A Lululemon shopping bag reads: “Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.”
A Lululemon shopping bag reads: “Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.”
Denali TIetjen/Boston.com

Lululemon doesn’t just want to sell you overpriced leggings, they want to give you life advice, too. The company’s shopping bags are printed with the company’s manifesto, a collection of up-to-date health and wellness messages and advice. Some of them are inspirational, most of them are weird, and this one is really concerning:

“Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.”

Is Lululemon really suggesting that customers shouldn’t wear sunscreen? For a health company, that’s pretty bad advice.

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A person’s risk for melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, doubles if they’ve had more than five sunburns, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Additionally, one or more “blistering sunburns” in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s risk of getting melanoma. The sun isn’t just responsible for melanoma, about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with sun exposure, too.

Regular sunscreen use can greatly reduce this risk of cancer. In 2011, researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that regular sunscreen use can reduce the chances of getting melanoma by 50 to 73 percent.

Here’s the Sparknotes version: The sun causes sunburns, sunburns cause cancer and sunscreen protects against sunburn.

So then where is Lululemon’s logic coming from?

Business Insider was wondering the same thing, so they reached out to Lululemon to see and got the following response (they didn’t respond to Boston.com’s request for comment):

Thanks for reaching out for clarification. The manifesto design that goes on our bags is a collection of statements that are ever-evolving and intended to spark conversation that is relevant at the time. To clarify, the manifesto design on our webpage is the most up-to-date and has been used on our most recent release of manifesto print bags.

They said they wanted to spark conversation, so let’s converse. Is there another side to the sunscreen argument?

Some sunscreen skeptics argue against sunscreen claiming that it can lead to vitamin D deficiency, an essential nutrient for healthy bones. Vitamin D is often dubbed “the sunshine vitamin” because production is induced by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV radiation). Since sunscreen protects against UV rays, it decreases Vitamin D production.

While this argument is grounded, Vitamin D deficiency is not an issue for most Americans. In 2010, the National Institute of Medicine conducted a review of more than 1,000 existing studies on vitamin consumption and found that the majority of Americans are getting enough vitamin D. Most Americans get enough Vitamin D from fortified foods, the study shows. For those who don’t, The National Institute of Health recommends ten to 15 minutes of sunshine no more than three times a week.

Another argument against sunscreen is that some chemicals in sunscreen are potentially harmful to humans. Note: the keyword here is potentially.

Oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, the two most commonly referenced ingredients when arguing against sunscreen, may be linked to cell damage and horomone disruption. That’s worrisome, yes, but the fault in this argument is that these concerns are drawn from research conducted on mice, who are generally more susceptible to skin damage.

“It’s dangerous to apply a finding in mice to humans, and I’ve spoken with a number of my colleagues about this and we all agree that it’s very premature to even cast doubt about the safety of this chemical,” Dermatologist Henry W. Lim said in an article about this research in US News and World Report.

Research on the effects of these ingredients on humans has proven inconclusive. Further, sunscreens without these ingredients exist and are just as effective.

Bad medical advice aside, the whole manifesto is weird in itself. Here are some of the weirdest messages:

1) “Children are the orgasm of life.”

2) “Observe a plant.”

3) “Visualize your eventual demise.”

4) “Nature wants us to be mediocre because we have a greater chance to survive and reproduce.”

5) “Salt + high fructose corn syrup + butter = early death.”

Stick to yoga clothes, Lulu. Advice is not your strong suit.

Update: Lululemon responded with the following statement after this article originally published:

“The manifesto design that goes on our bags is a collection of statements that are ever-evolving and intended to spark conversation that is relevant at the time. This statement is an example of highlighting a topic that is relevant to the community, and we acknowledge that the statement is not research based.”