What Do Sunblock and The Art of Persuasion Have In Common?

She's very pale. Obviously uses lots of sunblock. Also, sex sells.

You’re going to have to bear with me as I get science nerd on you for a minute. But at least you can never say, “Karol never learns me nuthin.” You can also never say that because you didn’t grow up in the backwoods.

A few months back I had been reading about the importance of vitamin D and I stopped using chemical sunblock when I went outside. Our bodies use the sun’s UV rays to produce vitamin D, but sunblock blocks the production of vitamin D by blocking these UV rays.¹

Sunburns, Cancer, B-12 and an Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

Normally I was near-OCD about using sunblock. If you met me anywhere sunny in the past few years I had a sunblock stick in my pocket. (“Is that a sunblock stick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”) I used sunblock religiously.

You can see the conundrum.

On the one hand I didn’t want to use chemical sunblock because, among other things, I wanted my vitamin D! But on the other hand sunblock protects us from the harmful effects of UV rays, such as cancer. What to do?

During my short no sunblock experiment I only got a slight sunburn (my first sunburn in years), with skin peeling off my neck. I went out in the sun regularly, but I did try to find shade as much as possible. I was still torn. I don’t want skin cancer, but vitamin D isn’t present in most foods, and supplements aren’t my favorite way to get nutrients.

B-12 supplements being the exception. B-12 synthesis doesn’t happen via plants or animals, only bacteria. Most of the world’s production of B-12 is added to animal feed or directly injected into animals.² If you eat animals you might get enough B-12 without supplementation. Since I don’t eat animals I don’t have this benefit. Note: Microwave radiation kills B-12, so if you microwave your meat (you know, if you eat fast food or TV dinners) you’re probably not getting enough B-12 either.

“Shut It With The Science Karol, Let’s Talk Persuasion!”

According to a variety of sources, we only need 15-20 minutes of exposure to sunlight 2-3 times per week to get our vitamin D requirement. In other words, going outside without sunblock is all good for short periods of time.

Anyway, a couple months ago I mentioned on twitter that I was becoming more leery about using chemical-laden sunblock than being out in the sun sans-sunblock. Basically, I wanted to continue to be my pale old self without using chemical sunblock that may also cause cancer and is nearly always tested on animals. Almost immediately Jed Bickford e-mailed me about his and his wife’s raw vegan beauty products store. Specifically he mentioned their chemical free sun block.

Did that get my attention? Of course. The message to market was spot on. For whatever reason I never looked into raw & cruelty-free forms of sunblock, and immediately started reading about & researching the stuff.

But Jed went a step further by sending me an e-mail:

“Hey Karol, Send me your address and I’ll send you a few products to try. If you like them it would be cool if you let people know, but no worries either way.”

My response in my head: “Son of a bitch, I know what he’s doing. Jed’s cool, but dammit (the art of persuasion in action!). I want to try this stuff, but I don’t want to buy it because I might be leaving the country soon and these are not airline sizes.”

What I meant was, I don’t usually accept free stuff because then I feel obligated to talk about it. I don’t like feeling indebted to people.

So, of course, I responded with an address.

Note: I have no idea if Jed knows about the art of persuasion. I assume he does and he’s smart to use it in situations like this. This is not a character assassination against Jed in any way.

Nobody’s Immune To Persuasion Techniques, Even People Who Know You’re Persuading Them

One of the key tenets of persuasion is getting the other party to feel an obligation to help you or give you what you want.

It’s human nature to want to help someone who does something nice for us and we can’t do anything about it. Even when we know what’s happening it doesn’t matter. It’s known as reciprocation and both Robert Cialdini and Jay Abraham discuss this extensively in their respective works. (I recommend Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion more than any other book on this topic.)

The only thing you can really do to combat this is to refuse the help or the gift.

Take notice:

We feel this obligation if the gift or help we received didn’t really help or do what we expected. And we even feel this obligation when we didn’t even want the gift in the first place.

Think about it. How do you feel when a homeless guy gives you a silly little American Flag on a toothpick or a small flower and then asks you for change? Alternately, how do you feel when a homeless guy doesn’t give you anything and asks you for change?

I didn’t know how to deny Jed’s offer because:

  1. I met him in Portland a few months back and he’s a nice dude. It’s always more difficult for me (and you) to say “no” to nice people.
  2. I support vegan products as often as possible.
  3. I wanted to try these particular products.

I knew by accepting the offer I’d mention Jed’s site somehow, somewhere. Yup, I guess I can be bought.

That said, the benefits of not staying in one place for long is I use it as an excuse when someone asks me if they can send me something. I know the psychology and want to avoid it.

