Convinced that sunscreens block the beneficial effects of the sun on the skin, Internet users strongly encourage them to give it up on social networks. The trend, which has been gaining momentum in recent days, worries many specialists because of the health risks it entails. Explanations.
It is essential every summer to apply a good layer of sunscreen to reduce the risk of sunburn, and by extension of skin cancer. While some inadvertently forget to adopt this good reflex, others now boast of giving it up voluntarily. On TikTok, Internet users, claiming to be health experts, call themselves “anti-sunscreen”. According to them, sun protection is packed with harmful agents that prevent the sun’s healing rays from reaching the skin. While some of the content linked to the #antisunscreen hashtag has been deleted, the latter still managed to accumulate 17 million views on the Chinese social network.
A disturbing movement
Among the protagonists of this disturbing movement, user Shannon Fairweather, who claims to have banished sunscreen from her closet. She says in a video:I refuse to block the skin from the healing rays of the sun“. She then discusses more natural alternatives to protect her skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays, and claims in particular to use coconut oil, which, according to her, “fworks about 30% as well as sunscreen, except you don’t slather on chemicals“. Same story – or almost – for the user ShesNatural who also claims to be “anti-sunscreen” in a video: “Surprise how many people are absolutely appalled that I don’t apply sunscreen when it blocks all the nourishing goodness of our planet’s life giver that regulates our bodily processes”.
And that’s not all, since a British fitness coach, named James Middleton, made a tweet by sharing montages from TikTok, in which he urges his subscribers to do without sun protection. The user, who is however not a health professional, ensures that “High levels of vitamin D make it almost impossible for an autoimmune disease to develop. It would bankrupt pharmaceutical companies and the health care industry. Think about it for a moment. They need you to believe the sun is bad“. A whole bunch of false and unverified claims that could mislead subscribers. Faced with this phenomenon, specialists are expressing their concern.
The importance of protecting yourself
Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a dermatologist at the Laser and Skin Surgery Center in New York, tells the Nylon media that “short periods of sun exposure (10-15 minutes a day) can help convert vitamin D to its active form in the body and improve your mood, but it is very clear that overexposure has negative effects on our skin , both medically and cosmetically“. To which she adds: “All skin types should wear sunscreen and everyone should avoid jumping on these trends“. The expert also points out that “certain skin types that are more sensitive to the sun – such as people with lighter skin, or a family history of cancer – should take extra precautions“.
Added to this are other crazy trends like “perineum tanning”, which involves exposing your private parts (yes, you read that right) to the sun. A type of tan which, according to followers, would allow you to fill up with vitamin D. Of course, it is strongly discouraged by specialists.
Dr. Paul Banwell, cosmetic surgeon and skin cancer expert, warns of all the dangers of not applying sunscreen: “It’s not just the risk of melanoma, but all skin cancers that you need to protect against. The main types are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer in the world” he explains to Glamor UK.
Fortunately, other content creators encourage protecting the skin from sun damage. This is the case of Mary Odusami, known as GlowingWithMary on TikTok, who advocates the application of sunscreen, especially among black people. In her video, she captioned: “Skin cancer affects everyone, regardless of skin color, so wear SPF“, in response to a user’s message assuring that black people do not need to put on sunscreen.
Practical tips for protecting yourself from UV rays
A few practical tips are useful for protecting your skin against the harmful effects of the sun:
- Do not expose yourself in the middle of the day from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.;
- Put on a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;
- Wear clothes with a tight weave or anti-UV treatment;
- Beware of false friends (clouds, parasol);
- Use a sunscreen of sufficient index, effective against both UVA and UVB rays;
- Reapply every two hours and after each swim.
According to Public Health Europe, approximately 80,000 skin cancers are diagnosed each year in Europe. The vast majority (70%) are basal cell carcinomas. In 2018, 15,500 cases of cutaneous melanoma and 1,980 deaths linked to this cancer were recorded in metropolitan Europe. Melanoma is, according to the National Cancer Institute, one of the cancers with the greatest increase in incidence between 2010 and 2018.