Does Sunscreen Have a Dark Side?

Conventional wisdom suggests that the only way to enjoy direct sunlight is to use sunscreen. The National Institute of Health openly considers sunlight a risk factor for skin cancer [1].

But what if not getting enough sun is worse?

There is a compelling argument that even though sunscreen can be a preventative to skin cancer by protecting our skin from sunlight and UV rays, not getting enough of these rays may cause worse health outcomes.

A 2014 study [2] in the Journal of Internal Medicine examined 20 years of data from 30,000 Swedish women. The comprehensive study showed that the risk of death from all causes doubled among women who avoided the sun. Even after controlling for all the variables like smoking, income, and body mass index, sunlight was a key influencer of mortality.

One explanation might be heart disease. In the United States [3] and Europe, data shows that heart-disease deaths peak in winter and are much less during summer. Dr Richard Weller, a dermatologist in Scotland, believes sunlight triggers the release of nitric oxide in the blood (we created a nitric oxide booster called Purpose), which may help reduce blood pressure.

Given that skin cancers will kill approximately 11,000 people in the United States this year versus 650,000 who die from cardiovascular risk, it may be more valuable to focus on getting sun to avoid heart disease rather than worrying so much about skin cancer.

Besides nitric oxide, we know sunlight is required for vitamin D production, which is vital for brain and physical health. We also know that vitamin D supplementation doesn’t really have positive health incomes [4] according to a trial of 25,000 Americans.

Although daily use of sunscreen helps protect your skin with from overexposure of UV rays, it would seem that getting sunlight is more valuable for our health than blocking it. Our recommendation? Use a high enough SPF to prevent excessive damage to your skin and pair Purpose with an outside morning walk to start your day.