I am heading for a week at the beach with my family! I’m super excited. I am looking forward to spending some time with the ocean and sun :). This made me think of an article I wrote a year ago about sunblock. For those of you who haven’t read it, here it is. And for an updated list of safe sunscreen here is the Environmental Working Group’s current guide .
Ok, I know this will raise a few eyebrows, but before you start chasing me with a pitch fork hear me out. I am not saying you should never use sunscreen. However, you should be mindful about when it is necessary and choose your brand wisely. Personally I don’t use much of it, for me or my family, but I also understand it can come in handy under some circumstances.
Now let’s be clear about one thing, a sunburn is a big leap from moderate sun exposure. As you probably know already, a sunburn causes cellular damage from ultraviolet radiation. There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, both can cause sunburn but they are different. UVA penetrates deeper in the skin and causes more cellular damage. It is present all hours of daylight , year-long, regardless of the weather. Healthy exposure to UVB rays is necessary for the natural production of vitamin D in the body. UVB rays are low in the morning and evening and high during the middle of the day. Of course once you start getting burned , there is no extra production of vitamin D to save for a rainy day, you are just damaging your skin.
My biggest issue with the whole sun exposure dilemma is this pandemic fear of the sun. A lot of people are terrified to spend a few minutes outside without a SPF of over 100! They triple coat their kids before going to the park and would wear a sweater at 80 degrees if it would save them from sun exposure. This is causing some serious health issues.
Here are two reasons to re-consider sunscreen.
Most commercial sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals. Our skin is our largest organ, not only does it protect us but it also absorbs what we put on it. ( Ladies take note, you might be ingesting pounds of chemicals through your skin, courtesy of your beauty products.) The damaging effects of chemicals found in sunscreen range from hormone disruption to various forms of cancer. One of the offenders is retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, that seems to have carcinogenic properties when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Most sunscreen products contain retinyl palmitate, amongst other synthetic chemicals that can get into your bloodstream. The Environmental Working Group provides a very useful list of what products to avoid (that includes spray sunscreens!) and which are safer to use. A note to parents, please be careful with the lotions you use on your child. Young children tend to be more susceptible to harmful chemicals because their systems are still developing, especially babies. And if you care about this, sunscreen also has an adverse impact on the environment!
Vitamin D deficiencies
I am vitamin D deficient at the moment. I have struggled with ups and downs for a few years now and let me tell you, it is not fun. I take this issue very seriously. Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon in this country, though for some reason it remains a secret to most. I am willing to bet if you go get tested tomorrow you will have some degree of vitamin D deficiency (unless you live in a land of perpetual warm months). Low blood levels of this vitamin can lead to a lot of trouble and has been associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children and cancer to name a few. One of the most common problems with vitamin d deficiencies is bone health, since the body needs this vitamin to assimilate calcium. Yes you can obtain vitamin from nutritional sources, such as fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk, but you are unlikely to get your fill this way. There are also supplements, I highly recommend a good quality vitamin D3 (not D2!). Some health experts say 2,000 IU a day is ok, but get tested to find out the best amount for you. This link from Cancer Connect provides some tips on choosing the right kind. Now ideally we would get our vitamin D from the sun, but if you are constantly coated in sunblock, indoors or avoiding the sun like the plague, it is not going to happen. Keep in mind sunblock, even in small amounts, impedes vitamin D absorption. In order to get the amount you need from the sun you would have to expose most of your skin (sans sunscreen) and be in the sun between 10 to 20 minutes depending on your skin. For more information check this article by Dr. Mercola.
With summer here you might want to pay some attention to what you are putting in your skin. We obsess over the right swimsuit, the least you can do is spend a few minutes considering your health. Here are a few suggestions
Consider Astaxanthin supplements
Recently Astaxanthin, a very powerful antioxidant mostly found in krill, has been touted to protect your skin from sun damage! You could call it the internal sunscreen. So you might want to add this supplement to your diet. We use Nutrex Hawaiian Astaxanthin.
Enjoy sun exposure in moderation
Once you start turning pink its time to go, this could be little as 10 minutes for very pale people. Use a beach umbrella, a hat, a shirt or just find some shade and relax. Let your kids get some sun exposure, you can always take them out of the pool and apply a safe sunblock. I know it can be daunting but given the choice of coming out for sunblock or going home, I have a feeling they will choose the first. If you make it a routine it won’t be as hard, and remember you are the boss! Besides it’s a small price to pay for your health and that of your family.
Use safe sunscreen
I will accept that some circumstances call for sun protection. If you work outside all day (like my husband and father in law) and you can’t shelter yourself from the sun, if you are at high risk for skin cancer, if you just can’t get out of the sun after a safe period of time; by all means wear some sunblock. Just make sure you are not making matters worse by adding dangerous chemicals to your skin. Some of the chemicals in sunscreen could increase your risk of skin cancer! This is your health; take a little time and do the research. I use Badger but there are many other safe alternatives.
Show your face outside, the sun wont bite if you are mindful. Be safe and have fun!