreen does. Also UVA which is the most dangerous cannot be blocked by sunscreen? This all doesn't make sense. If you were to see the headline and not read the article you would believe that you don't need sunscreen.

Some of the main reasons why people don't want to use sunscreen are.

Argument #1, We Don't Want to be Exposed to All Those Chemicals

I've heard this statement so many times, I have stopped counting. GOOD FOR YOU! I applaud you for taking a stand. However, have you considered how many chemicals you are exposed to on a daily basis?

You may be using chemicals and not even know it. Chemicals are found all over our homes in things like:

  • Teflon coated pans

  • Plastic Silverware

  • Plastic cups/plates

  • Plastic Serving Utensils

  • Paper plates

  • Water - most water if you live in a town or city has chlorine and/or fluoride in it

  • Carpet

  • Counter-tops - Formica

  • Paint

  • Clothes (wrinkle free, children's flame retardant pajamas)

  • Candles

  • Air freshener

  • Perfume

  • Cosmetics (make-up, facial cleanser, moisturizer, etc.)

  • Body care products (soap, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, shaving cream, etc.)

  • Cleaning products

  • Food - table salt, processed food, etc.

  • Medication

We use so many chemicals on a daily basis we should be concerned about our sunscreen too. If you want a safer alternative, do some research. has a list of great sunscreens.

Argument #2 - We NEED Vitamin D

True, yes we all need vitamin D. Did you know you can get a lot of vitamin D through the foods you eat? The following foods contain vitamin D, eat more of them:

  • Wild Caught Fish - salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna

  • Beef Liver

  • Egg yolks

  • Mushrooms - leave your mushrooms in the sun before you eat them, increases their vitamin d content

  • Cod Liver Oil

  • Shrimp

Argument #3 - I like the sun, I want to be tan

With most things, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Too much sun can lead to sun damage, sun stroke, even cancer. Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light may cause damage the fibers in the skin known as elastin. The breakdown of these fibers may result in sagging skin since it loses its ability to go back into place after stretching.

Do you know anyone who has dark, almost leathery skin? That is from sun damage. Even premature aging (wrinkles) and dark spots (sun spots) are also considered sun damage. According to, over-exposure to the sun causes:

  • Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions - due to decreases in the skin's immune function

  • Benign tumors

  • Fine and coarse wrinkles

  • Freckles

  • Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation

  • Sallowness -- a yellow discoloration of the skin

  • Telangiectasias -- the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin

  • Elastosis -- the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue (causing lines, wrinkles and sagging skin)

​Most people are vain, even if a little bit. I just turned 46 but look like I'm in my 30's. I always wear a hat if I am going to be outside for any length of time. Plus, sunscreen.

Argument #4 - I am only outside for a short time

Sometimes a short amount of time is too much for some people. In an article on dated August 26, 2015, titled, How much sun is too much? it talks about what the recommended time limit in the sun is with no protection. Gradually build up your exposure, "In most places, UV-B radiation is at its strongest between 10am and 4pm because the sun is high in the sky then. UV-B exposure is also more of a problem in the summer than in the winter." "The skin of people who are sensitive to light cannot protect itself from UV radiation for long. In very fair-skinned people, UV radiation starts becoming harmful after about 5 to 10 minutes. The table below shows the maximum amount of time people with different types of skin can expose untanned and unprotected skin to the sun per day without getting a sunburn." Visit the full article to learn more.

Photo courtesy of

While I realize we are trying to be prudent and use as few chemicals in our homes as possible, sunscreen isn't something I consider a bad thing. Granted there are many brands that are highly suspect, there are also a lot of good ones to choose from. I’m always researching to find a natural sunscreen that is affordable and protects my family. We also rely on swim shirts, sun glasses, hats, and pants when possible. Also, we try and work around the suns most damaging hours, midday when the UV rays are at their strongest. Shade is also my best friend when I’m outside.

Being that we live in the frozen north, we need all the vitamin D we can get. I just do not want it at the expense of our skin and the possibility of cancer down the line. As a GUIDELINE, I consult It isn’t the be all, end all but it’s a place for me to start my research. Last year I found ThinkSport. It works well for our active family, smells good and provides adequate coverage. The best thing is, it doesn’t break the bank. We have been using it and love it. We have also tried Badger and like that as well.

I don't want you to think I am naive enough to believe things like chemicals and sunscreen cannot cause cancer. Many times there are safer and more reliable alternatives to many popular brands.

Should you forget your sunscreen and get a sunburn, lavender essential oil or hydrosol is a great way to cool the burn. Please don’t forget to dilute the lavender. A nice avocado oil would be excellent! Like lavender, it’s very skin nourishing. I like the lavender essential oil from Barefut.

Question everything, even this article. Research for yourself. Not everything is as it seems. Look at who is funding the studies you are reading and how in-depth they are. A lot of studies are inconclusive or even faked. I remember long ago, there were studies done showing sugar was good for you but fat isn't. Since then we have proven that to be untrue. Research, research and research some more. Maybe you will get to the truth. If you have any questions, please send an email to Have a wonderful day!

Love and light, Melissa

This information is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this product by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being. The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of any oil or healing modality.

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