Balanced Bites Podcast #419: The TRUTH about the sun, safe sunscreen, & sun protection (+ a European sunscreen FYI)

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#419: (Almost) everything you need to know about the sun, sunscreen, sun safety, food and sun protection, & European sunscreen options! Liz covers the history of sunscreen (and the rise in melanoma), how the sun ACTUALLY CAN damage the skin (and how to ACTUALLY prevent it), why there’s a lack of good sun protection options in the United States (thanks, FDA) and which European sunscreen is her favorite. Plus, chatting the proof around sun protection and diet and sharing a listener knowledge bomb!

Anthelios EUROPEAN SUNSCREEN

https://www.caretobeauty.com/en/la-roche-posay-anthelios-uvmune-400-invisible-fluid-fragrance-free-spf50-50ml/

Beautycounter Zinc Stick

https://www.beautycounter.com/lizwolfe?goto=/product/countersun-mineral-sunscreen-stick-spf-30

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Balanced Bites Podcast #419: The TRUTH about the sun, safe sunscreen, & sun protection

Welcome to the new Balanced Bites Podcast! I’m your host, Liz, a nutritional therapy practitioner and best selling author bringing you candid, up-front, myth-busting and thought-provoking conversations about food, fitness, and life. Remember:  The information in this podcast should not be considered personal, individual, or medical advice.

I have spent YEARS researching whether a good multivitamin is truly necessary for overall health. But the truth is, there are a LOT of opinions out there, including from people like me, who love to ask lots of obnoxious, overly detailed questions. But the truth is, if I’m paying attention to how I FEEL, my answer was clear: I will be taking my multivitamin. And it will be from the brand Needed. Needed third-party tests EVERY batch for performance and quality, which is incredibly rare in the supplement industry and also incredibly important to me! To get started with Needed, head to thisisneeded.com. Use code balanced for 20% off your one-time order or your first three months’ subscription. While you’re at it, add Stress Support to your cart. I’m loving that one, too.

Hi friends before I jump in and start describing it. Today’s episode, I wanted to pop in and let you know the summer schedule for the balanced bites podcast. This episode, and the following episode next week are going to tackle some summer specific topics. And after that for June, July, and August, I’m going to move to an every other week cadence. Once we hit September, we’ll be back on our every week schedule. 

But as many of you know, the summer is a lot. Less in childcare options and a lot busier when it comes down to it. And so I am going to give myself a little bit of a break on the weekly cadence. And release really great quality podcast episodes just every other week. So I appreciate you understanding, and you be in here with me. And of course I promise to create quality podcasts that are interesting, fun thought provoking, but just on a slightly slower cadence so that I can really soak up the summer with my family and all of the time that we can spend together during these summer months. 

Thanks for understanding. And let’s jump in to a little more information about today’s. Podcast. 

about today’s episode today is a must. Listen. Now, if you think that me reposting a podcast means you don’t need to listen to it, stop right there and listen to this one. This is a combination of. The most recent multiple podcast episodes I’ve done where I’ve addressed things about the sun, sun protection. 

And sunscreen, I’m bringing it all together into one place for you. Plus I’m adding an additional message that I received that blows the whole thing open even more. And I promise you, if you listen to this, you will be the best informed person you’ve ever met on this topic. And right now it’s an important one. Most of us in the United States are approaching summer. And once again, having to think about these things, even more than usual, 

Now this episode, mashup, it brings together at the history of sunscreen. Why and where we went wrong. The options available today and why some of them suck. Uh, what I do for myself and what I do for my kids, sun protection, from food. And also why European sunscreens are better and how you can get them. And again, I round it all out with a message I received from an awesome listener, who is a true sunscreen expert. 

And that’s just the icing on the cake. I also go into a couple, I left a couple of things in there about a question around. Uh, sun and sunglasses, which I also think is worth listening to now, as far as recommended products, you can check the show notes, but I will say you can sometimes get the European sunscreen that I liked. The Leo’s sunscreen through care to beauty. Dot com, but it’s hard to find sometimes. So if anybody has a friend that goes to and from Europe now, and then I’d have them pick some up for you. Don’t go searching empty Leos in the United States. It’s not the same formulation. And I discussed that in this episode. There’s also another brand mentioned by the listener that I talked about before. 

for kids. It’s hard to find two, probably easy. If you live in Europe to find it. Even just a boots, but that’s another one that you’re going to want to look out for.

So, where I begin here is with a question I received for a previous podcast. And I want to just note that while the audio quality is good. For some reason, I sound a little bit different in this recording. I don’t know if it’s my equipment. I have swapped out some of my equipment for some higher quality equipment since then. 

I don’t know if it was the place I was recording. This was from my closet. Maybe the sound gets absorbed a little bit more when I’m in my closet versus when I’m in my actual office. I don’t know, but I just wanted to acknowledge that it does not affect your listening. It doesn’t affect the quality, but I wanted to acknowledge that my voice sounds a little bit different on this one. 

All right. Enjoy. 

So the question that came in was very simple. It was babies, kids, and sunscreen. Do they need it? And which kind is safe? Okay, so I’m going to answer way more than was actually asked in this question because over the last few weeks I’ve seen and been asked about a few claims that are circulating online about sun protection, and I thought maybe it’s time to do some fact checking.

And while I’m at it, maybe it’s time for a nice detailed review of these claims that are floating around and my past recommendations around sunscreen and sun protection. So I reviewed my past to talk about it, including what I said in my book. S if you haven’t read it, it’s actually quite good. And I packaged up my research questions and sent them over to Amanda.

Again, my scientist, she’s a, she’s not my scientist, but she’s my scientist. And we came up with some really interesting stuff that’s pertinent to both adults and children. So what she found is that a few of these claims circulating in the holistic community are just scientifically unsupported. One of them looks to be not even partially true.

It looks to be completely untrue, and the other partially true maybe depending on your lens. And this is based on a review of the scientific literature and also just seeking out where one of the claims came from in the first place. The roots of the claim I think are important because it’s really difficult to explain sometimes why something is false without also highlighting the road that got us there.

And I actually do a lot of that in Eat the Yolks. Like how did we get to this point where we believe things that are. Scientifically very questionable. And I feel like that also helps me as a layperson understand why a claim is worth deconstructing. So with that in mind, I do want to acknowledge that if my approach ever seems to be inconsistent, as in you’ll entertain this discussion, even though the literature seems to contradict it, but you dismiss this one for the same reason.

I wanna say. I get it. There’s definitely a complex calculus, a multi-tiered system of reasoning in place. Ha ha. This is something I talked about in my book. That we’re looking for the intersection of science, like little s like anatomy and physiology and Big S, like what has been studied and peer reviewed and ancestral wisdom and common sense.

I believe that there are times when we need to suspend our disbelief and try on new ideas, and there are also times when we need to say, huh, Is that true? And critically evaluate claims being made with the best tools we have. And then of course, ask ourselves, does this make sense? Some of the way I make these calculations is based on instinct as to where to start if there isn’t like ample current scientific literature available.

And thank goodness, like I feel like the best thing I ever did was to contract with a scientist about some of this stuff, but sometimes we can still go on physiology or older, high quality studies that just maybe no longer fit the narrative. Maybe old studies or. Turning over stones that people have just long since abandoned that are actually really worthy.

