How to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage
By Sandra D. Lane
Anybody remember that song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann? I remember hearing that on the radio when the kids were in high school. Listening to it now gives me a totally new perspective, especially since I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back to the doctor to have some skin cancer removed again.
But it got me to wondering about the reality, or lack of maybe, of storing tons of sunscreen. I’d never thought of it before and decided if I didn’t want to spend anywhere from $4 to upwards of $30 (really?!?) per bottle, and if I didn’t want to take up precious room in my storage space, was there another option? It would be kind of ironic if we all survived a disaster scenario only to die of invasive skin cancer. But it turns out there may be some other ways to protect ourselves.
Have you thought about including sun protection in your preps?
According to Skincancer.org, the main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and Merkel cell carcinoma, with the main causes of these being the sun and tanning beds. (I doubt we’ll have to worry about tanning beds post-global disaster, but they are worth mentioning now.) I’ve personally had squamous cell before, but it was minimally invasive when I spotted it and required no stitches post removal. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, with Basal Cell Carcinoma being the most common but most curable as well.
We can help ward off skin cancer by simply covering up from head to toe, restricting the sun’s rays from touching us, which will definitely cut our chances of developing it, as will not going outside, period. But then that presents a whole host of other problems (besides having a heat stroke) like vitamin D3 deficiency that can seriously affect your moods and cause some major depression; not something any of us want in an already depressing and stressful time. So, what about vitamin supplements? Vitamins sound easy enough, but it’s a little more complicated than popping a few pills.
Some supplements may help protect your skin from sun damage.
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it turns out that Vitamin B3 has been shown to provide a bit of protection against damage to our skin caused by ultra-violet radiation. It can even reduce the chances of actinic keratosis, a type of skin lesion that can become cancerous. Vitamin B3 is more commonly known as Niacin, which is a vitamin we get from many of the foods we eat, such as meat, (especially poultry), fish, milk, eggs, nuts, green vegetables, beans, enriched cereals, and yummy yeasty bread. A lot of those foods we can store away in our preps. And that’s what many physicians urge us to do – to gain our vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from food instead of vitamin supplements.
Physicians at Harvard note that too much vitamin A can lead to dangerous, toxic levels, and researchers at John Hopkins noted studies where 450,000 people who took vitamins did not reduce their risk for heart disease or cancer. They also noted that vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements appear to be harmful, especially at high doses. The exceptions to all of this, of course, would be in the case of women who are pregnant, lactating, or those who show an extreme deficit in vitamins and minerals from the get-go. Larry Appel, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research, had this to say:
Pills are not a shortcut to better health and the prevention of chronic diseases. Other nutrition recommendations have much stronger evidence of benefits—eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar you eat.
Another possible companion, or alternative, to sunscreen is an NSAID. Not just any old NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), but one that specifically has aspirin in it. A meta-analysis on aspirin for the primary prevention of skin cancer states that “A daily dose of 50-400 mg aspirin was significantly associated with a reduced risk of skin cancers…Overall, these findings indicated that aspirin intake was associated with a reduced risk of developing skin cancer.”
Unfortunately, this seems to only relate specifically to women, as Science Daily reports almost the opposite; that aspirin is linked to double melanoma (the most serious of skin cancers) risk in men. Personally, and as a woman, I take aspirin several times a day and I don’t appear to be lowering my chances of skin cancer – at least by the looks of my history. So, in my own personal opinion, I would study this one a lot more before committing to it, especially since excess aspirin can cause organ damage in the long run. Even so, aspirin is an excellent medicinal item to store away for other problems, so don’t take it off your list.
There have also been studies and reviews involving essential oils/botanicals in the prevention and treatment of skin cancer. From what I have read, this is an ongoing area of research and so shouldn’t be discounted completely. Neither should simple things like staying in the shade, carrying an umbrella, or wearing a wide-brimmed hat. You can make your own sunscreen using Daisy’s recipe – she adds 4 tbsp of zinc oxide powder (add more if you burn easily) powder to a cup of coconut oil (which is something everyone should have in their stockpile anyway – here are 80 reasons why) and blends it in a food processor that she does not use for food. Store your homemade sunscreen in a little jar.
There are things that increase your risk of sun damage and skin cancer.
So, those are some ideas of things we should do, or can at least look into, but what about things we shouldn’t do? Aside from working, sitting, or playing in the sun all day long, there is one other suggested thing we shouldn’t do: Use alcohol.
I’m not a usual alcohol drinker. Although I’ve had my share of drunk moments, those are long gone, and I haven’t found a wine I consider palatable. I will occasionally (maybe once a year?) drink a Smirnoff Black (but would prefer a Bacardi Silver) but all in all, I just don’t drink alcohol. But I do use alcohol, and have for many things over many decades. Back when I was in high school, astringents (which contain rubbing alcohol) were one of my favorite things to reduce the oil on my face, and it was great in removing oil-based makeup that was so ‘in’ during the ’80s. As I got older and had kids, it was one of the cheap go-to’s for scratches and scrapes, and still was until a few years ago when I saw a new dentist who promptly and sternly told me “Alcohol kills cells.” Again, not an avid alcohol drinker, and I told him so. To which he replied, “How about your mouthwash?” Ooops.
Grasping for straws, I reminded him that we don’t drink mouthwash we just swish and gargle. And he reminded me that our throats and mouths, gums and tongue, are made up of cells. I felt foolish. And, he was right. Inside and out, alcohol does kill cells and is associated with many cancers. In research presented by Gary G. Meadows, Ph.D. and Hui Zhang, Ph.D., it is clear that;
Cancers for which strong epidemiological evidence indicates that alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk include, but are not limited to, esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal, stomach, colorectal, liver, pancreas, lung, prostate, breast, central nervous system, and skin cancers.
However, alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to cause or exacerbate the risk of all types of cancer and, may even be associated with a lower risk in some cases as it is associated with a lower incidence of several types of blood cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma, and light drinking was associated with a ten percent reduction in leukemia. How confusing is that? Maybe we just have to make sure that everything we do, we do in moderation.
And here is some good news for you…
Caffeine can help prevent, and fight, at the very least, basal cell carcinoma. The National Institute of Health suggests from their research that only the caffeinated, not non-caffeinated, or de-caffeinated, items apply. Coffee, tea, chocolate (oh yum), and colas.
And where can we find more of this in the wild?
The bark of the Yoco tree in Africa, seeds of coffee beans, cacao beans and Kola nuts, the leaves, and buds of tea, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly – in all, about sixty plant species around the world. Or in health food stores. So stock up on healthy foods, stock up on caffeine, have a good sturdy umbrella, and a nice big straw hat! And then if you want to throw in a few bottles of multivitamins, go ahead. Chances are, with everything else, you need them as much.
What do you think?
Have you thought about stocking up on some sun protection supplies? Which items do you keep on hand? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.
About the Author
Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.