Sunscreen has been used for eons to protect skin from the suns damaging rays. Evidence of sun protection methods date back thousands of years and have been revealed in various cultures and countries throughout the world.
Just like today, women thousands of years ago desired younger, healthier looking skin. They utilized various methods of sun protection to maintain a youthful and aristocratic appearance, as pale, fair skin demonstrated that you were not a peasant or farmer who was laboring in the sun each day.
Today, many Eastern countries still hold onto fair skin was a status symbol and women especially, go to extreme lengths to achieve a lighter complexion. It wasn’t until recently that tanned skin became desirable and viewed as attractive in American society. With this new tanning craze has come lots of research, increases in rates of skin cancer and confusion about sun safety.
According to the National Cancer Institute, over the past the rates of new melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has tripled since the 1970’s. But Americans are very aware that excessive exposure to the sun causes cancer, they report using protective skincare methods and sunscreen sales are on the rise? This doesn’t match up…or does it?
Recent studies on the long term consequences of using today’s chemical sunscreens are revealing some pretty scary and shocking consequences. Sunscreen, the stuff that is supposed to protect our skin from harmful UV radiation and prevent skin cancers, may in fact be contributing to and accelerating skin cancer and other conditions.
Every major public health authority – the FDA, the National Cancer Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer – has concluded that the available data do not support the assertion that sunscreens alone reduce the rate of skin cancer. The FDA has also known about dangerous chemicals in sunscreen for years but have little to alert the public.
Sunscreen Ingredients and Myths:
Vitamin A in sunscreen prevents aging: Vitamin A is widely acknowledged for its skin nourishing abilities so adding it to sunscreens probably seemed like a fabulous idea. However, according to the 2009 FDA-sponsored study released by the National Toxicology Program, the synthetic version of Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, which is very common in mainstream sunscreens, may actually speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when exposed to sunlight. The FDA has neglected to notify the public of this finding and most sunscreen makers have not removed this chemical from their products.
For more information on retinyl palmitate CLICK HERE
Higher SPF means more protection: Many fair skinned people or those who are just extra cautious about protecting their skin will swear by their Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 100 sunscreen. But the truth is, a higher SPF does not mean greater protection. In fact there’s no scientific evidence that high SPF sunscreens work better than low SPF or that they lower exposure to UV rays. This is because SPF levels only reflect protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays which deeply penetrate the skin and cause skin aging, immune suppression and cancer. Plus, high SPFs contain more controversial sun-filtering chemicals like Oxybenzone, 4- methylbenzylidine camphor, 3- benzylidine camphor and Octinoxate which are toxic to reproductive systems and may interfere with normal development.
Oxybenzone is safe: A chemical filter found in 80% of commercial sunscreens that blocks UVB rays as well as beneficial Vitamin D. When Oxybenzone penetrates through the skin, it can trigger allergic skin reactions and even act as a hormone disruptor. The Environmental Working Group states, even though this ingredient is extremely common in sunscreen, the FDA has not reviewed any data on the potential toxicity of oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreen ingredients, despite evidence they can mimic hormones (Krause 2012) and have been detected in urine and breast milk samples (Schlumpf 2010, Calafat 2008).
To read more about the other harmful chemical ingredients in sunscreen CLICK HERE
Sunscreen is Destroying Ocean Life
As if our own skin safety isn’t scary enough, the chemicals in the sunscreens we so dutifully put on our skin are rapidly killing coral reefs all over the world. It is estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide (NatGeo).
According to the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science recent research has discovered that a sunscreens, soaps, cosmetics and body fragrances contain the chemical ingredients that are highly toxic to coral. These chemicals awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species and cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities (NatGeo).
Many popular beach resorts throughout the world are noticing the death of their tourist attracting reefs and are pushing for their visitors to use biodegradable sunscreens. Protecting the beautiful reefs that bring thousands of vacationers each year is a crucial priority not only for resorts but also for the fish and other aquatic life that depend on coral reefs to survive. Remember that even if you aren’t swimming near a reef it is important to use a biodegradable sunscreen so that the chemicals do not linger in the ocean and instead break down in basic elements within a relatively short period of time.
Are there safe, eco-friendly sunscreens?
Yes! Natural sunscreens have been used for centuries long before the chemical commercial sunscreens that endanger us and our planet. Check out the EWG for hundreds of sunscreens that are offer cleaner, greener and healthier skin protection.
Some things to keep in mind when purchasing a sunscreen:
- Choose a non-nano, mineral based lotion sunscreen with water resistance
- Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose a biodegradable sunscreen no matter where your swim
- Avoid fragrances as they are likely petroleum based and have been linked to organ toxicity and allergies
- Avoid use of Aerosol Sprays and Powders as they are made with chemicals that have been formulated for use on the skin but not inhalation into the lungs (which is where many of these products inadvertently end up).
Other Sun Safety Tips:
- Don’t Rely on Sunscreen – people who rely completely on sunscreen tend to burn and burns lead to cancer.
- Limit skins exposure to the sun -by wearing a wide brimmed hat, protective clothing, eyewear and seeking shade under an umbrella or inside, especially during peak sun hours of 10am to 4pm.
- Eat a Plant Based Diet – eat plenty of colorful, antioxidant rich fruits and veggies. These foods fight free radicals from sun exposure and help protect your skin.
- Protect your eyes -make sure your sunglasses protect against UV rays which can cause cataracts. Polarized lenses are best!
- 10 minutes is enough – just 1o minutes of mid-day sun can provide a fair-skinned individual (wearing no sunscreen) with more than enough Vitamin D for the day. Those with darker skin tones may need closer to 15 to 20 minutes.