I’m currently in Barcelona, and it’s raining, so what better time to bring up the topic of sun protection.
I’m going to just say this: Sunblock is one of the cruelest jokes that has been played on an unsuspecting population, seemingly globally. The sale of suncream/sunscreen/sunblock has been pushed onto us through a campaign of fear mongering, with the goal being commercial gain. Who wins from the creation of a fear of the sun? The companies producing sunblock and the taxman who claims VAT receipts from those sales. Who loses? Us. On multiple counts.
Eh?! Chris, what are you talking about? Keep reading.. I’ve been wanting to discuss this for some time now, but I needed to test the theory out on myself before I went ahead and started recommending to all of you out there. But before I dive head long into this subject I’ll provide a bit of personal background.
As a twenty-four year old man I will always remember my first day in Ibiza. Accompanied by two mates, we checked into a budget two star hotel in the not-so-classy resort town of San Antonio. We dumped our bags, donned our swimming shorts and headed to the pool. Upon removal of my T-shirt I will never forget the words that came from a Scouse pleb sat on the poolside table next to us:
“Fucking hell, mate, you are the whitest motherfucker I’ve ever seen”
I’d always been aware that I was quite a fair-skinned human up to that point, my face and arms have always been adorned by freckles, but I’d never experienced much in the way of external commentary on the fact before, and certainly not in the derogatory fashion in which this came my way. I’d always been told my freckles were cute, if anything I was proud of my complexion. When I meet people who have freckly faces these days I’m often quick to point out how much I like them. For some reason this chump’s comment drove a dagger into my seemingly fallible confidence, and for years after, everytime the sun came out I found myself on a ridiculous and futile campaign of attempted tanning.
This campaign invariably looked like this:
- Go on holiday to a hot place
- Lie out in the sun
- Attempt to judge when I’d had enough, apply sunscreen and then lie out in the sun some more
Sometimes I got lucky and timed it right, but at others I got it terribly wrong and burnt to a reddened crisp, enduring two to three days of discomfort at best, downright agony at worst. After years of failed campaigns, I changed my tactic to one of proactive self defence, and I started applying factor 30+ sunscreen before I went out in the sun. And then I’d lie out in the sun for hours on end, safe in the knowledge that I was protected. Except I’d always miss a bit and end up with ridiculous white finger marks across my torso, or a patchy red streak across my middle back where my stretching, straining hands couldn’t reach. On more than one occasion I forgot to do my face and ended up looking like a red tomato on a white spear of fancy asparagus.
After years of trying I simply could never get it right, after I moved to Australia I upped my campaign of smearing on the lotion in the face of outrageous UV levels and constant reminders from Aussies to “slip, slop, slap”. For the most part this ensured I stayed close to my baseline of ghostly white, but occasionally the sunscreen wouldn’t work, overpowered by the scorching Antipodean rays it just failed and I burnt worse than ever. In short, I was in a never ending game of cat and mouse with the giant fiery ball in our sky, and she always seemed to be winning. Either I was smearing myself in toxic goo, or I was burning my epidermis clean off.
So what changed? EVERYTHING changed. Midway through last year I stumbled across the madass writings and recordings of an outlandish American Neurosurgeon called Jack Kruse. Jack talks about many topics, but the overarching theme is that we must try, as hard as we may, to return to our ancestral ways. His early works and theories talk about the sun, light, and diet a lot. Today it is estimated that on average, in the West, we now spend 90% of our time indoors. Jack is quick to point out that this is not normal, nor natural for human beings, whom for millions of years have lived predominantly outside. Jack argues that the various types of light which we receive from the sun are important in modulating the human body’s systems; hormonal, circulatory, neurological, nervous, etc. If you go back far enough the realise that all of the modern religions were founded on one basic concept, that the sun is god. The sun brings the light, it brings the new day, and as winter wraps up and spring emerges, it brings life, both plant and animal. Without the sun this solar system we call home is nothing, and our planet would become a cold, dark lump of rock and ice.
Yet here we are in the 21st century, and us white folk are literally quivering in our boots at the thought of being outside in the sun’s beautiful healing rays. The corporate wankstains, driven by the corporate need to increase revenue and turn a profit, have effectively, and successfully campaigned for decades to create a culture of fear when it comes to getting outside and soaking up some UV. I’ve just been back in Ibiza last week with a group of mates, and was aghast to see a fellow fair-skinned mate applying the sunscreen before we even left the hotel room to go down to the pool. Here he is, an office worker, living in England where (Surprise!) the sun ain’t that common or strong, with his best opportunity in months to get a massive dose of vitamin D, yet he’s been so brainwashed by the overriding theme of “THE SUN IS BAD FOR YOU”, that he won’t even contemplate going out at 10am without cream on, when it’s not very strong, or even remotely damaging. I didn’t put it on me even once. I don’t carry any with me. This is what prompted me to write this post.
