A blog about living outside, first in my car, then in tents.
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Is Tanning Healthy? Are Sunscreens Toxic? Can I Do This?

Oh my god. Can I live all summer out here, in this heat and sun?

I just broke off the dead branches from the shade side of two trees near the campsite. The site has no shade in the middle of the day; currently that means maybe 10:30 am until around 3:30. We’re a month and five days in front of the Solstice, the longest sun exposure of the year.

I am hungry but there is no shade in which to cook, except in long grass that could burn.

My face is too red. My back has had enough sun for now and will soon start showing a pleasant color. My forearms and the back of my hands are too brown, the kind of sun overexposure that can lead to leathery skin. But I haven’t burned.

While I’m on the topic of suntans and burns: I do not use suntan lotions or sunscreen except in rare cases. (See why sunscreen is toxic.)

Read the labels sometime. Even the “natural” ones use chemicals. The regular ones have lists of chemicals longer than the alphabet. Sure, each individual chemical has (probably) been tested and met government standards. But have they tested how each of them react when exposed to sun? Maybe so. How about when two or three chemicals interact with each other and the sun? I doubt anyone knows how all of them together chemically combine on the molecular level, nor their collective impact on human health.

I was well tanned all over when I moved to Arizona. Most people out here never intentionally tan. Too many cases of skin cancer, people say. Over time my tan faded and wasn’t replaced. Probably because it’s just too hot to sit in the sun much of the time.

My sun tanning approach is to limit sun exposure when my skin is white, and only carefully increase the length of sun exposure. Red is okay, but burned is bad. Do I remember correctly that it is burning that increases the chance of skin cancer, not darkened pigment?

But with the amount of time I now spend outside, it is harder to avoid burning and over-tanning. So I might live to regret my tanning approach this summer. We’ll see.

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