Once upon a time, I lay out with my friends in my backyard and slathered baby oil all over myself to get a glowing tan. Say what?!! Yep, that was me in my teens.
Of course, we all know better now. Or, do we?
More than 2 million Americans develop skin cancer each year (NCI, 2013). Surprisingly, there are over 400 sunscreens on the market today, yet only a dozen are actually considered safe and effective.
What Is A Sunblock Or Sunscreen?
Sunblocks are mineral-based and provide a physical barrier between you and the sun. They are not absorbed but rather sit on the skin.
Sunscreens, however, are absorbed into the skin, and a chemical reaction takes place in order for them to be effective.
The ingredients in chemical sunscreens can be downright toxic to your body. For example, one common chemical is oxybenzone, which absorbs ultraviolet light and is believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer.
Also found in many sunscreens and face lotions is retinyl palmitate, a synthetic form of vitamin A. FDA-sponsored studies have linked it to skin cancer.
What Should We Filter Out And Why?
The Earth is struck with UVA and UVB rays.
UVB rays make up just 3 to 5 percent of the ultraviolet spectrum striking the earth.
UVA rays are more numerous and penetrate deeper into the body. They can cause a different type of DNA damage (Cadet, 2009). Most sunscreens only filter UVB rays.
It’s important to read the label and determine if your brand filters both rays.
How Do I Protect Myself?
1. Use Physical Barrier Sunscreens
We need the sun to provide us with energy and for the conversion of Vitamin D, but if you’re going to the beach or pool or will have prolonged exposure, you’ll want to take some steps to protect your skin.
Look for a brand that contains physical barriers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both filter out UVB and UVA.
2. Wear Protective Clothing And Gear
Wear a hat to protect your scalp, eyes, and the thin skin on your face. Use sunglasses with dark or polarized lenses to prevent glare.
Long-sleeve “rash-guard” swimsuits and those with dark colors and tight weaves can provide a physical block.
I don’t advise buying clothes with added chemical sunscreens.
3. Consume Antioxidants
Fresh, raw fruit and vegetables can provide your body with the nutrients needed to fight the free radicals caused by sun overexposure. Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, can be taken as supplement for several weeks to shield your body from UV damage.
How Do I Choose An Effective Brand?
The one major drawback of mineral-based sunscreens is the tell-tale ghostly white look. They can also stain your clothes.
There are several brands that the Environmental Working Group has tested for safety and efficacy, and some are better than others at blending in and not leaving the white marks behind.
It’s also important to note that choosing a sunscreen based solely on a super-high SPF factor can be misleading and give you a false sense of protection.
After about 2 hours, the effectiveness of chemical sunscreens wears off and not only stops working but actually interacts with the sun rays to cause free radicals and oxidation in your skin, which cause cancer!
Ultimately, you want to flip your bottle over, read the ingredient label, and avoid oxybenzone, parabens, retinyl palmitate, and artificial fragrance.
Choose those with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Do you have a favorite natural sunscreen? Let me know!