Safer Sun Protection. From Sunscreens to Superfoods. How to Protect Yourself in the Most Non-Toxic Way. Check out this post to learn more about non-toxic sunscreen, how much sun is too much, how to eat to support your body's natural defenses and more.
The topic of sun protection, like SO many things, has gotten a bit confusing for folks. "The sun is bad". "The sun is good and absolutely necessary to avoiding vitamin D deficiency." "Sunscreens are necessary, don't ever leave the house without sunscreen on." "Most sunscreens are loaded with so many toxic chemicals that they may be more harmful to our bodies than the sun itself."
Recently, reports from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Consumer Reports have warned consumers against using many types of conventional sunscreens, especially on children. 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.
So, where do we go from here for safer sun protection?
With 1 in 5 Americans being affected by skin cancer, it's amazing to learn that the majority of folks aren't wearing sunscreen daily or worse, there aren't doing anything at all to protect themselves appropriately. By simply wearing a non-toxic, protective SPF sunscreen daily, we can prevent skin cancer and premature aging. But, we need to know what to look for and what to avoid and all the many ways beyond sunscreen that we can support our body for safe sun protection and safe sun exposure – while still reaping the necessary benefits of the sun.
Why Most Sunscreens are Harmful
Chemical Sunscreens vs Physical (or Mineral) Sunscreens.
There are two ways that a sunscreen protects the skin from sun damage – either with a mineral barrier or a chemical one. Chemical sunscreens contain compounds, which create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. They are often referred to as chemical or organic absorbers. Chemical sunscreens are technically sun filters. Mineral sunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun, they sit on the surface of the skin and physically bounce or reflect sun’s rays away from the skin. Mineral sunscreens are great for people with sensitive skin as well as babies and kids.
Chemical sunscreens, the type you'll most often find at the store, contain a slew of chemicals, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are absorbed by the skin and both of which are linked to health hazards and have been shown in scientific studies to harm coral reefs. (These are the two chemicals Hawaii recently banned in all sunscreens, effective in 2021). Additionally, many sunscreens also contain avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene and homosalate. Laboratory studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones, and physicians report sunscreen-related skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended human health consequences from frequent sunscreen application.
Spray sunscreens have also become quite popular in recent years, and these carry their own additional dangers, especially when inhaled.
Many sunscreens also contain methylisothiazolinone, which has been found to be a top allergen.
Here's a scary statistic: The chemical oxybenzone, that has been shown to pose a hazard to human health and the environment, it is an allergen and a hormone disruptor that soaks through skin and is measured in the body of nearly every American – in 2018, over 12 years after first reports from EWG were published in regards to this chemical – it still appears in 2/3 of the commercial sunscreens on the market. The reason that hormone and endocrine disruptors are so scary is because they’re especially harmful in small amounts, as they mimic the hormones our body creates daily and can interfere with everything from our reproductive systems to our metabolism. They’re particularly bad for young ones whose systems are rapidly developing.
Recent research shows that many chemical sunscreens may carry more of a risk than moderate sun exposure, so it's best to simply avoid these sunscreens, unless you have absolutely no other option, there is no shade and you have no cover-up options with clothing. But I would suggest this to be a last ditch effort simply to avoid overexposure and extreme sunburn.
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