This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
Protection of the head and eyes is usually strongly urged. This advice is pernicious. Man does not require goggles or bonnets any more than do the lower animals. Sunlight is distinctly beneficial to the hair and eyes. It has always been quite amusing to me to hear sun-bathers advised to cover their heads and then hear the same advisers describe the wonderful results in increased hair growth obtained by ultra-violet radiation. It is a well-known fact that sunshine accelerates the growth of hair and more exposure of the head to its influence might easily reduce the number of bald-headed people by preventing baldness.
I have gone bare-headed for over forty years, most of this time in Texas, under a sub-tropical sun, and I have yet to be damaged by it. My patients do not cover their heads when sunbathing and they are not damaged.
The eyes are benefited by light and injured by too much darkness. Gazing directly into the sun has been found to greatly benefit weak sight. Fish found in dark caves, where they receive no sunlight, are always blind. Mules employed underground in mines, have much eye trouble not found in mules that work above ground. Men working underground and children living in dark tenement houses, far from the sun, are always very sensitive to light. Such men and children need sunlight and to prescribe tinted and shaded glasses for them can only make the condition worse. Yet this is what is regularly done by regular physicians and opticians, who are regular in but one thing--the regularity with which they go at everything wrongly.
Writing in Psychology (July, 1929), Dr. R. A. Richardson, optician, says: "On a recent trip to Africa, I took advantage of the opportunity to find out whether cataract and blindness, often found there, were caused by the sun's intense light and heat, as I had been told. To my surprise, I discovered that the persons blinded by cataract were not those who worked in the open sunshine, but in the small shops and bazaars of Tunis. Questioning them, I traced their trouble to over-indulgence in proteins, sugars and starches, nicotine and caffeine."
The eyes themselves are not sensitive to light. The eye-lids are sensitive to light, and it is this that causes a closing of lids when a strong light falls on them. They close, of course, to protect the eyes and we should appreciate the full significance of this fact in exposing the eyes to light. They are all the covering needed by the eyes in the sunlight. Goggles and sunglasses to protect the eyes are absurd. They actually render the eyes more sensitive to light and impair vision. Squinting is not necessary, nor does one require dark glasses to prevent it. One needs only to cease squinting. This can be controlled by the will. It is possible to look directly into the mid-day sun without squinting. The development of "crow's feet" about the eyes is the badge of the unthinking. There will be no apparent need for glasses and eye creams if one will merely cease to squint. Squinting serves no useful purpose.
Sunbathing is objected to because of a so-called "drying damage" it does to the skin. This is the result, not of intelligently conducted sunbathing, but of over-sunning. It is perhaps just what we should expect, that the manufacturers of sun-tan lotions and "natural oils," should emphasize the evils of overdoing without discriminating between over-use of the sun and its proper use, in order to sell their wares, but physicians should know better. Lubricating creams for the face and lotions or creams for the face are certainly not needed by those who have sufficient intelligence to behave themselves. It is not necessary to oil the skin to prevent drying. Dryness of the skin indicates that the skin has been over-exposed.
Anointing the body with olive oil before a sunbath cuts out part of the ultra-violet rays and is not to be recommended. This seems to be a very old practice, although the ancients seem to have followed their baths with oil. If sunbathing is not overdone there will be no seeming need to oil the skin afterwards. Excessive sunbathing leaves the skin dry and even causes it to peel off. When it is not indulged to excess, it will leave the skin soft and properly oiled by its own oily secretion. If the "protective" potions were really as effective as they are said to be, they would prevent the user from deriving any benefit from his sunning.
What excuse is there for remaining in the sun so long that the skin becomes dry and harsh. Why must we abuse everything we undertake? The sensible person will not find any apparent need for oils to replace the natural oils of his or her skin, for he or she will not be guilty of abusing his or her skin with excessive exposure. The purpose of sunbathing is not to see how much you can burn yourself, nor, yet, to see how black you can become, but to supply your body with adequate amounts of sunshine.
It is also objected that sunburn ruins the fine texture of the skin. What has this objection to do with intelligent sunbathing? One is foolish to sun-burn. There is no reason why one should permit oneself to be burned in taking sun-baths. Proper precautions as to the length of the sun-bath will always prevent burning. The intelligent person will build up his or her tan gradually and avoid burning at all times and at all costs. Only foolish girls will remain in the sun long enough to spoil the texture of their skin. Others will substitute intelligence for the ointments and liniments that are offered for sunburn.
People who cannot sun-bathe without sun-burning are in the same class as those who cannot eat without over-eating. They are the uncontrolled type--those who lack self-discipline. They are inclined to over-do everything.