They’re just not like the in vogue of scientific exploration right now. And I also think oftentimes physiology can trump the results from studies that maybe are not structured to get to the core of a matter. But both our lens into human physiology and the lens that peer reviewed science gives us is just that.

It’s a lens. The more you learn, the more you realize that the same thing could be considered good or bad depending on the lens through which you’re viewing it. For example, the body’s ability to mobilize fat as fuel, as we talked about in last week’s podcast, and there’s also. That ever important element of context.

So for example, yes, the sun is the source of all life. I am very pro sun. But we must also take into account that our lifespans are so much longer today, which means so much more cumulative exposure that even though sun exposure and exposure to. Photo products, all these diverse photo products from the sun, even though that’s important, it’s also true that the sheer longevity of modern humans could set the stage for the development of skin damage and cancer simply based on exposure over a lifetime, which.

Maybe wouldn’t have come into play in the context of shorter lifespans all the way up to the last like a hundred years or so. We don’t necessarily live geographically in places that are aligned with our ancestry, which is a determinant of our capacity for melanin production, which protects us from the sun.

And there’s also the matter of like how easy or difficult it is for us to produce adequate vitamin D. Everything has to be looked at in context. There can be no solid conclusion without context. So I’m getting a little far afield here. I know here, here are a few of the claims being made and the questions I asked that I wanted to address in today’s podcast.

I’ll start with these and then I’ll move on to the larger discussion. Okay, first, a claim that was sent to me that wearing sunglasses can lead to sunburns because they cause the pituitary to signal for less melanin production, melanin being our body’s endogenous sunburn protector. So I wanted to know if this was true.

So Amanda actually traced this claim and it seems to originate from a hypothesis from an MD PhD who she said has done some really great work in genetics. But this was a hypothesis from a pop science book that this doctor wrote, and there’s still. No evidence to support it. In essence, it looks like he may be conflated a few different pieces of evidence.

One that some studies on mice have shown that exposing their eyeballs to UV radiation can stimulate a hormone called melanocyte stimulating hormone from the pituitary. But this actually has nothing to do with tanning in response or burning in response to UV rays. Your body’s melanin response all happens within your skin.

It is not routed through your eyes, and this makes complete sense. Why would your skin outsource such a vital response to like immediate stimuli to the eyes when your eyes could be, for example, shaded by your hand, or shaded by bushy eyebrows or shaded by a. Piece of petrified mammoth dung. If you’re a caveman, it just wouldn’t make biological sense if your skin wasn’t able to sense and control these things.

And for the record, it has also been shown that ear tissue in mice can trigger melanocyte stimulating hormone from the pituitary. So our eyes are not our only line of defense there. So this hypothesis, it simply did not bear fruit, and that’s okay. This is what happens to hypotheses. The issue is when people mistake a hypothesis for a scientific fact and override bodily wisdom, like, oh man, it’s really bright out here.

Can you go ahead and shade your eyes with something and refusing to do that now? It is true that UV rays are filtered disproportionately by things like glass, for example. UVA rays penetrate through your car windshield, but UVB rays do not. So here’s an argument for driving gloves, right, which I’m gonna bring back.

I decided. But there are sunglasses that provide a hundred percent protection against both U V B and U V A rays. So maybe look for that on the label to protect against the same issue that I’ll talk about with sunscreen momentarily, which is the disproportionate exposure to U V A compared to UVB disproportionate UVA and UVB protection.

But in short, the claim about sunglasses being dangerous is completely unsupported, and we see no reason why we will actually find any evidence to support it. So please protect your eyes from the glaring sun, and whether that’s with a good pair of sunglasses or your hand, or a hat or shade or whatever it is, don’t feel like you’re working against your body by doing that.

Okay. Another claim that was sent my way was that both nano and non nano zinc based sunscreens can get into the bloodstream and cause health problems. I wanted to know what the evidence was for this claim, especially since I’ve been recommending zinc based sunscreens as a safe alternative to more conventional sunscreens for years.

Now this one is interesting and it has a little bit to do with the lens through which you’re viewing the research, as well as just whether you know the ins and outs of the study. So, The study that was used to support this claim, at least in the source I was given, did show that both nano and non nano zinc could penetrate the skin and end up in the bloodstream actually in increasing levels over time.

So what that might suggest is that, Perhaps the zinc is being absorbed into the tissues and then slowly released into the bloodstream over the course of days. I think in the study it was six days. The amounts that were absorbed, even in the nano zinc group were between eight and 30 micrograms, where about 12 milligrams circulating in the blood is considered normal, so, Yes, that’s above the threshold of normal.

So something to take into account is definitely frequency. Are you putting zinc oxide on your skin every day, all over year round, or are you using it in a more intermittent way? So, The health problems themselves that are being proposed as a consequence of this are not entirely concerning to me. In general, what I saw was like skin irritation for one, and that’s not compelling to me and to me, should not be referred to as health issues.

It should be referred to as skin irritation because health issues suggest something far worse. And another important note is that in this study, the sunscreen formulation may have assisted with the absorption of zinc into the body because it contained isopropyl mis, uh, I’m always gonna say this wrong, isopropyl ate, which is known to enhance skin penetration as well as E D T A, which is a zinc key later, which also would’ve ha.

Enhanced penetration, and this was even listed in the study itself. So I’m not sure if that was not taken into account or maybe if whomever it was that that wrote this thing maybe didn’t have access to the full text of the study. I don’t know, but just this alone might call into question the claims from the get-go.

So what appears to be the case is that, yes, nano penetration can be much higher than non nano. So nano zinc is just much, much smaller particle size than the standard zinc formulations in a sunscreen. But the literature also seems to show that as long as you’re. Skin barrier is intact and healthy, and as long as the product doesn’t contain ingredients that could accelerate absorption, even nano zinc will not absorb to any concerning degree.

That’s what it looks like. Now, at the same time, I think if you’re using the precautionary principle, non nano zinc is best because nano zinc does have that much dramatically higher penetration. But still doesn’t seem to be concerning, but unfortunately, especially for more melanated skin, non nano zinc can give the skin a gray cast, and that’s a bummer.

So there are definitely compromises there. Okay. So those are those claims and I think we can safely say that the sunglasses claim is false and the zinc absorption claim lacks context. And I sound like Facebook right now and that’s really annoying to me. But there’s also more to this conversation around sun and sunscreen that I’d like to discuss.

The last few years have been interesting. If you’re watching this growing conversation around sunscreen safety, so while there have been concerns around whether conventional sunscreens were actually helping rather than harming for a long time, I think it was brought to the broader consciousness. More recently, since oxybenzone, which was a staple in many sunscreens for a long time, was revealed over the last few years to actually damage coral reefs even at low concentrations.

And I noted that pretty much every conventional sunscreen brand I could find now is oxybenzone free. And oftentimes that’s actually listed. So you know, people are actually looking for that and asking for that. And most sunscreen brands offer zinc options. So the market has really shifted over the last decade, even more so over the last few years.

And here’s something that’s very interesting. The FDA no longer states that chemical sunscreens are safe. And this has to do with not just coral reefs, but absorption and bioaccumulation and endocrine disruption. So I’m not talking about zinc or nano zinc, I’m talking about other forms. Other substances used to, uh, diffuse or block UV rays.

So, This might be why, or at least part of why there’s such an industry rush to transition to zinc and titanium dioxide based sunscreens. And it’s compounded by the fact that the approval process for UV filters is so laborious, so long that it’s actually almost impossible to bring new solutions to market.

