Cavallari's Sunscreen Advice Is Bogus, Doctors Say

Popular television personality Kristin Cavallari has recently been criticized for not using sunscreen. Doctors say protection against ultraviolet rays is crucial for skin cancer prevention.

In her podcast, Let's Be Honest with Kristin Cavallari, the 37-year-old host revealed she does not wear sunscreen.

Her guest, Ryan Monahan, a practitioner of functional and Eastern medicine, suggested following "an anti-inflammatory lifestyle" instead and taking antioxidant supplements, which he called "an internal sunscreen."

Monahan, who sells supplements himself, said he builds up "a base coat" each year to increase his tolerance to the sun so that he does not get sunburned.

The podcast made waves in the doctor community, with dermatologists urging patients and her 5 million Instagram followers to use sunscreen to protect themselves against skin cancer.

Sunscreen is an essential protection

Sun exposure is one of the most well-established carcinogens known to man, says Dr. Bianca Tod, a dermatologist and senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

"There is very clear evidence that ultraviolet radiation from the sun leads to mutations in skin cells that can cause skin cancer. Managing our exposure to the sun is an important way to reduce this risk," Tod tells Healthnews.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, which will affect one in five Americans in their lifetime. Everyone can develop skin cancer regardless of their skin color, although the highest rates are observed among non-Hispanic White individuals.

Dr. Aaron Farberg, a chief medical officer at Bare Dermatology, says ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun is undoubtedly the primary cause of skin cancer, and sunscreen is one of the many ways to protect the skin against it.

Tod adds that using sunscreen can also help reduce sun-related aging, which occurs in all skin types.

Sunscreen and a hat are a lot more affordable than neurotoxins, fillers, and fancy serums. If your appearance is important to you, practicing sun protection is essential.


Moreover, there may be more individual reasons to practice sun protection, such as being prone to blotchy pigmentation like melasma or having certain auto-immune conditions like lupus.

'A base coat' doesn't protect from cancer

Repeated exposure to UV radiation makes the skin produce more melanin, a natural skin pigment that gives its color and is the source of tanning, says Dr. Daniel Eisen, a professor of clinical dermatology at UC Davis Health.

He explains that the more melanin in your skin, the less UV radiation reaches your cellular DNA, and the more sunlight exposure is needed to burn. However, the tan you develop from sun exposure is only partially protective, and your skin will continue to accrue damage.

"In general, tanning is a sign that damage has occurred to your skin as a result of ultraviolet light exposure. There is no 'healthy tan,' and a 'base coat' is not something I'd recommend trying to achieve," Eisen tells Healthnews.

According to Farberg, building a base coat will not help prevent skin cancer and will only increase the risk of developing it.

This type of thought is no different than telling an alcoholic to drink more alcohol so they can tolerate more.


The correct use of sunscreen

Exposure to sunlight can also have health benefits, such as vitamin D production and increased levels of serotonin, the chemical associated with the feeling of happiness and well-being. However, it is crucial to take safety precautions when enjoying the sun.

Brianna Starr (left) wears sunscreen every day to minimize the effects of the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Image by Orlando Health Cancer Institute

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

  • Seek shade when appropriate, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Don't forget sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Apply sunscreen to all skin not covered by clothing. The sunscreen must offer broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30 or higher, and be water resistant.
  • Avoid tanning beds.

Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — of sunscreen to fully cover their body.

Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply it every two hours. You may need to do it more often if you're swimming or sweating; for example, apply sunscreen each time you get out of the water.

Tod says, “Unfortunately, we need to accept that there is no safe tan. We have to try to change our cultural idea that a suntan is associated with health and beauty.”

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