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Your Organ Is Burning!

Your Organ Is Burning!

And other weird facts about your skin and the sun.

sun burning

We need the sun. It’s how we grow food, stay warm, and survive on this planet we call home. But as usual, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. There’s a lot of information out there about what helps with protecting our skin from the sun. But how do we know which of it is true? We did some digging into the research and what we found may surprise you.

Your organ is burning

Our skin makes up 14% of our body mass, making it the largest organ in our bodies. The two main layers of the skin are your epidermis (what you see when you look at your skin) and the dermis layer (which houses nerves, hair follicles, and other important features). Both of them can get a sunburn.

Length of the wave matters

UVB rays are probably the most infamous because they’re both carcinogenic and cause sunburns. But UVB rays are only one of three UV rays from the sun, UVC having the shortest wavelengths and UVA the longest.

The earth’s atmosphere filters out almost all the UVC rays, so we don’t have to worry much about those. But the B and A rays are longer, so they do reach our skin, and in some sneaky ways.

The sun can reach your DNA

Sunburns aren’t the only type of sun damage. As the longest wavelength, UVA rays can wreak havoc on our cells, damaging all kinds of molecules like proteins and even DNA without leaving a visible trace.

Your shirt can save you

One study in 2014 looked at 50 garments and determined that cotton and polyester T-shirts offered excellent protection from ultraviolet rays, while linen shirts offered little to no protection at all.

Sunscreen seriously helps

In 2013, a study showed that people who wore sunscreen daily over the course of four years, had 24% less photodamage compared to those who didn’t. Another study from 2016 showed an even more significant improvement in skincare from wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen every day for an entire year.

This means, that even though people are embracing natural oils in skincare, you might still need that extra layer of sunscreen, especially since most oils found in cosmetics don’t offer any significant sun protection.

Green glass is your friend

Research shows that while smooth ordinary glass still transmits about 74% of UVA rays, all glass blocks UVB rays, with laminated, and green glass completely blocking UVA radiation.

Melanin is only part of the story

The famous melanin is produced by skin cells known as melanocytes. These cells are the main barrier between us and our environment. After UV rays hit our skin, melanocytes increase melanin production and release it into nearby skin cells to protect them. Our ability to actually release this protection depends on our natural skin tone.

A sunburn is your skin inflamed

The redness we see and the heat we feel after a sunburn are signs of inflammation. Increased blood flow happens about 24 hours after excessive sun exposure, followed by an accumulation of immune cells in the burn area after about 48 hours.

This molecule matters

Our bodies have ways of signaling when and where damage occurs. A molecule called NAD (pronounced en-aye-dee) is an essential part of one of these signaling processes.

Some of these signaling proteins use up a ton of NAD when they’re activated. Which is a problem because they’re not the only ones who require NAD. Our bodies use NAD whenever we eat, drink, sleep, or breathe.

It stands to reason that our cells could do a better job if they had enough access to this vital molecule, whether it’s after a long day in the sun or not.

9 Surprising Ways Your Body Uses NAD

9 Surprising Ways Your Body Uses NAD

Researchers have good reason to believe NAD might be the key to healthy aging.

It’s strange to say a molecule is getting “press,” but that’s exactly what’s happening to NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) in publications ranging from Wired to Shape. NAD (pronounced en-aye-dee) is an essential molecule found in every living cell. Although biochemists have known about this critical coenzyme since 1906, they didn’t focus on studying it because NAD was found in so many places in the body. They also didn’t know NAD declines with age. Now the fact that we lose NAD over time, and that it's involved in so many different processes is precisely why some of world’s leading neuroscientists, biochemists, and researchers are paying attention to it.

Most of this research is in animals. But here are just some of the ways we know NAD is involved in our body’s functions.

1. NAD and Aging

Out of all the factors that require NAD, aging is probably the most significant and least avoidable. By age 60, a person’s NAD levels are approximately half of what they were in their 40s. This is simply because our cells make NAD, and as we age our bodies can’t replace the cells that die as quickly with new ones. But even if we’re still young and healthy, everything listed below may contribute to this age-related decline in NAD as well. 

2. NAD and Alcohol

Whether you get your buzz out of grapes, barley, potatoes, or molasses, all alcohol is created from sugar. For our bodies to process that after-hours beverage, the alcohol must first be detoxified by enzymes that require NAD to function. NAD is involved in two steps of this process: first to detoxify the alcohol into sugar, and then to help that sugar turn into energy.

3. NAD and Fat

One of NAD’s most essential functions is energy metabolism. Our cells use NAD to turn the food (and drinks) we consume into the energy we need to stay healthy. NAD does this by turning into the hydrogen-carrying version of itself (NADH) which aids in burning fats and proteins in the cell. 

4. NAD and Carbs

NAD also turns into NADH to help convert carbs into energy. This is because it plays an important role in glycolysis, the cycle by which our bodies convert sugars into energy. 

5. NAD and Sleep 

The production of NAD is one of the many biological processes in our bodies that follows a circadian rhythm. Energy metabolism, hormone regulation, and body temperature variations all rely on a 24-hour cycle as well. NAD helps regulate circadian rhythms, keeping them all in sync and working at their best. Which is a good thing because misaligned circadian rhythms lead to things like jet lag and sleep deprivation.     

6. NAD and Sunlight 

We’ve known for years that too much sun can definitely be a bad thing. But one of the reasons why that’s true is because of NAD. Our cells use NAD to help activate sirtuin proteins and to create the cellular energy needed for responding to long-term sun exposure. 

7. NAD and Muscles 

Strenuous exercise requires NAD for muscle recovery, while mice studies show that moderate or light exercise can actually increase NAD levels. 

8. NAD and Sitting

Even someone living a sedentary lifestyle requires NAD for basic biological functions like eating, sleeping, and breathing. 

9. NAD and Breathing

While our bodies need oxygen, the metabolism of oxygen can sometimes affect other parts of a cell through an imbalance known as oxidative stress. Since NADPH is an important part of the body’s defense against oxidative stress, oxygen metabolism depletes NADPH. There’s not much you can do to prevent this—after all, you can’t stop breathing. 

Bulletproof's Dave Asprey Talks NAD With Dr. Charles Brenner

Bulletproof's Dave Asprey Talks NAD With Dr. Charles Brenner

Find out what our Chief Scientific Advisor and Bulletproof's CEO have in common.


Now, if you’re listening to this going why should I care, this is PhD level biochemistry. Here’s the deal. This is fundamental to you being alive.

On the surface, Bulletproof's Dave Asprey and biochemist Dr. Charles Brenner couldn’t appear more different. But as this Bulletproof Radio episode proves, they share one very important belief in nicotinamide riboside (NR). Here they discuss their mutual ambition to live healthy longer, why they think the mitochondria could unlock that ambition, and what NAD has to do with it all. 

Food and air are coming in. Your body turns them into electrons via the Krebs cycle. Then, the electron has to be carried somewhere. You got NAD to do that.


Dr. Charles Brenner is the Roy J. Carver Chair and Head of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa, founding co-director at the Iowa Obesity Initiative, and also serves as the Chief Scientific Advisor to ChromaDex. See his CV.  


Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of New York Times bestseller The Bulletproof Diet, is a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur. He is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, and host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio.