SunTan Science: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!

Tan skin accentuates the physique, highlighting lines and definition. Unfortunately the sun will also hasten damage to the skin. This article will show you that there is a way to get that sexy tan (plus all the health benefits) and minimize the damage.

In the classic 'spaghetti western' The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Clint Eastwood was the high plains drifter with tanned skin that looked tough as leather. Clint Eastwood may look good with leathery skin, but most of us won't. He can also afford expensive plastic surgery to improve his looks, while many of us cant.

For bodybuilders especially, tan skin accentuates the physique, highlighting crisp lines and definition not seen with non-tan skin. Unfortunately the sun can hasten the skin damage leading to aged and wrinkled skin. But now there is a way to get that sexy tan (and all the health benefits) and minimize the damaging effects from the sun.

The Good

Contrary to popular beliefs, the sun may not be as dangerous as we thought. In fact the exact opposite may be true. Avoiding the sun may help your skin stay wrinkle free, but it may also lead to depression, lowered sex drive and a higher risk of deadly cancers.

Stimulation From Sunlight

    Evidence suggests full spectrum sunlight affects brain chemistry in many positive ways. People lacking adequate sun exposure sometimes develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is similar to depression.

    What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
    SAD was first noted before 1845, but was not officially named until the early 1980’s. As sunlight has affected the seasonal activities of animals (i.e., reproductive cycles and hibernation), SAD may be an effect of this seasonal light variation in humans. As seasons change, there is a shift in our â€Ŧquot;biological internal clocksâ€� or circadian rhythm, due partly to these changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of â€Ŧquot;stepâ€� with our daily schedules. The most difficult months for SAD sufferers are January and February, and younger persons and women are at higher risk.

    Sunlight stimulates the release of melanin, which enables the skin to take on that darker glow so many find attractive. Melanin also affects sex drive with higher levels elevating sex drive, and it helps burn fat as well. A new drug, Melanotan, is derived from this science; it enables a quicker tan as well as enhancing libido plus assists in fat loss.

    Sunlight thru a car or office window is not the same; many wavelengths of light are filtered out. Full spectrum sunlight, with 1500 wavelengths of light, stimulates the pineal gland and other key areas of the brain. Many of our hormones and neurotransmitters are affected by sunlight.

Vitamin D & Prevention Of Cancer

    Sunlight exposure appears to be a key element in preventing some of the most dangerous forms of cancer. Breast, ovarian and colon cancers, along with prostate, bladder, stomach and uterus cancers all were inversely correlated with exposure to sunlight (specifically ultraviolet B (UV B) exposure).

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    This may be due to the fact that sunlight exposure triggers vitamin D production in the body. Unlike the vitamin D fortified foods which have the D2 form (called ergocalciferol), our bodies make what is called D3 (calciferol).

    Vitamin D3 is a much better form for our bodies. This vitamin is such a potent anti-cancer nutrient, its being studied along with its various analogues for treating cancers.

    Vitamin D maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It aids in the uptake of calcium, which we all know helps to keep bones strong. However, there is also evidence that Vitamin D also can improve the following conditions as well:

    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Arthritis
    • Infertility
    • PMS
    • Fatigue
    • Autoimmune disorders like MS
    • Obesity
    • Depression/SAD

    The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D is 400 units, absolutely inadequate for most people who do not get regular sunlight exposure. Some experts say that up to 10,000 units are needed for a short time for those who need to build up their Vitamin D levels to healthy amounts.

    Darker skinned people need 10 to 20 times the sun exposure than lighter skinned people to build up similar amounts of vitamin D. In fact, this is one of the major reasons African Americans have a much higher cancer rate in North America than other ethnic groups.

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The Bad

All that good news doesn't mean you can just run out and become a sun worshipper. The sun still has a bad side; overexposure can cause skin cancers, and even the dangerous cancer known as melanoma.

Benign Skin Cancers

    However, the most common forms of sun caused skin cancers are relatively benign compared to the more dangerous types of cancer associated with underexposure to sunlight. In other words, some experts feel the protective effect from the sun for the more dangerous cancers is worth the risk of skin cancer the sun may cause.

    Although the sun can cause the benign forms of skin cancer, it's debatable if it causes melanoma. Sunscreens and dietary fats also appear to be as much a risk factor, if not more, than the sun. While sun exposure is a risk factor, it's especially risky for those with pale skin, light eyes and those who have a lot of moles. They have the highest incidence of melanomas. There is growing evidence that other factors play critical roles as well.

    What Is Melanoma?
    A form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.

Omega-3 Ratios

    Essential fatty acids (EFA's) are critical fats we need in our diets to stay healthy. Just how important they are for our health cannot be overstated; they factor into all aspects of our mental, physical and emotional health.

    Most of us do not get the proper ratios of these different fats (Omega 3, 6 & 9). In fact, some experts say it's the imbalance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 that gives us skin cancers. Diets high in Omega 6 fatty acids increase the risk of skin cancers.

    The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. The typical person today has a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ranging from 20:1 to as low as 50:1. Modern sources of omega-6 are soy, canola, safflower, corn and sunflower oil.

