Sunburn sucks. Some of us are genetically blessed that we don’t burn easily or at all, but for most of the unsaturated-fat-eating and vitamin-D-deficient population of the world it’s fairly easy to burn.
Wait, what? How does unsaturated fats and vitamin D have anything to do with sunburn?
Let’s look at the body on a cellular level…
A cell prefers saturated fat and the accompanying cholesterol to build its walls. Why? Because saturated fats are impermeable (cell can regulate what comes in and out), are stable (will not spoil or collapse at high temperatures such as 98.6 F body temp), and are very sturdy (saturated fats are strong like bull to maintain cell structure).
Not only do saturated fats yield all of these beneficial aspects, but they also absorb (and often provide) vitamin D efficiently. Vitamin D reacts in the skin when it is exposed to light – it is often synthesized from the cholesterol naturally found within the cells (aka saturated fat).
So, where do unsaturated fats fit into the picture?
Unsaturated fats are very unstable at high temperatures and can burn (turn rancid) very easily… get where I’m going here?
The more unsaturated fats than saturated fats in the diet, the more likely a person is to experience sun burn. It’s not a crazy concept considering most of our foods are jam-packed and prepared with crisco, canola oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil. Olive oil is up there, too, although it is slightly more stable as it is a monounsaturated fat. In a high unsaturated fat diet (more-so the very unstable polyunsaturated fats), a cell has little choice but to build its cell walls with unstable fat molecules (it can use naturally-made cholesterol but it’s not an efficient process when the synthesis is encouraged by a wrong or low fat diet). These unsaturated molecules create a permeable environment AND they can burn easily when exposed to ultra-violet light and/or high temperatures.
When you experience sunburn you are literally cooking your unsaturated-made skin cell walls, oxidizing the fats, and turning them rancid… hence the burning/reddening effect. This also creates a vitamin D deficiency because there isn’t a proper platform for the body to synthesize vitamin D nor absorb it from the sun.
As for sunscreen… take a look at the Banana Boat’s and the Coppertone’s out there and try to read the ingredient list. Whatever you put on your skin you are absorbing right into the blood stream for the liver to detoxify and eliminate through the skin (sweat), breath, or digestive system. This isn’t a good idea… at all… especially for those sun screens that stay put for hours and clog the very pours that are trying to release the crap that’s constantly being absorbed (consumed) by the skin. Put it this way, would you drink the same stuff that you put on your skin or hair?
Going further with sun screen nazi-ism: A lot of people think they get tired from just sitting in the sun all day, but they fail to realize that they’re also making their body work over time to fight the good fight against the oxidized fats and constant toxin (re)absorption while they’re “relaxing” (that is if they have a diet high in unsaturated fats and use commercial topical applications). This can also create a hypoglycemic state because the body is stressed, and when it’s stressed it rapidly consumes sugar and releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in an attempt to keep the lights on. I know that may sound extreme to some, but it can easily hold water.
There are a few ways you can approach the situation…
- Add more saturated fats into the diet such as coconut oil and butter
- Decrease or eliminate intake of unsaturated fatty acids such as vegetable, nut, and seed oils
- Add saturated fats to an unsaturated fat-based meal to slow down the natural oxidation of the unsaturated fats from the body’s high temperature (i.e. coconut oil, butter, animal meat, whole dairy)
- Apply coconut oil topically as a sun screen (this will need to be reapplied every hour or so). This is my go-to.
- Find yourself a better sun screen alternative than the commercial crap out there
- Limit your time wearing sunglasses – the eyes absorb vitamin D very efficiently and sunglasses block that natural opportunity
- Stay hydrated with sugar, salt, and/or carbonated-based drinks throughout the day to combat a hormonal stress release (Soda can go a long way on a hot day).
The sun isn’t the problem - you are the problem. We are organisms designed to live under the very thing that helped create us.