Ever since we were little, our parents drilled it into our minds that the giant yellow ball in the sky that is the sun was our enemy. “Don’t go outside without putting sunscreen on!”. “Don’t be out there for too long!”. “15 minutes max Sadie and you’re back in here!”. These are all phrases that we’ve most likely heard in our youth, and they’re all ones that have bad underlying connotations about the sun.

But the truth is that we humans need the sunlight to live a long and healthy life. Vitamin D is a unique vitamin that most people don’t get enough of, and is very important to help the human body function properly. And vitamin D comes right from-you guessed it-the sun.

But a 2011 study showed that more than 40% of American adults have a vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to weak bones, fatigue and tiredness, depression and getting sick or infected often.

While we have always been told that sunscreen is the answer to our sunburn problems, the sun lotion might in fact be the problem here, with it doing more harm then good. When you look at the ingredient label on a sunscreen bottle it resembles that of a processed food’s one, in where you can hardly even pronounce the words. One has to wonder if these chemicals we are putting onto our skin and is seeping into our bodies actually good for us.

The main ingredients in most sunscreens are:

-Oxybenzone
-Retinyl Palmitate
-Parabens

What is oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone absorbs both UVA and UVB rays and protects the skin from sun damage. It’s sometimes called benzophenone-3.
Is it safe?
A small number of research studies have shown that oxybenzone can cause minor changes to cells in a petri dish – but there is currently no evidence linking it to cancer. The research on oxybenzone is limited, but no animal or human studies suggest that it might cause cancer.
What is retinyl palmitate?
It’s a form of vitamin A. It’s added to some sunscreens because it is a skin conditioner.
Is it safe?
A small number of studies have shown that retinyl palmitate can cause minor changes to cells when they are treated with UVA radiation – but there is currently no evidence that these changes are cancerous.
What are parabens?
These are preservatives used in many cosmetic products, including some sunscreens.
Are they safe?
A few studies have suggested that parabens act like estrogen in the body, which can speed up the growth of breast cancer tumours. We need more research to understand this association better.

A 2014 Swedish study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine followed almost 30,000 women for 20 years. Researchers concluded that women who avoid the sun are at an increased risk for skin melanomas and are twice as likely to die from any type of cancer compared to those with high sun exposure.

The following map shows the countries with the most cases of skin cancer worldwide in both sexes, and what is surprising to see is that all of the top countries are those in the northern parts of the world with the least sun. In fact, the country with the least sun exposure in the world, Norway, is ranked at third in the world for most skin cancer cases. If the sun really was the main cause of skin cancer, wouldn’t it make sense to have countries from the Middle East and Africa at the top of the list, countries that have the most sunlight in the world? See for yourself below:

Dr. Steven Lin says that 20-30 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen is recommended daily, three times a week if you have fairer skin. “It’s important to not completely fear the sun and ensure you get enough of it for your body to produce sufficient vitamin D. Most people are not getting enough vitamin D in their lives.”

So next time you think about slathering on the first sunscreen you find in your house, think twice about it and read the labels first, and get some much needed vitamin D.