So here’s a quote. With the European animal testing ban in cosmetics, UV filter innovation is likely to further slow down and possibly come to a halt, essentially restricting formulation to existing UV filters. The United States is in a dire situation. None of the modern UV filters launched globally in the last two decades can be used and all existing organic UV filters are under scrutiny.

For safety reasons, and I even end quote, but I even read part of a, a scientific paper around this that equated sunscreen safety to the process of ensuring vaccine safety and that they should be comparable as far as the manufacturer’s duty to keep people safe. So we are left then with zinc and titanium dioxide, physical mineral sunscreens that are the few that are generally recognized as safe, which is I think G R A S or G R A S E, uh, by the fda.

And of course, the ongoing development of nanoparticle options, which is also again controversial. But maybe it’s sort of a result of the lag time and virtual impossibility of approving new sun protection agents in the US right now. Maybe it’s like, well, zinc is what we have to work with, so let’s figure out other ways to work with it.

So, okay, on this sunscreen topic, Amanda showed me a 2021. So a very recent paper about a very interesting concept called spectral homeostasis. Spectral homeostasis is very simply uniform U V A and UVB protection. It means, and this is another quote, leaving the natural solar spectrum unchanged, even though attenuated by sunscreen clothing or shading structures, end quote.

So it’s basically allowing natural proportions of UV light exposure, but watering down the dose. So presumably you can extend your time in the sun. We’ll talk more about proportions of UVA and UVB and why that’s important in a bit. But this sounds obvious, right? And many of us probably think that our sunscreens provide uniform protection, otherwise, how would they be allowed to be sold?

And unfortunately that’s not the case. Some of the zinc based sunscreens can approach spectral homeostasis, although that requires not just perfect product formulation, but also perfect use and application. Because as the paper says, quote, the current sun protection factor, SPF F is not indicative of real life performance outdoors.

What, and according to the paper, nothing that provides perfectly uniform UVA UVB protection other than clothing is available in the United States. And as I’ll talk about later, proportions of exposure actually seem to make all the difference and the development of cancer. So the science makes that pretty darn clear.

So that’s why we should care. So what it would take to reach spectral homeostasis in a topical sunscreen that approaches the protection given by clothing would be, according to one paper, a stable dispersion of 25% zinc oxide alone, or another more complex formulation that has a bunch of other chemicals I don’t think we know enough about.

So, Okay, so I’m gonna read a few quotes from the papers we reviewed just to drive home that point of why spectral homeostasis is important. And by the way, if you’re not interested in any of these details, you can fast forward to like the last five minutes of the podcast where I will actually give practical recommendations.

But I do think when you have a foundation of facts and a background around things like this, you can really make confident decisions. And at the very least, if you’re helping somebody else make a decision and they’re not quite in line with what you’re saying, you can always point them in this direction.

So first this quote should outline the difference between not getting burned and not sustaining skin damage. It’s not the same thing. So quote, the benefits of sunscreen are verified in preventing sunburn, but appear to be largely presumptive in skin cancer prevention. Contemporary science establishes UVA as a primary driver of melanoma and photo aging consequentially.

The traditional UVB skewed, which means like uneven ratios of UVB to UVA UVB skewed protection of sunscreens provides an intellectual and logical explanation for rising skin cancer rates, and in particular their failure to protect against melanoma. Better protection could be achieved with more balanced UV B UVA sunscreens toward spectral homeostasis protection.

Greater balanced protection has another advantage of attenuating fewer UVB rays, which aid synthesis of Vitamin D end quote. So yes, the territory we’re getting into is that many conventional sunscreens. Are actually blocking the rays we need to generate vitamin D. And I’m gonna talk a little bit more about how actual sun exposure for vitamin D is now sort of getting slid into the scientific literature.

People are getting more comfortable talking about it. It’s not as taboo, and I think that’s really, really important. So let me just toot my own horn real quick and say, I actually said some very similar things in my book, which was published in 2014 about the difference between UVA and UVB. UVB is the ray that stimulates vitamin D production, but it’s also the ray that burns you.

And sunscreen was originally developed to prevent burns, but without considering that, a large proportion of UVA still makes it through to your skin and UVA is the rate associated with melanoma and photo aging. Okay, so here’s another quote. The use of sunscreens with asymmetric UV or UVB skewed protection, let’s just say imbalanced protection over the past six to seven decades, parallels the global rise in skin cancer with a steady annual increase in global keratinocyte cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

The cumulative evidence before the 1980s showed a significant positive association between melanoma and sunscreen use. And here’s a quick note from me. This is likely because they did not protect against UV rays. The association was no longer statistically significant from the early 1990s and there is no current evidence suggesting an increased risk of skin cancer from sunscreen use.

And another note from me, this is because sunscreens around then began to formulate for more cross or broad spectrum protection, but this is the important part. This systematic review also does not confirm the expected protective benefit of sunscreens against skin cancer in the general population. So maybe that curve leveled off or that that line leveled off, but we still do not have evidence.

That sunscreen has a protective benefit against skin cancer in the general population. So this is a really big statement. And here’s another one. UVA radiation generates more oxidative stress than uvb and is more cytotoxic than uvb. That means toxic to your cells as it damages DNA and inhibits DNA repair.

And promotes the invasive and biological aggressiveness of skin cancer. UVB initiates and modulates the damage cycle, but UVA completes the process. And finally, melanoma may be initiated or promoted by UVA radiation as people are exposed to this indoors through windows and outdoors through car glass.

So note this, the car glass and Windows point is important. And sunscreen formulations with little UVA protection. This phenomenon of UVB skewed protection. Okay, so again, melanoma. Melanoma may be initiated or promoted by UVA radiation as people are exposed to this indoors through windows and outdoors through car glass and sunscreen formulations with little UV eight.

Protection. Okay. So again, when they’re talking about skewed protection, they’re talking about sunscreens that protect you from burning UVB rays and do not provide proportionate protection against UVA, which by most accounts could be considered the worst ray. And for that matter, perhaps the quickest sound bite I can give here is that high SPF does not equate to high protection against sun damage and cancer.

SPF F only refers to the measure of protection against uvb. It has nothing to do with uva, and that’s really the crux of the problem. So now with what I want to do is actually read a little bit from my book, eat the Yolks, because I really am pleased at how well the information holds up eight years later.

And this is for those who need some steeping in how we even got here and why this is important. So this is a small. Excerpt from the vitamin D section of my book, which is really good if I may say so. So if you don’t own my book, please pop over to Amazon or wherever to order it. I’d be super grateful for the support.

And remember, you can also get the audio book version of Eat the Yolks and I read it, so it’s me reading my own book in my podcast. Voice to you. Okay, so here’s the portion from my book, the Suns Raise, skin, cancer and Sunscreen. We blame the sun for skin cancer, but it’s not that simple. If it were our years of slathering sunscreen and avoiding the sun would’ve resulted in a decrease in skin cancer diagnoses.

But since sun protection factor, SPF Sunscreens received FDA approval in the 1970s, the incidence of melanoma in children has risen nearly 3% per year. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the incidence of melanoma in the United States increased faster than that of any other cancer. Since the 1960s. Rates of skin cancer in lighter-skinned population, those at highest risk for skin cancer diagnoses.

