Welcome to this talk entitled “Safety in the Sun.” I’m Dr. Trish Murray – physician, author, and the Health Catalyst Speaker. Everyone the loves the warmth of the sun on their skin, but how much sun is too much sun? What can you do to prevent and treat sunburn? How do you know if a suspicious spot should be checked out by a professional? Well, you’re about the find out the answers to all your sun-related questions.


We all need vitamin D. It helps our bones, and without it, we’re at risk of conditions like osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps boost the immune system.

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D; however, letting the sun beat down on you isn’t the only way to satisfy your vitamin D quotient!Click To Tweet Like my mom always said, “Everything in moderation.”

Fatty fish, egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese are all good sources of vitamin D. You can also find milk and orange juice that have been fortified with vitamin D. If you think you're not getting enough, supplementation is another option for vitamin D.Click To Tweet

Now, ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and other minerals act as a physical sunblock. They actually reflect the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the skin. The white-colored noses on beachgoers back in the 1980s and 1990s were due to these compounds – thankfully, manufacturers today can make these compounds much smaller so that your sunscreen can blend in with your skin.

Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, usually now in the form of microscopic nanoparticles. And evidence suggests that few, if any, zinc or titanium particles penetrate the skin to reach living tissues. In general, mineral sunscreens tend to rate better than chemical sunscreens in the EWG sunscreen database

Now, what the heck is that? EWG stands for the Environmental Working Group. The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that has been working diligently to help us understand the risk and safety versus toxicity of all of the different chemicals that are out there in our environment and in products like sunscreens, makeup, shampoos, and body creams – you name it! The Environmental Working Group is at work for us to protect us from commercial industries that really, honestly care about the almighty dollar and don’t care about our health.

Sunscreens can also contain ingredients that are not safe such as something called avobenzone or oxybenzone. These are organic chemicals that absorb UV radiation instead of reflecting it away from the skin. But these chemicals can be dangerous. You see, animal studies report lower sperm counts and sperm abnormalities after oxybenzone and octinoxate exposure. These are the chemicals in many sunscreens. Delayed puberty after octinoxate exposure, and altered estrogen cycling for female mice exposed to oxybenzone have been shown in studies. Danish researchers reported that eight of thirteen chemical sunscreen ingredients particularly allowed in the United States affect the calcium signaling of male sperm cells in laboratory tests, which the researchers suggest could reduce male fertility. This was in a journal by the Endocrine Society back in 2016.


the best way to be safe in choosing a sunscreen is to actually go to the Environmental Working Group’s website (EWG.org). Look up the sunscreen products that they rate “safe” based on toxicity.Click To Tweet What they do with commercial products (and it’s not just sunscreens – they do it with makeup and body creams and other things) is they research it. You can be standing in a pharmacy or wherever and looking at a product on the shelf and you can look it up. I’ve even looked it up on my iPhone on EWG.org. They will rate a product green which means slather it all over yourself and don’t worry about it; yellow which is moderately toxic or dangerous so think about it but if you really have to use it for some reason use it sparingly; or red which means obviously leave it on the shelf, please do not use that product, and do not put it on your body. EWG.org and you look up their sunscreen database and you can look up just about any sunscreen to figure it out and what’s safe and what’s not.

On many sunscreens you’ll see the SPF. What does that stand for? It stands for the Sun Protection Factor and refers to how well a sunscreen can protect against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which causes burning and skin cancer. It could be helpful to think of UVB as “burning.” So, the B is for burning. Another type of radiation, called UVA, is responsible for age spots and wrinkles, as well as some types of skin cancers. It could be helpful to think of UVA for “aging.” The A is for aging in UVA.Click To Tweet

Overall, remember to choose sunscreens that are labeled “broad spectrum” to ensure that it protects from both UVA and UVB. Currently, there is no standard in the United States for listing UVA blocking power. In certain European and Asian countries, UVA protection must be listed on the packaging the same way that the SPF would be. But here in the United States, the SPF is only telling you the factor that blocks the UVB (burning) rays and not the UVA rays.

Every time you use sunscreen…it’s very difficult. It’s like, how much should I use? Well, they say you should use about a shot glass worth, which would be about one ounce, to cover your whole body.

