While many skin experts still warn of the dangers of exposure to the sun, getting a little sunshine is important for helping our bodies generate Vitamin D, supplementing bone strength, ensuring a strong immune system, and cancer prevention—especially for women.
Like anything though, too much sun can cause health issues, from sunburns to skin cancer. For those of us who spend more time in the sun than doctors recommend, sunscreens can be lifesavers.
The choices we make can determine whether or not our sunscreen is indeed a lifesaver or instead, a stew of toxic chemicals slathered across our skin. The skin is the largest organ of our body. Whatever we rub on our skin eventually ends up in our bloodstream.
According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), most of the commercially available sunscreens do not provide adequate protection against the sun’s harmful UV radiation and may also contain chemicals with questionable safety records.
In all, 84 percent of the 831 sunscreens EWG tested did not pass health and environmental muster. Many contained potentially harmful chemicals like Benzophenone, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate (also called octinoxate), which are known to mimic naturally occurring body hormones and can thus throw the body’s systems out of balance.
Some also contained Padimate-0 and parsol 1789 (also known as avobenzone), which are suspected of causing DNA damage when exposed to sunlight. Furthermore, EWG found that more than half the sunscreens on the market make questionable product claims about longevity, water resistance and UV protection. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself from the sun without using these toxic chemicals.
A diet high in antioxidants–like vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, berries, fruits and veggies—protect the skin against harmful UV rays without dangerous side effects. Unfortunately, antioxidants alone may be insufficient to ward off burns from overexposure to the sun. The answer is to choose all-natural sunscreens.
You can find a vast array of natural sunscreens at a reputable health food market or online. Some of our favorites are from Aubrey (Aubrey-organics.com) including Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen, Saving Face SPF 10 Sunscreen Protection Spray and Natural Sun SPF 20 Tinted Sunscreen. Australian-based UV-Natural (uvnatural.com) also offers a full line of all natural sunscreen products.
The active ingredient in most natural sunscreens is titanium dioxide. This mineral deflects the burning rays away from the skin surface. It’s important to note that most sunscreens, especially those with a list of toxic chemicals, may not be recommended for young children under 6 months of age due to the sensitivity of their skin.
If you choose to use a sunscreen on your toddler or older child, try a “spot test” a few days before your trip to the beach or pool. Rub a small amount of the lotion on the back of the calf or on the foot and see if a rash develops. If there is no rash, the lotion is safe to use.
When outdoors, try to keep children under 6 months in the shade avoiding direct sunlight. Place them in light-weight, long sleeve shirts and pants to cover their skin, preventing over-heating.
Cover their heads with a wide-brimmed hat, and use infant sunglasses with 99–100% UV protection, because infant’s developing eyes are particularly vulnerable to sunlight. Be sure to read the label for UV protection rating.
Whether it’s you or your children, the choices you make today will determine how healthy you will be tomorrow. We have the right to choose what goes into our body… we now know that we have the right to choose what goes onto our body.