I’m gonna pop that in here so I’m not reading right now. Those at the highest risk for skin cancer diagnoses are those in lighter-skinned populations. But I do want to say that those with more melanated skin have a much higher risk of dying, and that has to do with disparities in diagnostics. And, and things like that, so I think that’s very much worth pointing out.

Okay, back to the text. Those at highest risk for skin cancer have continued to increase by between five and 8% every single year. First time melanoma diagnoses overall have tripled over the past 35 years, and just between 2020 13, there was a nearly 2% increase each year. But despite all that, rather than questioning what we think we know about the sun and skin cancer, we retreat further into our beliefs.

We slather on more sunscreen. We wonder why the dermatologist had to remove that mole when we quote did everything right. It’s because we haven’t been doing anything right. The recent rise in skin cancer, despite the sunscreen industry, selling enough protection to yield billion dollar profits is made more puzzling by the typical modern lifestyle.

We are hardly ever in the sun. Indoor screen time has replaced many outdoor activities. Instead of playing football in the yard, we play virtual football on the PlayStation. Instead of going out to the ballgame, we watch it on tv. Instead of going for a walk with friends, we text and tweet. We gather our vegetables from fluorescent lit supermarkets rather than sun drenched outdoor gardens for crying out loud.

We’re inside away from the sun far more than in the past. Heck, most of us have jobs that keep us inside when the sun’s out. Oddly enough, working indoors has actually been shown to accompany an increased risk of melanoma. In several studies, one study of indoor workers observed a steadily increasing rate of malignant melanoma, even though the workers were exposed to as much as nine times less sunlight than outdoor workers whose rates of malignant melanoma have not increased.

At least not at the time of that study. These studies in concluded that sun exposure actually helps protect against skin cancer thanks to the vitamin D generated in the body as a result of sun exposure. Understanding the sun’s ultraviolet UV rays will help us understand all of this. To this point, I’ve talked a bit about UVB rays, which stimulate vitamin D production in our bodies.

It’s important to understand uvb, but there’s another ray that’s equally important to know about uva. UV a rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays and only UVB rays stimulate the production of melanin melanin, which also causes us to tan, protects our bodies from UV induced damage by scattering solar radiation, and acting as an antioxidant.

Once UV exposure has exceeded melanins ability to protect us, our skin begins to redden and develop inflammation. Otherwise known as sunburn. The cascade from tanning to burning is prompted by UVB rays, and this is why they’re known as burning rays. Habitual over-exposure to UVB rays resulting in chronic sunburns can over time contribute to melanoma risk.

However, UVB rays are more generally associated with non-melanoma skin cancer. We can think of a sunburn as a blessing in disguise. It’s a signal that we need to get out of the sun or risk skin damage, and hopefully it leads us to reduce further sun exposure so that it doesn’t happen again. That’s called living and learning.

Perhaps UVB rays should be called signal rays instead of . Burning Rays, UVB signal rays help warn us when we’re in danger of over exposure and the skin damage that comes with it. Usually starting with that hint of pink on fair skin uva. A rays offer no such warning. UVA rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and can cause more damage to skin cells than UVB rays.

UVA rays cause oxidative damage which can lead to photo aging, including wrinkles and collagen loss. Worse yet, UVA rays can damage our dna. UVA does not cause us to tan or burn as UVB does. In fact, it actually causes damage to our melanin producing cells, which is why it’s associated with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Since UVA rays don’t give us that sunburn signal, they can wreak havoc and leave. No immediate trace and an aside. This is Liz not reading anymore. This is podcast Liz. We see that in all of this literature that I quoted here today that’s very current from 2021 and beyond. Here’s the most important distinction between UVB and UVA Rays.

Sunscreen easily blocks UVB rays in their effects, including sunburn, cancer, fighting vitamin D and the antioxidant melanin. Okay? UVB rays are also blocked by windows. Like I said before in the podcast, UV a rays are not. Blocked by either windows or sunscreen. Okay. Now a little aside from podcast, Liz, this paragraph lacks context eight years later, I say sunscreen easily blocks UVB rays in their effects.

We know more about that now, the zinc based sunscreen and the concentration of zinc that is required to get equal protection between UVB and UVA. But the fact remains that sunscreen that’s made of zinc will block UVB rays at a higher proportion than those without. Okay, so back to the book. This means that we are exposed to damaging UVA rays without the benefit of sunburn to tell us when we’ve had enough, whether we’re sitting indoors near a window in a car with a sun streaming through the windshield or on a beach slathered in SPF F 35, we are soaking up excessive amounts of UVA.

So, is sunscreen protecting us at all? Not really. All those are, there’s a time and a place for certain types of sun protection as we’ll discuss. Sunscreen is rated according to its spf, which stands for Sun Protection Factor. The concept was first approved by the FDA in the 1970s for use in the marketing of sunscreen SPF rates.

Only the sunscreen’s ability to block uvb, not uva. The measure was developed as a means of avoiding UVB induced sunburn. Before we knew just how damaging UVA rays could be, thanks to sunscreen, we thought we were free to spend hours upon hours in the sun. And we believed that because we weren’t burning, we were ao.

Okay. So what sunscreen has done is not so much protect us as lull us into a false sense of security while opening the door to damage that would never occur if we were able to heat our body’s natural warning signals. And you know what, this is podcast, Liz. If you wanna do a day at the beach or a day on the boat, it’s gonna be hard to actually heed the body’s warning signals.

I get it. Back to the book. When we block UVB rays while keeping the door open to UV a rays thinking, we’re protected because we aren’t getting burned, we allow the most damaging rays to penetrate our skin and do their insidious work even as we block our burn signal and stop the production of melanin and cancer preventing immune boosting vitamin D.

This may leave us more vulnerable to cancer than ever before, and I can’t help but wonder, this is podcast, Liz. If this is why that uptick in pediatric melanoma is being seen, because the sunscreens perhaps, that we’re using on our kids are allowing them to spend way more time in the sun without burning, then they would have otherwise.

So, so-called broad spectrum sunscreens, which claim to protect against both UVB and uva. A rays attempted to combine SPF based UVB protection with chemicals meant to absorb or disperse UVA rays. However, at least at the time my book was published, the environmental working group cautions that broad spectrum sunscreens sold in the United States are produced according to FDA criteria that are the weakest in the modern world.

In Europe, broad spectrum sunscreens must provide UVA protection at least one third, as potent as its UVB protection in the United States, not a single broad spectrum sunscreen meets even this minimally effective criteria. Most of us think that when we choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, our UVA protection protection matches the spf, and this is absolutely not the case.

Now. I don’t know what the status is now, but. Based on what I was reading. For these more current studies, we still have the same problem in the really just incredibly slow, almost non-existent approval process for sun protection products. So my instinct tells me that we still have the same problem.

However, the studies that I read and that Amanda brought to my attention do suggest that this is something that the industry is finally grappling with. Sunscreen lotions were a good idea in theory, but to put it nicely, they just never panned out. This is, this is Liz from the book again, because we were concerned about the dangers of the sun’s rays.

Yet Ill-informed about which rays helped and which ones harmed. We created sunscreen technology that actually interferes with our own biology instead of helping us protect ourselves. We’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole of SPFs and broad spectrum protection and FDA approval that we’ve forgotten that just 50 years ago.

