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Sunshine and Sunscreen

It’s that time of the year again! Spring has sprung and the sun is finally shining! Before you run to your bathroom closet to take inventory of what sunscreen and sunblock you have left over from last year, let’s talk about sunshine, sunscreens, and skin cancer.

Sunshine provides many wonderful health promoting benefits. The sun provides Vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in overall health and well-being, and it does a great job of aiding in detoxification. Spending just 20-40 minutes in the sun every day, without screen and blocks, can help brings toxins in your body to the surface of your skin so you can eliminate them via sweat. Tip: to enhance that detoxification process, try exercising in the sun!

Now, there are two types of rays that your skin needs protection from. Overexposure to UVA and UVB rays is a contributor to skin cancer. The UVA rays cause wrinkles, age spots and can go through windows or glass. UVB rays are the primary reason for skin burns, and these rays are blocked by glass.

We know that the skin is our largest organ so what we put on our skin is just as important as what we put in our body. So, what’s in that bottle of sunscreen that you’re putting on? The most common active ingredient in sunscreen is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone can trigger allergic reactions, disrupt your endocrine, reproductive and cardiovascular systems, cause cancer and create cellular damage.

Did you know that when oxybenzone gets absorbed into your bloodstream, it is still detectable three days after application? I recently learned that in 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, due to their harmful ingredients. Similarly, groups like the non-profit Environmental Working Group have noted that European sunscreen ingredients Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M are UVA filters that appear to be much stronger and more photostable.

Unfortunately, sunscreen research in the U.S. is far behind other regions like Europe and Asia. In February 2019, the FDA issued the following guidelines:

  • Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are the only 2 ingredients that can be generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE)

  • PABA and trolamine salicylate are not GRASE ingredients

  • Of the remaining 12 ingredients, industry and other interested parties must collect and provide more data

So the relevant and important question is…is it possible to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the rays without exposing it to unhealthy chemicals? The good news is that yes - there are natural sunscreens available that come with no side effects. These products are based on natural oils, certain nutrients and plant-based extracts. Take sesame oil for example. Sesame oil can resist 30 percent of UV rays, while peanut, olive and coconut oil can block out approximately 20 percent. Additionally, including specific foods in your diet can also help to reduce the risk of sun damage. Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring red pigment found in shrimp, salmon, and algae. This antioxidant is super rich in carotenoids which accumulate in all layers of the skin while sunscreen can reach only the outermost layers.

With the right diet and the right products in your cabinet you can safely enjoy the sun without fear that you are covering your body in harmful chemicals. So get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

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