The other thing that’s important is to apply your first coat fifteen minutes before you venture outside, then reapply every two hours for as long as you’re going to be outdoors in the sun.Click To Tweet

Now, sunscreens are designed to remain at optimal strength for up to three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Some sunscreens will include an expiration date. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date. Otherwise, write the date of purchase on the bottle on the label and be sure to throw it out three years later. Don’t be like myself and my family…one time we were on vacation on a cruise in the Caribbean and we took out our sunscreen and it was more than five years old, I think! We live up here in the mountains and we don’t use sunscreen as frequently as someone living in Florida, Colorado, or somewhere like that. Remember that your sunscreen does last more than the one year, but after three years you should discard it.

Now, it’s better to be safe than sorry. When you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, be sure to cover up with lightweight, light-colored clothes. Make it a point to wear a hat with a brim to cover your eyes and scalp, and don’t leave your house without sunglasses on a bright day. Additionally, if you’re buying Chapstick or skin makeup, choose products that include at least an SPF of 15. Just take note that the trace amounts of SPF in foundations or moisturizers likely won’t be enough on its own – you still have to layer on regular sunscreen because you need at least an SPF of as high as 30 for optimal protection. As I said before, check out EWG.org to assess safety versus toxicity of your makeup products, your creams, and your sunscreen.

Let’s go over some very important information and statistics about skin cancer. More than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were treated in over 3.3 million people in the United States in 2012 (this is the most recent year that new statistics were available to be researched). You have to understand, folks, that

more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States each year than all other cancers combined.Click To Tweet Skin cancer is proliferant and can be dangerous. We’re going to go over all of this. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of seventy. The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the United States is estimated to be about $8.1 billion.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 4.3 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the United States every year. Basal cell carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the deep basal cell layer of the epidermis. The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin. It is the most frequent type of skin cancer and is 6-8x more common than malignant melanoma. Basal cell skin cancer is also slow-growing, and it never spreads to other part of the body. It’s the most common and actually the least dangerous; however, it can grow large and it can grow under the skin and spread out. Sometimes if it is let go for too long, a person needs a very significant surgery to remove it. Be careful of that.

The second type of skin cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This is the second most common form of skin cancer. More than 1 million cases of SCC are diagnosed in the United States every year. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells in the epidermis (that outer layer of the skin) and is not as common as basal cell carcinoma; however, it grows much faster than BCC especially when located nears the eyes, ears, mouth, or the pubic area.

Chronic exposure to sunlight is the cause to almost all basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. They also occur most frequently on exposed parts of the body – the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back.Click To Tweet

The third type of skin cancer is called melanoma. This is the most serious form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in the melanocytes. These are the cells that produces the pigment melanin that actually colors our skin, hair, and eyes and it’s heavily concentrated in most moles.Click To Tweet An estimated 196,060 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2020. Of those, 95,710 cases will be what’s called in situ (noninvasive). They’ll be found and taken off your body before they spread any deeper through the epidermis and into the dermis of the skin. They’re noninvasive and called in situ. Again, confined to the epidermis (the top layer of skin). Greater than 100,000 cases will be invasive, which means it penetrates the epidermis into the skin’s second layer (the dermis). And of these invasive cases, 60 percent of them will be men and 40 percent of them will be women.

Now, across all stages of melanoma, the average five-year survival rate in the United States is 92 percent. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early and is noninvasive or low-grade or low stage is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 65 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 25 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organ systems.

Daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen (really up to as high as 30) reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. Regular and daily use of SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent.

After all of these presentations, these monthly webinars that I do, I always list in our Discover Health Facebook Group a list of resource links that are for anyone to follow and go read more and learn more. If you are already a member of our closed Discover Health Facebook Group, then you can go there and get the links. If you are not already a member, all you’ve got to do if you go on Facebook, go to our Discover Health Functional Medicine Center page and request to join our Discover Health Facebook Group. You will obviously be admitted to the group.


UVB rays are most active between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM. Make every effort to limit your time in the direct sunlight during these particular hours of the day.Click To Tweet

Water, sand, concrete, snow, and ice are all surfaces that can reflect UV rays and cause more severe sunburn. Further evidence that you should be wearing sunscreen actually year-round – even in the winter!Click To Tweet If you’re an avid skier or ice fisher person and you’re out on the ice or out on the snow…if you’re in the woods and there’s overhang maybe that’s some of your protection, but if you’re out in the open even in the deep winter and it’s sunny, you need to be concerned that the reflection off the surfaces may be causing a sunburn.