We have lower rates of skin cancer and exceedingly simple ways of protecting ourselves. Dermatologist and vitamin D researcher, Michael Hollick writes, there is evidence to link sun exposure and vitamin D to every facet of medicine and health. Vitamin D and all the incredible co-products that our bodies generate from sunshine are critical.

They keep our bones healthy and combat chronic disease. They boost our immune systems and our mood. They even stimulate the economy. Who takes a vacation to get out of the sun? Skin cancer can develop as a result of excessive sun exposure, and it can happen with or without sunscreen. But the type of sun exposure that makes us vulnerable to cancer is vastly different from the type of sun exposure that boosts our vitamin D levels and helps prevent cancer and other maladies.

Most of us are getting too little sunlight, not too much. What we need is responsible sun exposure. Okay, back to the podcast. All this taken into account number one, what is the answer to the original question? And number two, am I modifying my approach for sun exposure and sun protection? So number one, babies and kids and sunscreen, do they need it?

And which kind is safe? First of all, if they’re going to be out for long enough to burn, they need something. Vitamin D from the sun is so important, but the sun can damage the skin. If you’re overexposed and there’s no age threshold on that, kids might heal faster, but they can also sustain damage. So preferably you go for clothing and a hat to cover up, so a rash guard and a bee hat.

But if not, then yes, sunscreen. And the kind that is safest is probably a thick zinc paste, like badger ball. Anything that approaches that 25% for spectral homeostasis, not a spray sheer sunscreen, even one that contains zinc, not a spray aerosolized sunscreen. And please stop. With the spray application of those sunscreens anyway, you don’t need to cover the whole beach or pool with that cloud of aerosolized chemicals.

That’s an aside, but please, pretty please. And number two, yes. My approach is shifting just slightly, and it’s as much about what I know about sunscreen and another consideration that I didn’t give full due previously. And that’s environmental concerns. So as we learned with oxybenzone, we use products that contaminate the environment without even knowing it.

And a study did show that it’s possible that nano zinc formulations might also cause environmental harm. So even though it appears that the size of nanoparticles most often used in sunscreen are a lot larger, Than the size of the particles and the studies that suggest harm to the ocean. I still feel like we just don’t know, and in general, we put so many things on our skin that eventually end up in the water, whether directly or indirectly, that it seems prudent, just to minimize that as much as we can.

So, Based on physical and environmental factors and unknowns, I’d say to mitigate risk of negative effects from both the sun and from sunscreen. It’s all about intentional smart sun exposure during the times when you can actually get vitamin D from the sun. And I’ve talked about this elsewhere, but there is a, a vitamin D winter.

Where you cannot get vitamin D from the sun. It’s a latitude thing and it depends on where you live. I have an Instagram highlight on it, and you can check that out. But during the seasons where you can get vitamin D from the sun, maybe a short window each each day where you get some unprotected sun exposure.

I’ll quote from a recent paper quickly. This, this paper said it was from 2022 Daily Short sun exposure at midday without the use of sunscreens might be optimal for health. So that’s from the paper. Sun Exposure, hazards and Benefits by PG Linis at all. And again, that’s 2022, so it seems like. There’s this movement in the scientific community to acknowledge how important sun exposure and vitamin D from the sun is.

So they’re being very cautious about it. It might be optimal for health, and I also. Feel like I need to remind folks. Another thi, another uh, study that I cited in my book was one that basically stated that scientific information can take 17 years to trickle into clinical practice. So this paper might say daily short sun exposure without the use of sunscreens might be optimal for health.

But your dermatologist might not be saying that for 17 years. So bear that in mind now. I think that’s about as good of an approval as we’re gonna get for unprotected sun exposure right now. But it’s worth pointing out. And there’s another 2021 paper that also confirmed this concept of safe sun exposure even further.

And here’s a quote from that. Ultraviolet radiation, in addition to its role in the synthesis of Vitamin D, stimulates anti-inflammatory pathways, alters the composition of dendritic cells, T-cells, and T regulatory cells, and induces nitric oxide, syntase and heme oxygenase. He. Oxygenase metabolic pathways which may directly or indirectly mitigate disease progression and susceptibility.

Recent work has also explored how the immune modulating functions of ultraviolet radiation affect type two diabetes cancer, and the current global pandemic caused by SARS COV two. These diseases are particularly important amidst global changes in lifestyle that result in unhealthy eating. Increased sedentary habits and alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Compelling epidemiological data shows increased ultraviolet radiation associated with reduced rates of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and ultraviolet radiation exposure correlated with susceptibility and mortality rates of covid 19. So that’s from vitamin D, independent benefits of safe sunlight exposure by Arum and Razak.

So these are all recent papers that actually talk about sun exposure and not just vitamin D levels or vitamin D intake as a proxy for whatever benefits we could get from the sun there. Actually talking about sun exposure. So it’s pretty phenomenal. So you can monitor vitamin D levels to ensure you’re in a good place.

And then in my opinion, for protection clothing is number one. And I think that’s the biggest shift that I would be making in my approach is to emphasize protective clothing a lot more. And like I said, driving gloves. Maybe Parasols, I don’t know. We brought back fanny packs, so maybe we can bring back parasols too, but also clothing, rash guards, et cetera, have none of the potential personal or environmental downsides or question marks of sunscreen, and it works perfectly.

So this is what I would recommend for kids, a little son. Then cover up. And if you can’t do clothing or shade, then non nano zinc, sunscreen, sunscreen, like badger bomb, applied and reapplied properly. That’s the key. Applied and reapplied properly. But again, if kids are getting into the water, I don’t think there should be any concern of a, of a rash guard.

Make making them too hot. Like just, just get in the water, you know? And also just don’t delude yourself into thinking you can outsmart the sun. You just can’t. And maybe. Year round, protecting your hands in the car physically rather than with sync to mitigate the possible absorption and the release of these chemicals into the environment.

If you don’t wanna wear driving gloves, maybe just those like athletic shirts that you can pull over the backs of your hands with the hole. For the thumb, I don’t know. I am already not great about daily sunscreen, but I will be doing my best to seek sunscreen alternatives in the form of clothing, hats, shades, stuff like that, to mitigate the use of these products that do seem safe, that should be used if alternatives can’t be found.

But that also might absorb, especially with frequent use and. Whose consequences on the environment just aren’t fully understood yet? And this is just my interpretation of the research, so you might take it a different direction and that’s fine. So something else I’ve also, I don’t wanna say recommended, but maybe like loosely suggested for some people UVB tanning beds in the past.

Not on a broad basis again, but in certain situations, and I’m not sure I’d say so anymore unless it was in a really dire situation and you needed vitamin D and you don’t respond to supplements. And in the last podcast we actually talked about applying vitamin D supplements to your skin, which is worth trying if you feel like you can’t tolerate supplements.

It’s more the concentrated dose of radiation that now stands out to me as unnatural and maybe concerning. But I do wanna point out that one of these papers actually said that, and this is a quote, Sunscreens with an extreme U V B protection factor imbalance that can tran, or excuse me, sunscreens with an extreme UVB protection factor Imbalance can transmit up to 10 times more UVA than UVB to the skin, which is an asymmetric UVA exposure similar to a tanning bed.

So, Less acute and less intense, but likely posing similar risks and even potentially greater exposure to uva. And that would be like a conventional tanning bed that most places market as like filtering out the burning rays. Um, and there are, there are tanning beds and they’re usually the cheaper ones that, that just do the uvb.

