Protecting Yourself in the Sun
By Nichole Krueger | June 7, 2022
Summer is here! (well, almost) I absolutely love this time of year. The sun, the warmth, the longer days…it gives me life.
If you’re like many people, you’re going to break out the sunscreen. But all sunscreens are not created equal. The majority of the sunscreens you see on the store shelves are laden with chemicals that actually CAUSE cancer.
Each year the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit organization with a mission to improve the quality and safety of our environment) produces a report about the best and worst sunscreens on the market based on toxicity. (Read more here.) The EWG’s 2022 Guide to Sunscreens includes more than 1,850 sunscreens, and only 1 in 4 meets their standards for adequate sun protection and avoids harmful ingredients.
Do we even NEED sunscreen?
This may shock you, but recent research shows no compelling evidence either for or against the use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, and we can be sure that using chemicals on our skin to block ultraviolet radiation is a recent development in our history.
Sunlight can cause damage the skin by creating DNA-altering molecules. These radical particles will promote oxidative stress in the body. But most Americans are creating oxidative stress in their bodies in far more harmful ways than sun exposure. Sugar, processed carbohydrates, inflammatory oils, overuse of alcohol – these all contribute to oxidative stress in the body and produce inflammation, which is a cancer trigger.
However, we DO want to prevent sunburn. When your skin is too red and tender, that’s a cause for concern. BUT when you regularly get “safe doses” of sun, and your skin gets darker from the sun, you’re actually making Vitamin D. This is a good thing. According to Healthline.com,
“regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D.”
I recommend that my clients enjoy 20-30 minutes of mid-day sun. An hour of sunlight is the approximate equivalent of 10,000 IU of Vitamin D – a very healthy daily amount.
If your diet is high in sugar and grains, it can be more dangerous for your skin to be outside in full sunlight. After the 20-30 minutes of absorbing the sun’s rays, applying a safe mineral sunscreen is wise (more on this below). However, if quality fruits, vegetables, and animal products are the backbone of your diet, you can enjoy up to an hour or more a day of full sun exposure. The more exposed, the better. If you can be in your bathing suit or in your birthday suit (privately, of course!), you’ll reap the full benefits of vitamin D.
So if I’m going to use sunscreen, what do I look for?
Look for natural, non-chemical sunscreens. “Non-chemical” is a term commonly used to describe ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ sunscreens they use the minerals. These are the ONLY two active ingredients you should see listed on the back of the bottle:
- Zinc Oxide
- Titanium Dioxide
Unlike chemical sunscreens, zinc oxide particles sit on the outermost layer of your skin where they scatter, absorb, and reflect UV rays. Zinc oxide is unique among sunscreen ingredients in that it is truly a broad-spectrum blocker, protecting from UVA, UVB, and even UVC. (1)
Titanium dioxide functions similarly to zinc oxide and works as a UV filter. It helps to protect a person’s skin by blocking the absorption of UV rays.
The concern with chemical sunscreens
The term ‘chemical-free sunscreens’ is commonly used to describe ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ sunscreens, those that use the minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their only active ingredients. Conversely ‘chemical sunscreens’ use only non-mineral, or chemical, active ingredients such as oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, and octisalate. (2)
According to publicly available scientific research, the most worrisome sunscreen active ingredient is oxybenzone. It is readily absorbed through the skin and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found it in nearly all Americans, with higher levels in those who report applying sunscreen (3).
Oxybenzone causes allergic skin reactions, behaves like an endocrine disruptor, and is potentially of greater harm to children (4). Four studies published in 2020 further support previous findings that oxybenzone can act as an endocrine disruptor and may increase the risk of breast cancer and endometriosis (5).
Another troubling ingredient found in sunscreen is Benzene – this is found in sunscreen sprays. Benzene is a well-studied chemical, and has been recognized as a carcinogen by regulatory bodies that include the FDA and the CDC, yet it’s still on the market.
If you’re interested in learning more about other chemicals and their negative health effects, check out this article from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Want to check the safety of your sunscreen?
Download EWG’s Healthy Living app. You can scan the barcode on your sunscreen (or any other personal care product) and review it’s rating.
Are you ready to learn more?
If you’re concerned about oxidation in your body, you can schedule a free initial consult with me. Tests are available to check oxidation levels. Assessing your oxidation and coming up with a plan to reduce it is a good step toward avoiding cancer and other chronic diseases.
The sun is a gift! With a nourishing diet and a reasonable time spent exposed to the sun, you can spend plenty of time soaking up sunshine, knowing your body needs and loves the Vitamin D.