Up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds, which means that you can still get a serious sunburn on an overcast day.Click To Tweet

It’s a common misconception that darker complexions don’t need sunscreen. While melanin does protect from a small number of UV rays, every shade of skin needs sun protection! If you have a dark skin tone, you’ve likely got a natural skin protectant of about SPF 13. But you need about SPF 30 for solid, reliable protection over numerous hours out in the sun. No matter your skin color, you’re still at risk for cancer, and wrinkles, dark spots, and burning from excessive sun exposure.

Sunscreen is a crucial part of every beauty routine, but the white cast it can leave behind isn’t always attractive. If this is an issue you’ve dealt with, be sure to apply sunscreen at least fifteen to twenty minutes before you go outside so that it has time to soak into your skin. Also, use a separate type of sunscreen for your face – if you can find a gel-based sunscreen, that’s your best bet! You can also try looking for a tinted sunscreen, or layer sunscreen on underneath your regular foundation or powder of your makeup. However, for the least toxic sunscreens, I recommend you go to the Environmental Working Groups website (EWG.org) and review which sunscreens they rate green which equals safe. And also, be sure to look up your makeup products as well.

If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early on and avoid any danger of it spreading or going too deep. What’s recommended is to do a full-body check once a month in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror, using a hand mirror for areas that are hard to see. What you’ll want to follow is called the ABCDE rule. What this means is each letter stands for a different thing to look for. The A stands for asymmetry. One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other part of it. B stands for border. The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred. C stands for color. The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or even blue. D stands for diameter. The spot is larger than ¼ inch across (that’s about the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this. E stands for evolving. The mole is changing in some way. It’s either changing in size, shape, or color. You’ll notice many of these are going to require that you’re aware of what’s going on on your body. Now, if you’re concerned about your back you can even ask a family member to take a picture with their cellphone of your back once a month or once every three months, let’s say, and be able to assess your own skin and be aware of if anything is changing.

Now a list of what to look for or signs of each of the different types of cancer. What’s a list of what to look for particularly in two of the cancers? Signs of basal cell carcinoma. Some signs of basal cell carcinoma are:

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
  • Small translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that are pink or red and which might have blue, brown, or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges but a lower area in their center, which might have abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Any open sores (that may have oozing or crusted areas) and which don’t heal, or they heal and then they come back are concerning

A list of what you look for for squamous cell carcinomas would include:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center as well
  • Open sores (that may have oozing or crusted areas) and which don’t heal, or they heal and then they come back in the same area is a red flag and you need to get these checked out
  • Wart-like growths

Not all skin cancers look like these exact descriptions, though. There’s a lot of descriptions so they can vary. Point out anything you’re concerned about to your doctor, including:

  • Any spots that are new
  • Any spot that doesn’t look like the others on the rest of your body
  • Any sore that doesn’t heal
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
  • Color that spreads from the border of a spot into the surrounding skin
  • Itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that doesn’t go away or goes away then comes back in the same area
  • Changes in the surface of a mole, such as: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump changes in some way

Again, I’ve gone over a lot just now. We are tomorrow going to list links and resources in our Discover Health Facebook Group. Again, if you haven’t already joined, be sure to join our Discover Health Facebook Group. Just go to our Discover Health Functional Medicine Center Facebook page and request to join our group. Every month when I do these webinars, I give you the resources the day after.

Tanning beds are not safer than the sun, folks. Whether indoor or outdoor UV rays, your skin will still suffer. Actually, indoor tanning devices can emit UV radiation in amounts ten to fifteen times higher than the sun at its peak intensity at noontime. They are not safe. Also, tanning beds don’t help your body make vitamin D. They emit mostly UVA light, while your body needs UVB in order to create vitamin D.

Most people fear looking orange from a fake tan, but thanks to technology and lots of experimentation, that’s highly unlikely nowadays. They’ve gotten much better with this. The key ingredient in the fake tans now is called DHA (dihydroxyacetone). What this does is it reacts with amino acids in dead skin cells to produce the brown ‘suntan’ color. It is also this compound that gives fake bakes their characteristic – often described as ‘biscuity’ – smell.

Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, said, “The substance seems to have a potential for what they call creating mutations, or changing DNA in living cells.” Most articles discussed inhaling this chemical (DHA) from spray tanning methods to be the most concerning as it can get into the lungs and also into the mucous membranes of your nose and mouth. That is what’s going to cause problems the most for changing DNA in living cells. Whereas topical creams and gels seems to be a much safer way to go. 