So you would only go in there for like two minutes? Right. Okay. So that to me is a little bit mind boggling. But that’s really, those are the adjustments that I, that I intend to make. I think I’ll focus a lot more on protective clothing and shade, because even in all of these papers that discuss, uh, the spectral.

The balanced spectral effect. They’re also saying that we’re actually trying to replicate the protection provided by clothing and shade. So that to me just suggests that that is the absolute optimal thing. And that goes back to common sense and ancestral wisdom. We didn’t used to have sunscreen. So what did people do?

They got shade. They found shelter from the sun at the hottest part of the day. They protected themselves in ways other than slathering something on their skin. So, All of that seems to make sense to me. So while I still believe wholeheartedly that the claims around any dangers from zinc and even nano zinc are probably overblown, and if that’s a big concern of yours, then definitely clothing is the way to go.

And I should mention that I believe this, this post that accounted for what I talked about at the beginning of this podcast with reference to the sunglasses and the, the. Uh, absorption of sync oxide. I’m pretty sure the conclusion of that post was actually to wear protective clothing, so we all kind of ended up at the same place regardless of the route we took.

Right? So in general, clothing being the most important approach, especially for kids. And then using a really thick, non nano zinc oxide if you can’t seek out shade or, or use clothing. And of course, ditching most of the conventional products with all the other chemicals in them because really it just seems like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, 

All right, it’s me . Current day, Liz again. Next up, I’m going to answer a question about European sunscreen and I’ll follow that up with a message from a listener that really helps unpack in more detail, the benefits of European sunscreen, and also adds nuance in a way I have not to this point about skin types. 

I love when listeners lay all of your wisdom and knowledge on me. So I’m excited to share this as well. 

Liz Wolfe: Hi Liz. I’m a longtime listener and follower. Thanks for all your work. Quick question. My husband is traveling to Europe, Germany for work soon, and I’m going to have him load up on some sunscreen.

Liz Wolfe: Do you have a favorite brand from Europe that he should look for? Any other must buy? Any other must buy European products that we can’t get here. Thank you. So this will be quick. I can confirm for you that the Anthelios invisible fluid facial sunscreen is really, really good.

Liz Wolfe: And again, like I said before, when and where I use it, I’m still a zinc girl. But when and where I use this particular European sunscreen is like when. When I cannot better control my exposure. So the European sunscreens are good because they actually use uv. Technology that is not available or approved in the United States.

Liz Wolfe: The Anthelios Invisible Fluid facial sunscreen uses uv, mun UV, M U N E, and I’ve had some really interesting exchanges with someone on Instagram who prefers to remain anonymous, but who has been just a wealth of conversation, ideas, and information that I’m really excited to fold into my future podcast on.

Liz Wolfe: That addresses sunscreen a little bit more, including the European ones and, but this is the only one that I’ve actually tried. But in Europe, a lot of these filters that have been developed that are in use are not allowed in the United States. And that is flat out because the United States basically is super hostile to UV filter innovation, and that’s why we see a billion different forms of zinc.

Liz Wolfe: That’s why every. Brand, even copper tone in the United States now has all these zinc options. That’s why people are trying to work with nano zinc, all of that. It’s because we just don’t have the innovation here that we have elsewhere. So these sunscreen filters are not even allowed to be sold in the United States.

Liz Wolfe: They can’t be on store shelves. So I’ve had a couple of folks reach out to me that are like, oh no, the Tthe is available in the United States. I’ve used it. It’s not, it’s the same packaging. It’s different UV filters, unfortunately. You’re probably able to order it in. Via a couple of places. It can’t be sold in the United States, but you can probably have it shipped in through a couple of different sources, 

Liz Wolfe: but as it is, my husband travels to Europe with fairly, you know, fairly frequently. And so this last time he brought back like four or five of these for me. So, I do not use them frequently. My, my zinc is still my staple. The, uh, beauty counter sun stick is probably the zinc that I use the most. I actually wrote about how zinc formulations are actually best used as sticks because the ingredients don’t separate.

Liz Wolfe: The zinc doesn’t sort of filter out, and you’re not just putting on a bunch of like oil that has a little bit of zinc in it. So I use that stick, but the. The facial sunscreen is something I would use, for example, and I would probably use it on my shoulders too if I was out golfing, for example. So the other day I golfed 18 holes and the zinc stuff, it just functionally, it just doesn’t work as well.

Liz Wolfe: Not only because you sweat it off pretty quick, but also because you’re with a bunch of other adults, you’re really hot and. Reapplying zinc’s, you know, dabbing yourself off and reapplying, you know, super thick white zinc sunscreen every hour for the five hours that you’re out playing golf. And yes, it takes me five hours to play 18 holes is just not convenient.

Liz Wolfe: It’s not feasible, it’s just not great. So, And it’s also really not safe to put on long, in my opinion, to put on long sleeves to try and protect yourself from the sun when it’s 97 degrees or like a hundred plus heat index when you’re getting into the water and cooling yourself off frequently and wearing a rash guard.

Liz Wolfe: I think that’s great. But in a scenario like that, sometimes I feel like these more innovative, more effective UV filters are. You know, a good thing to have on hand. So for that, I used the Anthelios facial sunscreen with UV mute and I felt really good about that. And I didn’t burn, even though I was out in 107 degree heat index for like five hours.

Liz Wolfe: Not the heat index is what makes you burn, but you get what I’m saying. So again, still a zinc girl, but I think this stuff is really useful and. As far as the science goes, it’s got a decent track record. We don’t have a ton of super long-term data because these are innovations, more recent innovations, but I feel really good about integrating this particular one into my routine here and there.

now here’s that message I’ve been talking about that I received from a really awesome listener who wishes to remain anonymous, which I completely understand, but it’s such a helpful note that I wanted to share with you all in part to also highlight that despite how much I do know there is still a ton of additional nuance to this topic. 

So here it is. I’m sure you’re getting many messages horrified. You would suggest a non mineral sunscreen, but they’re awesome. And I thank you for posting about them. Zinc and titanium dioxide can be toxic to coral if the dose is right, but the ocean is huge and reef safe. Sunscreen is not just a distraction from the real reef culprits here, oil companies and energy intensive corporations causing ocean warming. 

But also actively harming people who need better cancer and aesthetic protection by steering them away from more effective formulas. The UV Mune, which is the type of UV UV protection, by the way, this is Lizzie. It’s the type of UV protection that is used in the Leo’s sunscreen, the European sunscreen that I recommend. 

Is truly a breakthrough. I use it and love it. The cream version is really fantastic. And P 20 for kids is my holy grail body sunscreen. My poor fair skin is Bulletproof under that. If someone has ever tried a European chemical formula, they don’t know the heaven. That is how fast it absorbs, how it sits so nicely on the skin and how long lasting they can be compared to American formulas. 

Yes, clothing makes the most sense in terms of efficacy and cost. For sure. Sunscreen and photo dermatology or my current hyper-focus research topic. So I hope I’m not too long winded, but I do love to discuss it. So forgive me. 

I did listen to your podcast. And I thought it was really well nuanced, and I very much appreciated the lack of sunscreen fear-mongering and the attention you paid to being educated. And well-sourced. I was really disappointed in the recent Huberman lab podcast, who I otherwise love with Rhonda Patrick, where he threw out a vague thing about chemical sunscreens crossing the blood brain barrier. And that’s based on a really flawed study. I can go into details if you’re interested. 

