15 Jul Sun Safety 101: Your Summer Skin Care Guide
If you’re like us, you simply can’t get enough of dat summer suuuun! It bronzes skin, lightens hair, and brightens our general outlook. There’s really no wrong way to enjoy this warm, inviting summertime treat… but there definitely is a better way to protect your skin from its rays.
In today’s modern age, most folks are aware of the potential damage the sun can wreak on skin, causing painful and unsightly burns, accelerating the aging process, and leading to certain forms of cancer. Still, many aren’t aware of the potential dangers lurking in the exact lotions and sprays we use to protect our skin – and the results are pretty worrisome.
Over the last few years, studies show the use of sunscreen has risen… but so have skin cancer rates. Surprising? Not really. The ugly truth is, the vast majority of chemical sunscreens on the market may be doing more harm than good. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Consumer Reports have each published warnings about the ingredients used in modern sunscreen formulations. We’re talking chemicals with awful, hard-to-pronounce names like “oxybenzone,” “avobenzone,” “octisalate,” “octocrylene,” “homosalate,” and “octinoxate.”
Many of these chemicals are shown to actually contribute to certain types of skin cancer, speeding the growth of cancerous cells. And get this: think that bright golden ball is giving you your daily dose of Vitamin D? If you’re wearing a chemical sunscreen, it may be blocking your body’s natural ability to produce the essential nutrient, thereby increasing your risk of Vitamin D deficiency – a condition linked to higher risk of cancer and heart disease.
Had enough? Well, we’re not done yet! Many chemical formulations are also proven endocrine disruptors, messing with the body’s natural hormones and resulting in unwanted side effects like decreased sperm count, increased risk of endometriosis, and poor thyroid function. And others – mainly the ultra-convenient spray formulas – carry risks of inhalation and contain methylisothiazolinone, identified by the American Contact Dermatitis Society as “allergen of the year.”
Still hooked on your favorite brand of chemical sunscreen? Consider this: of 1,300 sunscreens tested by EWG, two-thirds were found to provide “inferior protection” and contain “worrisome ingredients.” Talk about an old-fashioned bait and switch! The good news? Consumers are getting wise to these not-so-hidden risks – to our bodies and to our environment. Both Hawaii and Key West banned sunscreens containing chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, shown to cause deformities and DNA damage in ocean life while killing the essential coral reefs which bring balance to the underwater system.
Consumers are also learning to ask the right questions about their sun care, including:
- Will these chemicals cross the skin barrier into tissues and organs? (Remember: your skin is just one BIG organ, designed to absorb much of what you put on it).
- Do these chemical have the potential to disrupt hormones?
- Do these chemicals carry long-term health or allergy risks?
If the prospect of slathering your body in chemicals which can potentially kill you (and the earth) doesn’t sound so appealing, don’t panic! And by all means, don’t remove yourself from sun exposure entirely. The sun is still your friend, providing essential Vitamin D (and happiness!), and actually reducing your risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and macular degeneration.
Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from sun damage that are totally safe and just as convenient as your favorite chemical spray or lotion. Here are just a few:
Choose a mineral-based sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen, often made using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, creates a natural barrier to harmful rays while still offering a healthy amount of protection. Many mineral options are water-resistant and also shield against harmful UVA/ UVB rays (but not all, so be sure to check!) The safest brands, as identified by the Environmental Working Group, are: Badger Mineral Sunscreen, Babyganics, All Terrain KidSport SPF30 Oxybenzone-Free Mineral Sunscreen, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Bull Frog, Burt’s Bees Sunscreen Stick, California Baby Hypoallergenic, JASON Mineral Sunscreen, Naked Turtle Mineral Sunscreen with Aloe, Sunology Natural Sunscreen. You can also check out EWG’s 2019 Sunscreen Guide here.
Stick to an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet. Just like eating the right balance of foods can fuel your body properly and reduce your risk of certain diseases, a healthy diet can also help prepare your skin for sun exposure. Foods rich in good fats (think omega-3’s from fish), Vitamin D, and fat-soluble vitamins and saturated fats from plants and animals can help build the health of your largest organ. Equally essential is making sure to avoid too many processed foods, vegetable oils, grains, and sugars, known to contribute to inflammation. Adding 2 Tablespoons of lycopene-rich tomato paste to your daily diet can also help feed your skin, along with consuming a moderate amount of antioxidant-rich berries and dark chocolate (you don’t have to tell us twice!)
This chemical free-for-all can make you just wanna throw up your hands and go without… but don’t! If checking labels and rembering a laundry list of no-no ingredients isn’t really your thing, go DIY. Wow all your friends by making your own mineral sunscreen (a process which is, surprisingly, not difficult, and a much safer alternative to going bare). Try this super simple, customizable recipe from Wellness Mama and embrace the glow!