Sunscreen, What’s Safe? What Works?
What’s safe? What works?
We all want the benefits of Vitamin D which is produced naturally when our skin is exposed to sunshine. This is why it is called the “sunshine vitamin.” It gives us the benefit of healthy bones and a stronger immunity. It’s that time of year when we want to enjoy the great outdoors. As I checked out sunscreens getting ready for the weekend at the beach, my intent was to find something safe and less toxic. Most products available had an extensive list of chemical ingredients. Since introducing the ETAscan into my practice, I am now aware of the level of chemical toxicity many of us have within the cells of our bodies.
I am also aware that the sun allows our body to convert Vitamin D for calcium metabolism affecting our bone health, our mental health and the prevention of cancer. So we do need a certain level of sun exposure for health benefits. What we want to prevent is over exposure causing burns that damage the skin.
What to Avoid in a Sunscreen
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, recommends the following:
- Avoid spray sunscreens as using these products may be inhaled causing lung irritation and toxicity.
- Avoid high SPFs (greater than 50) as this may leave your skin exposed to the damaging UVA rays which penetrate deep into the skin suppressing the immune system and accelerating skin damage. SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and refers to the protection against UVB radiation which burns the skin.
- Avoid Oxybenzone as this is a chemical that penetrates the skin entering the bloodstream and acts like estrogen.
- Avoid Retinyl Palmitate. This is often used in anti-aging skin products. However, when used on sun-exposed skin it may speed the development of skin tumours and lesions.
- Avoid combining sunscreen and bug repellents as this may increase skin absorption of the repellent chemicals. Usually, insects are not a problem during the time of the day when sun exposure is greatest.
- Avoid sunscreen towelettes or powders. The towelettes offer questionable protection and the powders may be inhaled.
I learned more about what I do not want in a sunscreen from the “organic” websites. The caution here is not use the product if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients.
The active sunscreen ingredients in the mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. This has been used for years and is not absorbed into the skin because the particle size is too large. Zinc oxide is preferred as it is stable in sunlight and provides better UVA ray protection than titanium oxide.
There is the nano particle controversy. Science indicates that nano particles greater that 30 nm are not absorbed into the skin and do not enter the blood stream. No studies have indicated that zinc oxide is absorbed into to the skin.
Zinc oxide is a concern if inhaled. However, when used in a cream or lotion base, this is not a concern. The rate of reactivity compared to titanium dioxide and many other chemical sunscreens is very low. Also, zinc oxide sits on the outer layer of skin over dead skin cells and any free radicals generated do not damage living cells below the outer layer. Often, zinc oxide is combined with powerful antioxidants such as organic olive oil, sunflower oil, and Vitamin E that scavenge the free radicals. Zinc oxide applied to the outer layer of skin scatters, absorbs and reflects ultraviolet radiation, thus protecting skin below this layer. It is a broad-spectrum blocker protecting from UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.
I will start by reminding you that hats are important for reducing intense exposure for all ages. Choose a wide brim that covers head, ears, face and neck from over exposure.
They are also fun and stylish.
Who doesn’t like a great pair of shades to protect your eyes from UV rays and reflection reducing the risk of cataracts? They now make shades for kids. Before buying, make sure they have the label “UV protection.”
Seek shade during during the intense midday hours. Umbrellas, shade trees, canopies. It is usually a little cooler in the shade too.
Wear light loose clothing during the intense exposures hours of 12-3 pm. This also helps to reduce bug bites.
What About Insect Repellants?
The webmd website suggests that sunscreen and bug repellent containing DEET not be combined as the combination increases skin absorption of the DEET into the blood stream to a greater amount in a shorter time period. Also the sunscreen needs to be applied more frequently increasing the absorption of DEET.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA recommends using products that contain active ingredients registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on skin and clothing. “EPA registration of insect repellent active ingredients indicates the materials have been reviewed and approved for human safety and effectiveness when applied according to instructions on the label.”1.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents select an insect repellent containing the lowest concentration of DEET possible for their children and that DEET should not be applied more than once a day in children.
Are There Safer Options?
There are products that are now using essential oils that naturally repel bugs.
The insect repellants are a combination of organic citronella, lemongrass, cedar, rosemary and geranium essential oils. Most carrier oils used are olive oil, castor oil, and beeswax. And you can safely combine sunscreen and insect repellant!
Recommended websites for quality organic chemical free products:
I hope this information is useful to you. I am not giving you details as to where to buy these products. However, this may give you some guidelines to follow when you are shopping for these products.
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