Sunscreen is something we've all been taught is necessary and safe. But, it that really true? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's time to question what you know...
Is Sunscreen Necessary?
So, I have a confession to make... I'm totally a sun baby. Sometimes, I think I need sunshine on my skin even more than air to breathe. My olive-toned, Greek skin absolutely loves it and my health certainly benefits. My husband and kids, however, have pale Irish skin, and when we go to the beach, we always pick a spot near trees where I'm in the sun and they're in the shade (with sunscreen on).
However, the older and wiser I get, the more I'm aware of the importance of sunscreen, too, especially to avoid photo-aging. That is the aging of our skin that comes from sun damage. It causes premature aging of the skin, including wrinkling and dark age "liver" spots, and no adult wants to look older than they are! That's why I use sunscreen on my face and ears every single day of the year. I also now use sunscreen on my body to avoid sunburn when out in the sun for extended periods of time, and always when visiting tropical locales.
I'm not a fan of blocking the sun (in healthy doses) from the skin completely. God put that big ball in the sky for a reason! I believe we all need some direct sunlight on our skin every day, if possible, to optimize our vitamin D levels. It boosts the immune system, helps stabilize our mental health and emotions, and protects against various auto-immune disorders. It decreases heart disease, the flu, infections, seasonal effective disorder (SAD), depression, lethargy, aches, pains, and researchers believe that adequate levels of Vitamin D could prevent chronic disease and slash several types of cancer in half (source).
Being outside is the most ideal way of getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D. We need it! Just 15 minutes accumulated over the course of a day can make a huge difference. A nice glow on your skin is fantastic.
No one should ever get sunburned, however, which is quite unhealthy.
Sunscreen is very important to use strategically when you're in the sun for extended periods of time. However, according to the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Sunscreens, sunscreen should actually be your last resort. Other strategies involving the avoiding sun include:
When wearing sunscreen, there are many things to be aware of. Otherwise, the sunscreen may be just as harmful as a sunburn itself.
Here are some dangers found in many commercial sunscreens:
EVEN MORE!!! According to the Weston A. Price website, the list of questionable ingredients in sunscreens includes:
They add that, "in most situations, normal exposure to the sun is beneficial, not harmful, especially if you take care to avoid polyunsaturated oils and trans fats."
Zinc Oxide is a far better alternative for the active ingredient in sunscreen. Zinc oxide particles sit on the outermost layer of your skin, where they scatter, absorb, and reflect ultraviolet radiation, protecting your living skin below. (It does not penetrate the skin.) Zinc oxide is unique among sunscreen ingredients in that it is truly a broad-spectrum blocker, protecting from UVA, UVB, and even UVC. (source)
Zinc oxide should always be used in "non-nano" form to prevent it from entering the bloodstream. The nanoparticle controversy stems from the potential health risks caused by nanoparticles if they were to enter the human body. Actually, there are no studies showing that nanoparticles of zinc oxide can penetrate healthy human skin, (whereas chemical sunscreen ingredients like the ones listed above, which are molecular in size and thus significantly smaller than nanoparticles, are designed to be absorbed into the skin, and thereby they can get into the blood.) The biggest concern with nanoparticles in cosmetics is the threat of inhalation when they are used in powders and sprays. This is not a concern when the zinc oxide is dispersed in a cream or lotion based sunscreen.
(Titanium dioxide is another mineral active ingredient you may see in other brands of sunscreens. While it protects from UVB rays very well, it does not protect from UVA as well as zinc oxide does.)
Note: Although the photos in this post show hot weather, sunscreen can be just as necessary in the colder weather months!!
Favorite Store-Bought Sunscreens
Make your own non-toxic sunscreen!
Jenny Yelle, MHNE Holistic Wellness Educator
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