For longterm safety. It’s definitely true. There are lots of things humans used for a long time before they were proven harmful. I won’t pretend there’s a way to know that even with current safety testing, that it will hold up over time. What I personally go by is what do we know for sure right now, for me with light skin living in California and a high risk of family skin cancer. I know that sun exposure will for sure increase my risk. 

We know today’s sunscreens, reduce skin cancer risk. I personally choose to use the chemicals knowing they definitely prevent cancer, but maybe with a risk of other issues down the line, but I’m preventing my risk. And now with a known risk reducer, rather than get more exposure for a theoretical risk later. 

Clothes are the most shore fire option. Definitely. And I use them as much as they can. I live in Los Angeles. Sometimes it’s just too hot for even light UV clothing. And my fits two skin type was not meant to live here. So I try for that, but definitely rely on sunscreen too. And something that’s really fascinating to note is that for Fitz types, one and two, a base tan is only a sign of skin damage and does not offer any protection against further damage. 

Even if time to sunburn decreases the reason being types three and above when the skin makes new melanin, it will be deposited in a cap over the nucleus to protect the DNA. How cool is that right? When types one and two, make new melanin. It is dispersed throughout and does not protect the DNA in a cap. 

So even if we don’t sunburn, we are getting the same DNA damage as if we had no tan. So even if we don’t sunburn, we are getting the same DNA damage as if we had no tan. I’m not saying this means light skin. People should avoid the sun 100%. I don’t do that, but I’m just very mindful that vitamin D and endorphins, et cetera, take only a couple minutes of sun exposure. And if I’m getting progressively more tan, I’m getting too much cumulative damage. 

And I don’t think I’ve heard you advocate for tanning. Was his note. Unfortunately I have in the past, talked about tanning beds and which ones are likely more safe. So pardon me for that one? I won’t recount that information here because I’m not so much still on that same train. Back to the letter. This isn’t a criticism of anything you’ve said back to Liz. Again, you all are welcome to criticize anything. I ever say, by the way, do it nicely. Help me take it better. But I always like to hear people’s opinions. 

All right back to the letter. But I know a lot of light-skinned people in paleo then courage, tanning, and live in low latitude locales. And I think it’s deceptive to assume everyone’s risk is the same and tell people there are only benefits to sun exposure and to just slowly build a base tan and don’t use sunscreen at all. 

So for the spectral homeostasis, many chemical Euro sunscreens really solve this issue in my opinion, and even American chemical sunscreens. Aren’t the worst option. To be honest, if that’s all someone has access to. Older sunscreens didn’t have UVA protection as I think you mentioned. So we really were blasting ourselves with UVA without the natural. Hey, we got enough here from UVB burning. 

Most popular Euro sunscreens typically have excellent UVA protection up to 380 nanometers. And this adequately covers the wavelengths that are most critical for cancer prevention. The UV immune is so revolutionary because it covers 3,380 to 400 with a high absorbency. There’s no other sunscreen available that has such a high absorbency in that range. 

Sunscreens with TinyMCE orb. Em, and dinosaur S light. Aqua cover 380 to 400, but not with this high absorbency. The three 80 to 400 range is mostly important for some skin conditions and people prone to melasma or hyperpigmentation. But it’s not as important for cancer. Incidentally, this is why it’s so important to have chemical filters in this range, darker skin types. Can’t use mineral as easily. Sheer zinc has poor UVA coverage and darker skin is the most likely to experience hyperpigmentation versus cancer. 

There’s a lot of debate about whether people with dark skin need to wear sunscreen, but it’s certainly the case that it is helpful for skin conditions. Aesthetics and pigmentation issues. If someone’s skin cancer, risk is low. Going back to American sunscreens to be able to be labeled broad spectrum. They have to have proved that they cover through to 370 nanometers. So that’s a good deal of the cancer spectrum. 

Where American sunscreens fail is wearability and user experience avobenzone gets a bad rap because of stability issues. And I staying. And while formulations have come a long way to fix those things, even aside from stability, its nature does make the formulation less elegant. Overall doesn’t absorb as easily stays more sticky, et cetera. 

But to be fair. It’s UVA protection. Absorbency curve is really good, which is why so many Euro formulas still use it. My issue with many mineral sunscreens. Is that in order to produce white cast? Understandably so they’re using smaller particle mineral sizes. Smaller particles are excellent at UVB, but not great for UVA. 

Most mineral sunscreens that say they cover the whole UVA spectrum are not being entirely truthful. Absorbency curves matter. A lot of sunscreen use BAS S. XE coat zinc, which has a mix of micro fine particles of varying sizes to ensure broad spectrum protection. But there’s a steep drop-off at three 80. 

Which as discussed above may or may not be a huge concern based on the person. However, a lot of zinc sunscreens, don’t say what zinc formulation they source from. So there’s potential for invisible zincs to have poor UVA protection, but excellent UVB protection, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid. 

So myself personally, I tend to only use a zinc sunscreen if I know for sure it uses Z coat, or if the white cast is really strong and visible on my pale skin. And that’s the end of the note now in case that freaked anybody out, I think the take home. Is really number one. If you’re using a zinc formulation, look for Z coat. If it’s all way too confusing for you. 

Endeavor to use shade and tightly woven clothing, if possible, or look for some of these European sunscreens, especially for on your face. And if you’re a Fitz one or two type. Really pay attention to the fact that your skin and your natural melanin processes offer you less protection with then those types three and above so for you it would be avoidance of long sun exposures Clothing and smart sun exposure in the first place Hopefully that’s helpful and i love of love that this person laid some of this wisdom on me Mo many of these things we totally dovetail on there’s a couple of things that might end up getting a little bit too in the weeds for some people to feel like They have some agency in the process so overall just remember those few things that i pointed out how great the european sunscreens are if you can get access to them and are great Tightly woven clothing and also i’m going to put in a little part here about food and sun protection for those who are still wondering because that always does come up and then we will wrap up the episode I promise

Liz Wolfe: Let’s move on to our q and A for today. Question one for me is I would love to hear any research or thoughts behind food or diet serving as a sort of sunscreen or protection against the damage of UVA rays. This was a great question, and I think a lot of us in the holistic health community have probably heard that, like coconut oil and astatin, which I’ll talk about in a minute, can be protective, and this is true to a point, but.

Liz Wolfe: There are also other compounds in food that might increase your resistance to burning and damage. So I’ll give a little rundown of what we do know. And this was all with the help of my researcher, Amanda Torres. She pulled a ton of papers and some information from me, and I kind of pulled from them the basics from what I gathered, this has been studied and it is a thing, but how it unfolds in real life is gonna be highly individual.

Liz Wolfe: Real life is not a lab and exposures, skin types, durations, sensitivity, cloud cover, there are tons of things that can’t be controlled for in a lab. So unless you really know yourself and your skin, this is not something I would rely on solely for sun protection. But it is really interesting nonetheless.

Liz Wolfe: So research appears to still be early. It’s ongoing, but some studies do suggest that certain compounds in foods and beverages might help boost the skin’s defenses against UV rays. So in particular, this would be, first of all, carotinoids. Lycopene from red, yellow, and orange, fruits and vegetables. And interestingly, another point for dietary fat, olive oil seems to increase the bioavailability of lycopene.

