What you Need To Know About Sun Protection

Summer officially starts next week and many of you are once again facing the conundrum of what sunscreen should you use.  For years we heard how important sunscreen is but there has been some controversy lately regarding using sunscreen and other reports that many ingredients are not safe.  So before you hit the deck (pool, beach, boat) I will try to shed some light.

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To Wear Sunscreen or Not, That is The Question

We need to get some sun exposure. Sunshine on our bodies produces vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, immune function and blood cell formation. However, we don’t need very much sun exposure to meet our needs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 5-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a few times a week is all that’s required to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. So, the answer is YES, after your initial recommended time of unprotected sun exposure, apply your sunscreen and apply it often.

Why Suncreen?

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So as you just learned a little unprotected sun is a good thing, however, if you are trying to prevent aging (and who of us isn't?) or more importantly prevent skin cancer (which is on the rise) than you must wear sunscreen. The latest scientific studies tell us that we need a broad spectrum sunscreen.  Most sunscreens in the market protect you from UVB rays.  These rays are responsible for causing harmful sunburns and are most dangerous between 10 am and 4 pm.  However, most of the rays that reach the earth are UVA rays.  The UVA rays are present sunrise to sunset and penetrate the skin much deeper. UVA rays can cause free radical damage causing the breakdown of collagen which leads to wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and aging skin.  UVA rays can penetrate through light clothing, cloud cover and untinted glass.   That’s right folks, even on a cloudy day these rays can damage your skin.

SPF

It should be noted that manufacturers have mislead consumers by using words like waterproof/water resistant and of course SPF values.  Very often people mistakenly believe that using sunscreen with a higher SPF means that they can stay out in the sun longer and not have to reapply as often as lower SPFs.  Using between 20 and 35 SPF is all you need BUT you must apply 30 minutes before going out in the sun andreapply throughout the day.

Choosing Sunscreen

Although we must wear sunscreen, there are many scientists that believe that using chemical sunscreens may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free radical generating properties.  For instance, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that 97% of Americans are contaminated with a widely used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage?  And according to the Holistic Health Library, “Organic chemists have long been aware of the dangers of compounds in chemical sunscreens, but this was ignored by the manufacturers of commercial sunscreens and most of the medical establishment”  The list of toxic chemicals in sunscreens does not stop at oxybenzone.  The list includes:  PABA and PABA esters, Cinnamates, Salicylates, Avobenzone, Fragrance, Parabens

So with all this “negative” information about sunscreens you are probably asking yourselves, what can I use?   The safest sunscreens are physical blocks made with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide which work as a barrier against sun.  Lately titanium dioxide has come under some scrutiny but as long as you check to see they are not nano-particles you will be fine.  In addition to using physical block sunscreen, I recommend your sunscreen contain antioxidants such as green tea extract. 

Additionally you can wear a hat to keep the sun off your face and sunglasses to protect the thin, delicate skin around your eyes. Keep in mind that is important to get Vitamin D3, so spend a little time each day out in the sun without sunscreen.

As they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.