    These oils are the most common in the typical diet, which explains our excess omega-6 levels. Omega-3 fats are typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and fish such as wild salmon. Also wild game and grass fed livestock such as cattle or buffalo are also good sources of Omega 3.

Dangers Of Sunscreens

    Sunscreens also are bad news. Not only do they not protect from the dangerous melanomas, they also may be toxic. One of the most common sunscreens, octylmethoxycinnamate (OMC) was found to kill mouse cells at even low doses; worse when treated cells were then exposed to sunlight, even more of the cells died.

    The researcher studying these effects said that the combination of the sunscreen and sunlight made the effect twice as toxic to living cells as the chemical sunscreen alone. Sunscreens also can increase melanomas because they encourage fair skinned people to stay out in the sun longer, unaware that their sunscreen is not protecting them from developing this dangerous form of cancer.

Indoor Tanning

    Forget about indoor tanning. It's far more damaging than the sun to your skin. These machines emit more UV B rays, which penetrates deeper into the skin causing more serious damage.

    A sunburn is primarily from UV A rays which hit the outermost layers of the skin more, but cant penetrate as deep to the more delicate and sensitive deeper layers, leaving then relatively unharmed.

The Ugly

Excessive sun damage can age skin prematurely, adding years of wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots to our skin. Very ugly, given our current cultural values of what beauty is. Human nature; like all animals natures, is designed to get us to reproduce and then die. "Generate the next generation and then leave," says Mother Nature (aka evolution).

This design has us maximizing sexual signals in our youth to attract mates with little regard for their long term costs. Who cares about the long term damage of sun tanning, alcohol, wearing high heel shoes or doing steroids to look more muscular when evolution has your brain programmed to "look attractive at all costs, get a mate soon (because you'll be dead by forty anyway!)."

But we modern humans are lucky in that we don't have to mate and die by 40 anymore, so now we all want to be forty and still look as good as we can. Only now the twenty years of sun tanning have some forty year olds looking more like sixty!

Beauty Is Skin Deep: Babyboomer Guide To Skin Care!
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Fortunately now you can still get that great tan and minimize the damage. The key steps are:

  • Reduce exposure needed by increasing skins ability to tan. Keep the suns rays in the upper level of the skin where the tan shows, while stopping them from damaging the deeper layers of skin where wrinkles form.
  • Increase anti-oxidant levels in skin and within skin to minimize damage

Step 1

    The first step is to limit your exposure. All day at the beach is the worst way to get a tan. Start out daily or several days a week with 10-15 minutes of sun exposure, and gradually build up to 30-60 minutes.

Not The Best Way To Get A Tan.
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    This will minimize overexposure and the associated damage due to it. In addition we also want to increase our skins ability to tan by increasing melanin production.

    The amino acids L-phenylalanine, L-tryptophan and in particular L-Tyrosine stimulate melanin and can help accelerate tanning. Take from 500-2,000 mg daily of each.

    Topically, the application of copper peptides found in certain sun lotions can also increase the rate of tanning (more on this at In order to keep the suns rays in the upper layer of skin, a mild sunscreen made of non-toxic sunscreen agents such as titanium or zinc dioxide can be used.

Step 2

    The next step is to apply agents both on the skin and inside your body that work to accelerate melanin production and also minimize damage from the suns rays.

    Topical (applied on the skin) and systemic (taken internally via supplements) anti-oxidants can act to mediate the inflammation associated with excess sun exposure. This is because one of the biological markers of inflammation is excessive free radical production. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that damage cells, and damaged cells can become cancerous.

    Topical application of antioxidants like Vitamin E, Vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid among others will help control local inflammation and free radical production. In addition, topical application of copper peptides will greatly increase key anti-oxidants in the skin to minimize sun damage. They also can enhance tanning, thus reducing the amount of time needed to be in the sun.

    Systemic Key Anti-Oxidant Nutrients Are:

    The copper mentioned above is not an anti-oxidant per se, but will activate key anti-oxidants in your body, plus enhance tanning via increased melanin production.

    Don't worry about precise dosages or ratios with these nutrients; just getting them in sufficient amounts is all you need. For example, you could go with the minimum recommended above for all of them and that would be adequate.


    In addition, it's important to have a good diet. For sun tanning the key is not only high anti-oxidant levels such as that found in fruits, but healthy fats as well. Increase your intake of high anti-oxidant foods like blueberries and other berries (cherries), watermelon, apples (high in quercitin), and vegetables as well.

    For fats, wild salmon, flax seed, grass fed livestock and certain raw nuts like Brazil nuts are good sources of the missing Omega 3 fats our bodies need. You may want to also add a fish oil supplement, as they are an easy and affordable way to get more Omega 3 fats. In addition, avoid large amounts of oils and fats rich in Omega 6 fatty acids. Be sure to keep properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water as well.


Following this protocol will increase your odds of getting that desired sun kissed tan while at the same time keeping you looking young and cancer free. Enjoy the summer sun!

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