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Things are warming up around here, and it's time to start thinking about sun exposure! I learned years ago about the dangers of conventional sunscreen and its link to skin cancer. Our family only uses sunscreen for sports, basically. In most cases, if you are in the sun for a couple hours, you can cover up, or find shade for a while. But, if you are a sports mom like me, you might spend all day at the field.
I thought we needed sunscreen?
Over the past decades, doctors and the media have been telling us to protect our skin from cancer and sunburns, by slathering on sunscreen. This billion dollar industry produces sunscreens that are, in many cases harmful and not helpful at all.
Sunscreen protects the skin from damage in two ways- with a chemical barrier or a mineral barrier.
Mineral sunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun.
Chemical sunscreens are another story. Chemical sunscreens use one or more chemicals including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. These chemicals are worrisome because they are able to cross into your skin and other tissue.
When considering what chemicals are going into your body- think about this:
Will this cross the skin and get into other tissue in the body?
Does this chemical have the potential to disrupt hormones, especially in children?
Is there long-term or allergy reactions to these chemicals?
EWG revealed that chemicals commonly used in sunscreen, are endocrine disruptors, and estrogenic which may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. Including early puberty, which is beyond common these days.
Oxybenzone is the most common sunscreen chemical. If you see this listed on your sunscreen ingredient list- run! Oxybenzone is considered an endocrine disruptor, can reduce sperm count in men and may contribute to endometriosis in women.
The EWG warns against using oxybenzone, especially on children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.
What sunscreen has been tested?
Of the 1,400+ sunscreens tested by the EWG, only 5% met their safety standards and over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer. Yes, contributing to the thing that we are trying to prevent!
Many sunscreens also contain methylisothiazolinone, which the American Contact Dermatitis Society named as its “allergen of the year”. Fun.
Everyone is looking for less messy alternatives, and that's why spray sunscreens have become so popular. These spray sunscreens have additional dangers, especially if inhaled. Consumer Reports warns that spray sunscreens should not be used on children and that adults should use caution and make sure not to use on the face or inhale them.
Sunscreens are causing cancer partly because they contain a Vitamin A derivative, retinyl palmitate- which actually speeds up the growth of cancerous cells by 21%.
EWG reports Neutrogena as the #1 sunscreen brand to avoid, citing high concentrations of oxybenzone and other hormone-disrupting chemicals, and misleading claims about their SPF levels.
What about Vitamin D?
Most sunscreens completely block the body’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D. Statistically, 75% of us are deficient in Vitamin D and Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to higher risk of cancer and heart disease (which kill more people than skin cancer per year).
When you lather up with chemical sunscreens, you put yourself at risk to increase your chances of skin cancer, and you also reduce Vitamin D production- all in the name of preventing skin cancer. Sounds crazy right? By doing this, you increase the risk of diseases related to Vitamin D deficiency.
We make it a point to get safe daily sun exposure, the sun is not our enemy. Exposure to the sun isn't a problem if you are feeding your skin the right nutrients. Yes, you can eat your own sunscreen!
Try to avoid these:
vegetable oils (this is the most important for sun exposure)
Try to consume these:
healthy sources of saturated fats and monounsaturated fats
foods rich in omega-3s
lots of leafy greens
2+ tablespoons of tomato paste daily
More and more research and evidence is coming to light. They are revealing the dangers of many sunscreens and their potential to increase rates of skin cancer, it is important not to depend on sunscreens or think that regular sunscreen use decreases the risk of skin cancer. Despite the fact that we are told to never leave the house without sunscreen- incidence of skin cancer, especially melanoma, is rising dramatically.
According to the ASCPT- Sunscreens protect against sunburn, but there is no evidence that they protect against basal cell carcinoma or melanoma. Problems lie in the behavior of individuals who use sunscreens to stay out longer in the sun than they otherwise would. Vitamin D inhibition is, at this stage, unlikely due to insufficient use by individuals. Safety of sunscreens is a concern, and sunscreen companies have emotionally and inaccurately promoted the use of sunscreens.
What sunscreen should I be using?
Mineral sunscreens are typically considered a safer option. Be aware though, some mineral sunscreens also contain some of the chemical ingredients above and have the same risks.
Nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium oxide are used in some mineral sunscreens. These can enter the body and carry their own set of risks. Mineral sunscreen offers physical barriers, which also make it more difficult to pinpoint the SPF value.
The EWG recommend these natural mineral sunscreens (I personally use Badger!)
How do I make my own sunscreen?
Bottom Line: Use common sense and get safe sun exposure. The amount and safety vary by person and I definitely recommend doing your own research, as with anything.
What sunscreen do you use in your casa? How do you get safe sun exposure? Hope you found this post helpful, and I would love to hear from you!