Last October, as Aussie winter turned into Aussie summer (As a Brit I can’t quite work out when Spring is), and spurred on by what I had learned from Jack, I made the conscious decision to forgo all sunscreen. What proceeded has blown my mind. For seven months through the hot season I sat out on my sun-scorched balcony. I laid out on Bondi beach, I frolicked in the Tasman sea, I walked in Sydney’s parks, and then I also spent two weeks floating around in the Philippines. You know how many times I applied sunscreen in that year-long period? Once. You know how many times I got burnt? Twice.
On one particularly hot day in the Philippines, towards the back end of the trip, I had been out in the sun for quite a while, and the opportunity for shade was lacking. This is the only time I have thought this in the past year, but it felt prudent to spread some cream on my face. My face flushed red shortly after applying it, and the next day it was still red. The second time was last week, I fell asleep on the top deck of the ferry from Ibiza to Barcelona, exhausted from a night of raving my tits off and zero sleep. I slept for four hours in the blazing midday sun, and my nose received a minor case of sunburn, which was gone after three days.
I have not developed some incredible olive skin complexion, I am still fair and freckled, and I still turn pink after a prolonged sun exposure, but what happens next is that I feel no sunburn, no pain, no itchiness, my skin just turns slightly darker, and a few more freckles appear. It’s crazy! Before I was in a cycle of apply, stay white, burn, peel. That cycle has seemingly been broken. But how?
I think the answer to this is mult-faceted:
- Skin health: Sunscreen is not good for your skin, and neither are all the other nonsense creams and potions we apply to ourselves in this modern age. I hypothesise that my skin is free to breathe and do it’s thing properly, which includes absorbing the sun’s rays in a healthy manner
- Regular exposure: The Brits won’t like this one, but I honestly believe that getting outside and exposing as much of your skin to the UV light is powerfully healing, regardless of season. At lunch time, if it’s dry I try to get to a park, I take my shoes and socks off, I roll my trousers up, and if I’m feeling it, take my shirt off. For those in darker climes, I’m going to say something controversial, I don’t think sunbeds are the devil they’ve been made out to be.
- Fear: I no longer approach being in the sun from a position of fear. Instead I am grateful for the opportunity to be outside soaking it up. The power of the mind is not to be understated.
- Diet: I’ve written in the past about my shift towards a predominantly meat-based diet. I can’t claim this to be original thinking, Jack Kruse’s ramblings inspired me to experiment, but he claims that the low-inflammation state that a meat-heavy, plant-light diet creates, coupled with the insane levels of nutrients obtained from organ meats such as liver (which I eat regularly), enable the body, and primarily the skin, to function as it was meant to, to absorb the light from the sun and convert it to Vitamin D. Who knows what other benefits it has that #science hasn’t yet figured out.
But there’s the thing, why would #science figure it out? The studies are funded by the suncream companies, who have absolutely no interest in proving that their product is superfluous, or dare I say it, dangerous.
I am not an idiot, I do not think I can lay out and bake in hot midday sun for hours upon end. Instead, I am now in touch with my body, and I can tell when my skin has had enough sunlight. When it sends me the signal I take note and move into the shade. I also wear a wide-brimmed hat a lot of the time to protect my face. I am not condoning long sun-baking sessions, but I am suggesting that maybe there is another way. And applying sunscreen to babies? Just no. God no.
Whilst in the Philippines I spent 5 days and nights on a boat tour of paradise. On this boat were two semi-famous Spanish actresses, both vegetarians. Both who claimed to be revolted by the pig that was cooked on the spit on our final night. And yet, both seemingly had no issue with covering their dark Hispanic skin in sunscreen before diving into the pristine waters home to incredible corals and fish. How is not okay to eat a pig that has been raised humanely on a local farm, but it is okay to pollute the home of the stunning marine life. I theorise that coupled with their dark complexions and some good quality meat in their diet there was zero need to smear that dross all over themselves and leach it into the water. Christ, I wasn’t wearing any, but I did eat the pig, and it was Delicious!
Edit: a number of people messaged me to say this post is dangerous in its message, so I add this: It is only dangerous if you do not take responsibility for your own health. I am not a doctor, nor am I qualified to dish out health advice. The words above should be taken as a description of own experiences only. Doctors get it wrong sometimes, they only know what they know. Doctors told me I had arthritis when I was 24, and suspected Lupus when I was 25. At 27, chiropractors and osteopaths told me that my spine was degenerating and that I would need weekly treatment for the rest of my life. They were all wrong. Inflammation was the cause. Reduce the inflammation and eat the right nutrients, and you reduce the disease. If I had listened to the doctors and not experimented with my health on my own I dread to think where I would be physically and mentally right now.