The Truth About Sun Damage: This Is How Sunscreen Deniers Are Dismantled

There are deniers of vaccines, climate change and even that the Earth is round. We have deniers for all tastes and colors.

Sunscreen deniers have emerged strongly Among this bouquet of possibilities this year. For them, creams that protect us from the sun are not only unnecessary but harmful.

The ambassadors of this new denialism (mainly aspiring influencers and the occasional footballer) go viral on TikTok and go beyond mobile screens to sneak onto television. I say “aspiring influencers” because these new deniers, in their crusade against sunscreens, have discovered a wealth of followers and likes. Their messages are provocative and striking because they contradict everything that has taken us years to learn.

The problem is that in this case, we are playing with fire. Or with solar radiation, which for that matter is just as dangerous. In Spain, more than a thousand people die from skin cancer every year and we cannot allow misinformation to ruin years of work in health prevention.

These are some of the main claims of the deniers and what science says about them:

  • The sun does not cause cancer. According to the deniers “we have been deceived”: solar radiation does not cause cancer and “everything is an invention of the industry” to sell us creams and food supplements. Instead, they advocate the construction of the famous ” solar callus ” that protects us from the sun.


When UVB radiation passes through the upper layers of the epidermis, it tans them quickly. Up to this point, life smiles at us. But if the dose of UVB is too strong, the skin turns red and becomes inflamed. After the usual “crab mode” a sunburn may appear. To explain it simply we could say that we have a fire at home, specifically on the roof, which is the epidermis. This is where the siren sounds and the alarms go off: our damaged cells call the firefighters and it will depend on our repair system to be able to solve the damage.

The problem is that our skin has a fire department with a limited number of trucks and personnel. Furthermore, there is a sad peculiarity. Every time there is a burn and a fire patrol is sent with its corresponding truck to put out a fire… the patrol no longer returns to the station. In the long term, if the fire station becomes empty and there is no longer anyone who can come to put out the fires, the flames can cause greater damage to deeper layers of the skin.

This results in damage to the genetic material, and chronic skin lesions and can lead to the preliminary phases of skin cancer and its subsequent development. The more frequent and intense the skin is exposed to the sun, the more serious the damage will be. Here the size (of the burn) also matters. And age: burns in children are especially dangerous for the future. Ah! And let’s not forget that UVB radiation does not travel to our skin alone: ​​it is accompanied by UVA, infrared, and visible.

For all this, in addition to the metaphors about fires and firefighters, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns us very clearly that skin cancers are caused mainly by exposure to ultraviolet radiation and distinguish between acute and chronic effects. of solar radiation on the skin and lips.

Among the acute effects are sunburn, allergic reactions, or immunosuppression (which can be considered a risk factor for cancer and lead to the reactivation of viruses, such as cold sores). Chronic effects include cutaneous melanomasquamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. And if diseases don’t scare us too much, solar radiation also influences premature aging of the skin due to loss of elasticity.

In addition to the effects on the skin, we must not forget its potential damage to the eyes, so the use of sunglasses with appropriate filters is also recommended.

  • Sunscreens are toxic. For these deniers, sunscreens are a type of ingredient that causes almost as many blisters as preservatives. We could say that they are the new “parabens”. They consider them more dangerous than solar radiation itself.


In the 16th century, Paracelsus already reached this conclusion: “Everything is poison and nothing is poison, only the dose makes the poison.” This conclusion can be extended to almost all areas of life and, concerning sunscreens, We can live in peace because the maximum permitted concentration of each of them in the final product is regulated at the European level in Regulation 1223/2009 on cosmetic products. For example, in the list of ingredients we can find octocrylene (Octocrylene) in a maximum concentration of 9% or EHT (Ethylhexyl Triazone) in a maximum concentration of 5%.

It is good to know that the safety of cosmetic ingredients is something that not only worries Tiktokers but that there are scientific researchers in Europe whose job is to monitor the safety of these compounds. All the ingredients that are in the eye of the hurricane are constantly reviewed by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) and based on its conclusions, modifications are established in the aforementioned regulations. That is, if a compound is detected to be potentially dangerous at a given dose, the dose is limited or the compound is discontinued.

But there is still more… even for those who distrust the doses allowed in the legislation we have good news, in addition to chemical filters we have at our disposal physical filters with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that are considered completely safe. Not applying sunscreens based on toxicity can never be an excuse.

  • Sunscreens block the production of vitamin D. According to “denial” theories, using sunscreen would block the synthesis of vitamin D and this deficiency, and not sun exposure, would be the cause of cancer.


On the one hand, science tells us that, indeed, vitamin D, or rather, the D hormonal system, is essential for numerous functions. We know that it helps the body absorb calcium and together with it helps prevent osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become thinner and weaker and more prone to fractures.

In addition, vitamin D is essential for numerous functions: muscles need it for movement, nerves need it to transmit messages between the brain and other parts of the body, it is essential for the immune system and it also has implications at the cardiovascular level, in regulation. of glucose or cancer.

That said, and knowing that approximately 80% of vitamin D is synthesized in the skin due to the action of ultraviolet radiation, it might be reasonable to think that sunscreens are responsible for putting vitamin D levels at risk. The truth is that, although studies have been carried out on the effect of sunscreens on the synthesis of vitamin D, the conclusion is that, in the actual doses in which sunscreens are used, vitamin D continues to be synthesized.

We would need to use, per person, a container of sunscreen every 3-4 days to completely block the production of vitamin D. The truth is that no one uses two sunscreens a week and that we apply much less cream than necessary, so Vitamin D synthesis is not blocked as they claim.


Assessing the benefit-risk of solar radiation, exposure for about 15 minutes on a skin surface equivalent to the entire back or arms and legs is recommended, if possible most days or at least three days per week.

The famous “15 minutes” is an approximate figure and will depend on each person, their phototype, the place where they live, the time of day… the idea is to expose ourselves without protection for a sufficient time to synthesize this vitamin D, but without burning, since once redness and erythema appear, there is sun damage. And this sun damage is cumulative.

What some sunscreen deniers forget to mention is that the amount of ultraviolet radiation, important for the synthesis of vitamin D, changes depending on the angle at which the sun’s rays hit a person. This, to put it simply, means that in some countries like Spain, we only receive radiation with an adequate inclination to synthesize vitamin D between approximately March and October.

For all these reasons, when it is not easy to achieve the requirements through sun and food, it is always possible to consider taking dietary supplements.

Deniers have a great competitive advantage over scientists: while scientists study for years, doubt and contrast, a charlatan can lie forcefully based on four articles he read one afternoon on the Internet. The less solid an individual’s training is, the less modesty he has in making certain statements. He has little to lose and many like to gain.

To enjoy the sun, which is highly recommended, it is not necessary to propose practices that put people’s lives at risk. Less opinion and more research.