How to Keep from Burning in the Sun

The Hype

Ten years ago we were sold on the idea that the sun was bad for you.  “It causes cancer,” the headlines screamed.  “Do not expose your skin to it’s harmful rays!”  When questioned why that would be when people had always exposed their skin to the sun and only in recent times had cancer been an issue, the reply was that the ozone had depleted and the sun is no longer safe.  We must now wear sunscreen to protect ourselves and especially our children.

I might have believed the hype if I did not experience something oddly contradictory to what I was reading.  After high school I worked in a tanning salon where I developed a dark tan slowly, without burning, for the first time in my life.  (I rarely burned, but never tanned dark prior.)  And, miraculously, I stopped being affected by viruses, flus, and colds.  I stopped needing sick days and developed an immunity I had never had before.  I didn’t know why at the time, but I was certain sun was not the enemy it was made out to be.

Importance of Vitamin D

Current research shows us that vitamin D, created in the body only after sun exposure on the skin, is essential to good health.  It is involved in the synthesis of calcium and is an essential factor in immunity to disease.  It’s been shown to prevent and reverse cancer.  It drastically reduces deaths by certain types of cancer, when a high enough daily dose is maintained.  And, the lack of vitamin D due to the lack of sun exposure has been attributed to increased rates of cancer and osteoporosis.

Vitamin D can not be made in the body when sunscreen creates a barrier to the sun’s rays penetrating the skin.  And, unless you supplement with vitamin D3, you likely do not consume enough in your diet. Testing has demonstrated that almost all Canadians are deficient, and dark skinned (ethnic) Canadians are far more deficient because dark skin requires more sunlight to make the same amount of vitamin D.

The RDA still remains woefully inadequate if analyzed beside studies that show protective and disease fighting benefit occurs at much higher levels.  Serum levels are up around 45 ng/ml (114 nmol/L) for disease prevention and proper body functioning.  Testing can be done by your doctor.  Research suggests that 5,000 to 10,000IU per day may be needed in several disease states for reaching and maintaining this level.  A qualified Orthomolecular Practitioner can advise you regarding what dose is optimal for you.  Vitamin D should be taken with fats, as it is a lipid soluble substance. It should also be consumed as part of a holistic protocol that provides the other vitamins that work synergistically with vitamin D in the body.  Prominent Vitamin D Researcher, Reinhold Vieth verifies that reports of toxicity around 10,000 IU are not substantiated by research.

…the weight of evidence shows that the currently accepted, no observed adverse effect limit of 2000 IU/d is too low by at least 5-fold.” – Reinhold Vieth Ph.D., Professor
Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, ON

But if you get it from the sun…

So if you can’t use sunscreen, how do you keep from burning?

There are two ways to keep the skin from burning while still enjoying sun exposure for optimal health, and they do not involve slathering toxic chemical substances on your skin!  The first is sun exposure.

Say what?

That’s right, sun exposure.  Darker skin protects itself from the sun.  It is the skin’s natural protective mechanism that darkens the skin in the first place!  The way to do this safely is to use a tanning salon to slowly build a base tan or to expose your skin to the sun a little at a time, say 15 -35 minutes a day until you brown up, with no lotions or oils.  The effect is skin that has created a barrier to protect itself from the sun.  Note that exposure near or in water should be limited until you have that tan, since it will increase the likelihood of a burn.

If you need protection because of prolonged exposure on a day when you have not developed your protective tan yet, use a light, broad brimmed hat and breathable clothing that covers your skin, or use zinc.  It is a safe alternative that can be used to protect the skin from the sun.

For those of you jumping up and down at this point, screaming,”But my skin won’t tan!”  (little sister, you know this is for you!), keep your pants on.  At least until you read what I share with you next.  Then you can trade them for shorts or bathing suits, as bare as you dare!

Red Necks

Skin that is deficient in the B vitamins, primarily vitamin B3 or niacin, will not tan properly.  The term redneck came from early American settlers who were niacin deficient (causing bright red necks from sunburn) from improper processing of corn and improper diets.  The sunburned skin was one of the signs of their deficiency.  Pellagra, the name of the disease, is characterized by the three D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia.  Today we don’t see pellagra often.

Or do we?

How many people do you know with digestive problems, skin that won’t tan (often with rashes or dark patches and often rough), and signs of mental illness – mood swings, depression, and full blown psychosis at times.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I think that sums up half of the drivers I meet on the roads in our fine city!  And mental illness is seriously on the rise.

History of Niacin for Mental Health Issues

The late Dr. Abram Hoffer, of Saskatchewan, told me he hypothesized that the schizophrenias are a low grade type of Pellagra, and treated it with high doses of niacin and vitamin C.  He noted that the patients then resumed normal lives without remission, as long as they continued their supplements.  He persuaded the food industry to recognize the glaring deficiency of the B vitamins in our processed foods and persuaded them to add some of it back in.  That is why your bread and cereal have the B vitamins added in.

My son was one of Dr. Hoffer’s patients.  And the therapy has rescued him from the sentence of a life in mental institutions.  He is now a high functioning, healthy boy.  He’s lucid, grounded in reality, non-delusional and non-violent.  For eight years now – since starting his niacin protocol and holistic diet.

I also noticed that my son tans again, after years where he could not.  It was odd.  I remember thinking he was so brown skinned in the summer when he was young, but over time he became pasty white and burned with little sun exposure!  My sister is quite the same, so I chalked it up to genetics.  However, after 3 years on the niacin protocol, my son now tans like he has dark skinned ancestry again!  And this is despite not having regular or frequent sun exposure! When he is exposed, he no longer burns.

This is because a niacin deficiency reduces the body’s ability to create the protective barrier of a tan.  When niacin levels are back up, the body can protect itself as it was meant to again.  And it is then safe to use the sun to power vitamin D synthesis in your body.

The bottom line: if you only burn and can’t tan you may want to supplement with niacin or niacinamide (non-flushing).  Very high doses are safe if you do not have pre-existing liver damage.  If you do, you can see a naturopath (I recommend Jonathan Prouskey of Toronto) to help you monitor your dosing.  If there is no liver damage, I can assist you with the dosage and monitoring.  Without liver damage – the large majority of folks – can take up to 3000mg a day safely.  My son takes that exact dose, divided into three 1000mg doses per day.  Dr. Hoffer kept extensive notes on his experiences, many of which have been published in books and online and are available for free or at nominal cost through amazon.

Remember that the benefits extend beyond being able to tan to protect your skin from burning, but greater and safer enjoyment outdoors and all the associated benefits of vitamin D, as well as increased levels of niacin in the body, which also treats related mood and cognitive disorders at the same time.

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