July 26, 2011
Don’t Get Burned!
Summer is in full swing and it occurred to me that I really should do a post about sunscreen. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner but better late than never! Just to make sure everyone is clear – I’m in no way proposing that you not
use sunscreen. I’m only suggesting that you actually think about what you’re buying for you and your children.
Research now shows that many sunscreens do not provide the protection they claim to do. According to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that rates the safety and effectiveness of 1,700 sunscreen brands each year, three out of five sunscreen formulas did not provide the protection promised on the label. That is an alarmingly dangerous statistic, especially considering that you’re exposing your skin to potentially hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin into the body – and it may be all for nothing!
So many people feel it necessary to slather on an extremely high SPF sunscreen over every inch of their body. In all honesty, I used to do the same thing. I was led to believe that that all UV exposure was dangerous for my skin and just assumed it was all true. It’s not
! In fact, everyone needs some sunshine exposure to ensure good health and quite ironically, prevent cancer. The sun is a vital part of staying healthy! The sun is responsible for our body’s creation of vitamin D, which is necessary to absorb calcium for strong bones and to boost the immune system to prevent illnesses such as cancer, musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. The best way to acquire vitamin D naturally is through moderate sun exposure a few times a week.
It is also important to note that lack of antioxidant nutrition also plays a significant factor in the cause of skin cancer. You can actually build up an internal sunscreen to protect your skin from the inside out with the increased intake of antioxidant rich foods such as berries and algae. Your skin is essentially made up of what you eat so it is important to realize the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet in preventing any form of cancer.
Another factor to consider is the likelihood of sunburn. Research shows us that the risk of getting melanoma (fatal skin cancer) may increase in relationship to sunburn frequency and severity. It is crucial to try to avoid sunburn! The real danger is not the sun, but the risk of sunburn. So with that being said, if you will be out in the sun for an extended period of time I strongly encourage the use of sunscreen! However, I truly believe that you really need to be more cautious about what you’re buying. It is important to keep the following tips in mind for your next purchase:
- Do not let the SPF number fool you! Some people believe that the higher the SPF, the better – but that’s not the case at all. SPF 15 blocks 94 percent of UVB rays whereas SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of those rays. There isn’t much additional benefit past SPF 30. Another danger to high SPF numbers is that it can tempt people into staying in the sun too long by suppressing sunburn but not other types of skin damage.
- Stay away from sunscreens that contain vitamin A! Research has found that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, that is often used in sunscreen may actually speed up the development of skin lesions and tumours. New data suggests that tumours and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with vitamin A. It is commonly found in sunscreens so make sure you examine the label!
- Avoid the chemical oxybenzone in sunscreens! This is a synthetic estrogen that is quite possibly the most widely used chemical blocker. However, it breaks down too easily and only blocks a part of the UVA spectrum. Once again, check the label!
- Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone, or Mexoryl SX! Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (both natural sources) are effective physical blockers (sunblock) that work by deflecting sunlight off the skin. In high enough concentrations of 7 percent and up, they provide effective protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone is a great UVB blocker and provides the most comprehensive UVA coverage.
- Avoid sprays and powders! These types cloud the air with tiny particles of sunscreen and may not be safe to breathe. Choose creams instead. They work just as effectively without you and your children breathing in toxic chemicals.
- Stay away from sunscreens with fragrances! These are unnecessary chemicals and there is no reason to subject your skin to such exposure when it is completely pointless.
At the end of the day, it’s important to note that sunscreen does not prevent cancer and the sun does not cause cancer. So, get out there and enjoy the sun – responsibly, of course!