Thankfully, I liked Jed’s products (and use the sunblock almost every day) so I don’t mind mentioning them even though he doesn’t know I’m mentioning them. And I’m pretty sure, considering it has been about 2 months since he sent them, he isn’t expecting me to mention them.

As I’ve mentioned before (how many more times can I write variations of the word “mention”?), especially to the Freedom Fighters, I like to support good people doing good things. So there it is. Persuasion. Nobody’s immune.

7 Things We Learned In This Article (Or in Reddit speak tl;dr)

(Hat tip to Dan and Jeff for teaching me tl;dr – I still haven’t been sucked into Reddit!)

  1. Vitamin D is important.
  2. B-12 is synthesized via bacteria not animals or plants.
  3. Chemical sunblock sucks and Karol doesn’t want to use it.
  4. You can persuade someone by utilizing human nature and they have almost no recourse. (Use this for good please.)
  5. Jed and his wife sell a big selection raw beauty products so if you’re also looking to keep your body as chemical and cruelty free as possible check it out.
  6. My website is obviously turning into a trashy gossip mag, hence the bikini clad model.
  7. Send me your products to 666 Lies Drive, Noiwont, TX, 78701 USA and I will write about them.

Photo Credit

{ 14 comments }

Martin

I always love an honest assessment. I actually heard something similar recently in regards to the placebo affect. It was a podcast with Joe Rogan and Tim Ferriss. They referenced a study where it has been shown that the placebo effect works even when you know it’s the placebo effect that’s being applied.

It’s funny how none of us are immune to the art of persuasion.

Have you ever been totally convinced to buy something you never imagined you would buy on that day with the art of persuasion?

Karol

Yes, I watched a TED talk about the placebo effect recently as well. Our bodies/minds are fascinating.

I’m sure I have been convinced to buy something with the art of persuasion … probably hundreds of times … but I can’t think of examples off the top of my head.

Baker

TIL Karol should spend more time on reddit.

Karol

OK, that’s too far, I don’t know what that means. Also, I have reddit blocked on my computer. I will not get sucked in. :)

Ryan

Don’t know if you’ve heard about this before, but most vegans I mention it to are are unfamiliar with it so I wanted to pass it along. The nutritional yeast sold at both my local organic market and Whole Foods has B-12 in it. The company that makes the yeast is I believe Red Star. I think a two-tablespoon serving has 150% of your RDA of B12. I’ve used it as a popcorn topping (it’s got a cheesy/buttery sort of flavor with a hint of salty, but without really being salty), and I have seen it in a lot of vegan recipes as a way of adding a cheesy texture. Pretty sure spirulina also is an excellent (vegan) source of B-12, but nutritional yeast is much cheaper, especially if you get it in the bulk bins.

I would also second the recommendation for Cialdini’s /Influence/. I think of it as the grandfather of the behavioral economics books. (And yes, even though I’ve read it three times in the past ten years I have still bought things based on the art of persuasion–old patterns die hard.)

Karol

Yes, I used to be a big fan of nutritional yeast. It’s not usually worth buying when I’m constantly traveling, but I should maybe buy some now that I’ll be in Austin for another ~2 months.

“And yes, even though I’ve read it three times in the past ten years I have still bought things based on the art of persuasion–old patterns die hard.” – It’s not even an old pattern, we are simply not immune to persuasion. I read this book every 1-2 years and also have Cialdini’s Influence audio program. I always know what’s happening, but there’s nothing I can really do about it once it reaches the tipping point. That said, the fact that since September of 2009 I’ve been living out of a backpack helps a lot.

Annie

Hey Karol!
I only use sunblock if I plan to stay in the sun absolutely all day or something; otherwise I never wear it.

Our ancestors didn’t have anything close to sunblock and they did just fine, though occasionally they used old-fashioned sunblock (a thin long-sleeve shirt).

Glad you found a sunblock that works for you!

Karol

Our ancestors also only lived to 25 so cancer didn’t have a chance to kill them before predators did. :)

Jed

Um, wow. Karol, I had no idea you were going to write a blog post about this! I’m blushing a little bit.

Thanks so much for the big ups, and I’m stoked that you love the sunblock!!

Karol

You’re welcome Jed!

Karl Staib

I’m trying to get my wife to use less sunblock. The sun has so many healing qualities and we miss out on this by blocking out the good rays too. Thanks for writing about this.

Karol

It’s a tough situation, isn’t it? Too much sun = possible skin cancer. Not enough sun = possibly lots of other cancers.

Alexis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astaxanthin

Timothy Ferris had one of his video-random episodes whatever and mentioned how by taking this antioxidant when he went to the beach he managed to avoid sunburn without the use of any chemical on his skin. Of course whether or not taking astaxanthin is better or not Im not sure, but so far all research as pointed to it being generally safe

Karol

Interesting. Thanks for the link Alexis!

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