Personally, I’ve never been a big user of sunscreen. Even though my Irish heritage renders me extremely fair-skinned, it’s never been important to me to cover my self with sunscreen. I’ve had some bad burns in my day, and if I’m going to be out in completely exposed for a long period of time –like at the beach– then I’ll usually put on some sunscreen. I guess I’m better described as a sporadic user of sunscreen.
Recent research suggests there might be good reasons to avoid excessive use of sunscreens: Insufficient vitamin D levels that can potentially lead to illness.
ScienceDaily published a brief synopsis of a review article published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, and reports the following:
Results from a clinical review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.
There’s certainly nothing surprising about this, and indeed common sense combined with a little bit of basic knowledge concerning vitamin D formation suggests that this is the case.
While I might like to be able to claim this is the reason I’ve never been a big sunscreen user, that would be untrue. It’s not something that can be chalked up to inattention or laziness either.
I’ve just never believed there was sufficient evidence to justify the use of sunscreen. Firstly there’s the notion that humans have evolved in the sun, and have mechanisms in place (melanin production, vitamin D synthesis, clothing) to mediate UV light. Humans, throughout most of human history were not using sunscreens. Furthermore, there is some interesting data suggesting that sunscreen usage has done nothing to prevent malignant melanoma in particular; indeed, the introduction of higher SPF sunscreens roughly correlates with increases in the occurrence of malignant melanomas:
Either way, it’s the data, along with the evolutionary history of humans are worth considering in this context.