Liz Wolfe: So lutin and xanthin also seem to have similar effects, and most people have heard of those. I think those are probably fairly well known in the mainstream. In particular, lycopene. Now Astatin is another one that I mentioned a moment ago. It’s the red pigment in salmon, lobster, and shrimp. And reviews of scientific papers have found that taking three to six milligrams of astatin supplements per day for four to 16 weeks, that’s a big window, did help protect skin against UV damage.

Liz Wolfe: And here’s something that’s. Kind of interesting about this, and when I talk about green tea in a minute, it’s gonna be a little bit a a different situation. But it’s actually number one, taking an actual supplement versus what I’m gonna talk about with green tea, where separating what was considered to be the act of compound from the overall food actually ended up.

Liz Wolfe: Canceling the effect, but taking three to six milligrams of astatin, like in a supplement separate from the actual food it comes in, actually does seem to have benefits when you’re talking about protecting against UV damage. And the thing that I found that was interesting is that it’s actually pretty easy to do.

Liz Wolfe: The As Xanthin supplement from Vital Choice, for example, contains four milligrams per soft gel. So it’s not like you’re gonna have to be taking, you know, Quadrillions of soft gels to have any kind of impact. It’s really like one, maybe two soft gels that would have the intended effect. Now again, that time window, four to 16 weeks is kind of broad, but for a long time I actually did keep astatin supplements on hand to, for this very reason.

Liz Wolfe: Um, I still probably have quite a few of them in my, does anyone else end up having a supplement refrigerator? Like a secondary refrigerator that ends up completely filled up with tinctures and supplements? Cuz I’m guilty of that, but I, it’s not something I’ve tried for quite some time. And, you know, my location, my exposures, I live at a lake now.

Liz Wolfe: All of that has changed pretty dramatically. So I don’t know that I could apply any of my previous experiences to my current lifestyle, but still very interesting. Studies also looked at the effect of astatin on superficial type signs of aging like sunspots and wrinkles. And the effects were positive too.

Liz Wolfe: So I don’t know what the potential detriment to like long-term use of something like astatin would be in general. Those kind of really specific. Um, isolated type supplements. I tend to just, my instinct just tends to be short-term only, like not something that you do every day forever. That seems to be kind of a recipe for throwing something else off.

Liz Wolfe: I have no science to support this with reference to astatin, although it could certainly happen with nutrients like vitamin A or vitamin D when they’re taken exclusively outside of that matrix of other nutrients that they generally come with in food or for example, away from the other nutrients just in daily life that they would, that they would be interacting with in the body.

Liz Wolfe: I don’t know what the status of that on Astatin is, but I think it’s probably worth thinking about. And probably if you’re doing the astatin thing, maybe just doing that in the lead in to summer, um, maybe for a couple of months, something like that. That’s probably how I would handle it. And then tapering off again.

Liz Wolfe: So there’s also vitamin C and vitamin E, both antioxidants, although I will say I think it can be difficult to source really good vitamin E supplements, and that’s something I need to do more research on. So some studies also seem to indicate that supplementing with omega three s might help protect the skin from sun damage.

Liz Wolfe: But here’s what I’ll say about that. I can’t help but wonder whether some of these nutritional measures. When they’re studied, if they’re actually looking at a scenario where it’s not the compounds themselves that are magical, but the fact that eating them maybe corrects an imbalance, eating them or taking them, corrects an imbalance caused by our modern lives.

Liz Wolfe: So, Maybe we’re supposed to be eating lots of potent antioxidants and thereby getting protection from UV damage just by virtue of a more ideal diet. Maybe that’s something that just kind of happened by virtue of, you know, living your life, the daily course of your life at some point in history. But in modern life, it’s just tough to do that.

Liz Wolfe: We don’t get as many nutrients from food as maybe our bodies really need. So maybe it’s bringing us back to baseline that’s really doing the job. Like maybe we’re supposed to have a certain level of resistance from sun damage that we just don’t have because of modern lives. And now we’re looking at all these substances that are not miracle substances, but maybe just bringing us back to some kind of baseline that we needed to be at in the first place.

Liz Wolfe: So I said I would talk about green tea. And let me do that quickly. There are some polyphenols and they’re found in green tea, dark chocolate, potentially coffee. Although decaf doesn’t have the same associations, which is interesting, these compounds might also help, but. What some of the literature actually says about it is like the participants drank.

Liz Wolfe: This is gonna be a quote, a liter of green tea containing 1,402 milligrams of green tea, Cains daily for 12 weeks, and found it had skin protective benefits after six weeks, participants who drank the tea could be exposed to UV light longer before experiencing skin. Reddening after 12 weeks, the benefits were even greater and included better skin elasticity and structure, reduced water loss from the skin, increased blood flow in the skin, and higher serum flavonoid concentration.

Liz Wolfe: However, a separate study in which participants took capsules of 1080 milligrams of green tea Cains per day for 12 weeks found no benefit. So end of the quote, what’s notable here is, One, separating what is thought to be the active compounds from the traditional preparation. So taking a capsule versus drinking the tea, it didn’t have the same effect.

Liz Wolfe: Now this could be for a lot of reasons, whether, whether it’s like the added hydration from the liter of liquid or something else. And second of all, a leader of green tea every day for 12 weeks is a lot. It’s just a lot. And I don’t know if it’s realistic or not. I’d say for me probably not, but worth it.

Liz Wolfe: Maybe for some people. I do know that drinking, like really concentrated, like home brewed green tea can be really helpful for acne and for. I think it’s effect on sebum production. So for some people, especially people that are kind of trying to do more than one thing with their resources, maybe that would be helpful or interesting.

Liz Wolfe: Maybe you just . Make some cold, you know, ice green tea overnight or something like that and drink your liter of it every day, but a full liter of green tea every day for 12 weeks. I doubt I could manage that, and I think that’s probably one of the issues with a lot of these that you actually need probably more than would be realistic, you know, just in the natural course of things, you’d have to probably really plan and be really vigilant about it.

Liz Wolfe: And that just brings me back to the fact that it’s just a bummer that our food is so nutrient poor. Even the really good stuff grown in soils that are a little more depleted. It’s just a bummer that we have to, you know, experience this sort of decline in our food quality and our desire to. Make, you know, grow, harvest, and even just flat out make really good nutrient dense foods.

Liz Wolfe: I think that’s, you know, a real indictment of our modern lives. It’s hard to even find time or the willingness to do that stuff, and I think it probably affects us in a lot of ways besides just potential vulnerability 

All right, folks. I think that’s about max capacity for one day, about sun and sunscreen and the dumb regulatory issues in this country and everything else. Don’t you think? I hope it was helpful and I hope everyone has a burn free vitamin D rich summer. That’s it for today, but don’t sign off yet. I need you to hear the end stuff. 

 

Thanks for listening to the new Balanced Bites Podcast! Before you shut down your podcast app, PLEASE take a moment to subscribe and leave a review! It’s a small thing you can do that I appreciate more than you can imagine! And speaking of what we can do for each other, if YOU have a question you’d like to have tackled on this podcast or an interview you’d like to hear, submit the details at balancedwithliz.com. Let’s keep unpacking, unraveling, contextualizing and nuance-ing the important questions together so we can be empowered, informed, active participants in our own health and happiness.

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