If you love the way you look with a tan, but also want to protect yourself from too much sun, the American Academy of Dermatology actually has a video on their website entitled “how to apply self-tanner properly.” 

If you live close to the equator, or in a high-altitude location, you’re more at risk of burning. Please remember to take this into account when you’re on vacation too depending on where you’re going.Click To Tweet

While there’s no proof that water can help protect you from the sun, it is important to stay hydrated when you’re spending time in out the sun. Carry water with you when you’re spending time in the sun and aim to drink a lot more than you would on a typical day spent indoors because you definitely want to be avoiding heatstroke.

Once you come inside from a sunny day, one of the best things to do is immediately apply a moisturizer, oil, or an aloe-based gel to your skin. This will help keep it hydrated and make it less likely to peel.

You can even create your own “do it yourself” soothing after-sun cream with just four ingredients. What you do is in a blender, puree a quarter cup jojoba oil and a quarter cup of aloe vera gel. Then add two tablespoons of coconut oil two or three drops of essential oil like lavender or orange and mix on low to combine in your blender. Pour into a resealable jar and keep in the fridge for maximum relief after a day in the sun.

You tried to take precautions but still got a burn? That’s okay, take these steps to heal your skin. When you get a sunburn:

  • Take frequent cool baths or showers and immediately apply a moisturizer to help trap water in your skin when you step out of the shower or the bath.
  • Grab aloe gel and keep it in the fridge to keep it cool. Apply as necessary.
  • Consider taking an anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and the discomfort from the sunburn.
  • If your skin blisters, DO NOT pop them. Blistering skin means you have a second-degree sunburn. You may cause scaring and further damage to the skin if you pop them. Don’t do that!
  • Take extra care to protect sunburned skin from the sun and elements as it heals. Wear loose, tightly woven fabrics that will help protect your skin from sun and also wind when you have a sunburn.

Again, this has been put together for you by using information from numerous sources. As I’ve been saying, after all of my monthly webinars I post the resource links in our Discover Health Facebook Group. Be sure to ask to join if you haven’t already.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to join us for Safety in the Sun! We absolutely love getting to chat with you and hope that you learned something valuable. Remember, if you have any further questions, you can ask questions that I will respond to in our Discover Health Facebook Group or you can email [email protected]. Our Health Coach Trish will be happy to read through the email questions and she and I will discuss them and get back to you.

One more thing, I’d also like to tell folks if you haven’t heard already, we’ve been boosting all over social media and we’ve sent out in our newsletter that I have a new book coming out next week! The launch on Amazon and Kindle is next Thursday, June 25 and Friday, June 26. I also literally just next week on Thursday evening at 6:00 PM am going to do another presentation, and this time I’m going to be presenting about this new book, No More Band-Aids 2.0: Finding Answers in a Broken Medical System. If you want to register for it, go to our Discover Health Calendar or https://discoverhealthfmc.activehosted.com/f/17. I am one of the authors, but I am one of seven authors altogether. My chapter in this book is entitled, The Missing Link to Healthy Aging. If you want to learn what the missing link to healthy aging is then 1) you need to come to next week’s webinar and 2) you need to purchase this book next Thursday or Friday on Amazon through Kindle. It will cost you literally 99 cents. It’s an amazing book! I really would please ask that you consider going to Amazon next Thursday or Friday (we’ll be sending out more information about it with links and a landing page to help you be able to do this very simply). I am very much trying to make sure this book becomes a bestseller. If you could really help us out. A book becoming a bestseller depends on how many people buy it during the launch. Again, the launch is next Thursday, June 25 and Friday, June 26. I’d really appreciate you consider coming to the webinar. I’m going to host the webinar but all of the other authors will be present as well and I’ll tell you about their backgrounds and then they’ll be on and they’ll tell you about themselves and summarize their chapter. You can learn all about the book that’s coming out next week. I sure hope to see everybody who is here this evening on that webinar as well.

Thanks everybody for coming! We’ll see you hopefully next Thursday on June 25 at 6:00 PM EDT for my book webinar! I’ll talk about my chapter, The Missing Link to Healthy Aging, and then you’ll meet the other authors as well. Next month, of course, we’ll do another topic. Take care everybody!


Important Links

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the Discover Health Community today: