I’m not going to rehash the usual sun protection advice because everyone knows about sunscreen. However, given that Coppertone didn’t come on the scene until 1944, have you ever wondered how humans managed to stay alive before that? After all, they were outdoors hunting, farming, building houses, hanging laundry and such.
The answer seems to be common sense and diet. That quote from poet Rudyard Kipling “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” sort of sums up the common sense part. But, diet? Really? If that seems a stretch, consider this. Sun causes its harm because it creates free radicals that damage our DNA. Antioxidants are the antidote to free radicals. Where do we get antioxidants? We get them from food (and supplements). There are dozens of antioxidant vitamins and minerals plus thousands of phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables and other whole natural foods. Our ancestors ate a lot more of those than we do. (French fries don’t count.) Also, produce from even a few decades ago is documented to have contained a lot more nutrients than our factory farmed groceries do. Therefore, many of us believe that our ancestors benefited from internal sunscreen.
A recent Australian study provided modern scientific evidence of the principle. Nicotinamide (a form of niacin or vitamin B3) has previously been shown to repair DNA. The researchers gave subjects who had suffered skin cancers (not including melanoma) either the B vitamin or a placebo. Those taking the vitamin had significantly lower rates of new cancers. There is not any food that contains only one nutrient. Therefore, I recommend taking a complete B complex, not just this one by itself.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant contained in fruits and vegetables. As noted in my blog post on cell phones, vitamin C protects against radiation damage such as those rays coming from the sun.
It seems that nature’s, original plan was for us to be exposed to sunshine. Of course, we need it for our skin to make vitamin D. Also, as noted in an earlier blog, the sun doesn’t just cause sun burn; it also provides healing and rejuvenating far infrared rays. And, another proposed benefit is kind of “out there”—an engineering professor thinks that we may actually harvest energy from the sun a bit like plants do. We learned about how they do that in biology when we studied photosynthesis. The article is pretty deep, but I link to it here for any physicists who might be interested.
So, bottom line: Stay in the shade when the sun is high and hot. Use sun screen if you are going to be out for an extended period such as baking on the beach. Eat more fruits, vegetables and other whole natural foods, not just for their internal sunscreen protection, but because you will feel better and likely live longer.