The Sunscreen Dilemma

Summer is one of my favorite seasons and I spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s getting really hot in northern California and the sun feels super strong. Even though the sun is healthy for us – it gives life to all living things on this planet – we still need some kind of protection from burning.  

We are a culture that has been thought to fear the sun. We are told to lather up with sunscreen or stay inside because the sun is dangerous and will give us skin cancer.

Here is what I’ve learned about the sun’s UV rays:

There are two main UV rays that are potentially harmful for the skinUVA and UVB. UVA rays are more harmful than the UVB rays. Though UVB rays are essential for good health in small doses, they are responsible for sunburns because they tend to stay on the skin’s surface. UVA rays are the more harmful rays – causing skin cancer.

UVB – “good rays”:

UVB rays make vitamin D, which protects the skin from the sun as well as the bones from osteoporosis. Blocking UVB rays with sunscreen reduces vitamin D levels in the blood. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to cancer.

UVA – “bad rays”:

UVA rays are the more harmful cancer causing rays. They are less intense than UVB rays, however, UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays.

The SPF (skin protection factor) rating system measures the ability for a sunscreen to block UVB rays – not the more harmful, skin cancer causing UVA rays. Make sure that your sunscreen provides protection from both UVB and UVA rays.

Lack of sun exposure is dangerous while excessive exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. The greater risk is lack of sun exposure, which leads to low levels of vitamin D. For vitamin D production you need 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight on your skin (without sunscreen) every day.

Sad story of sunscreen

Many sunscreens contain fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemicals solvents and petroleum oils that are both unstable and harmful. Also many of the sunscreen brands just simply don’t list all the chemical ingredients used in their products. Avoid sunscreens with toxic ingredients  – like oxtinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone or hmosalate. These chemicals either act as irritants, allergens, hormone disruptors or carcinogens.

Check out The Environmental Working Group (EWG) extensive sunscreen guide. Great online tool to help you evaluate the sunscreen in your beach bag.

How do I prevent sunburn in the summer?

I take my time and slowly expose my body to the sun. Start with 10-15 minutes a day and gradually spend more time in the sun. In the meantime I use a hat and long sleeves if I am gardening for hours.

Use a more natural sunscreen – my favorite is Badger zinc oxide sunscreen.

Consume more vitamin D  – In a form of cod live oil and organ meats.

Eat saturated fats – dietary fats and oils provide building blocks for skin tissues. Good quality butter or Ghee is a great source.

Rub coconut oil on your skin – It has been tested to block only 20% of the sun’s rays, its value lies more in the powerful antioxidants it releases into the skin, which prevents damage from long term sun exposure.

Supplement with Astaxanthin – This is a unique antioxidant compound found in algae. It has been growing in popularity as an “internal sunscreen”.

Summer is the time to enjoy the beauty of nature – not to fear the sun! How do you protect your skin in the summer?

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