The sun gets a bad rap.
Despite the fact that civilization got along just fine without sunscreen for thousands of years, scientists of the 1940’s pegged sun exposure as the main risk factor for skin cancer.
This pronouncement just might have had something to do with the release of the first mass-market sunscreen product around that time. By the 1950’s, scientists and marketers had effectively teamed up to convince the public that the sun is something worth fearing. And thus began the meteoric ascent of the sunscreen industry, which now sells a billion dollars worth of product every year.
While it’s certainly true that excess exposure to UV rays can have detrimental effects on the skin, this isn’t the whole story.
In the 1990’s, four different studies all demonstrated a fact that completely contradicts the “conventional wisdom” of sunscreen pushers: individuals who use the most sunscreen have the highest risk of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, the inertia of our society’s sunscreen frenzy has dwarfed the warnings offered by these studies. And sunscreen manufacturers ensure that this remains the case by taking the “protect your children from the big, bad sun” approach.
As a result, sunscreen usage continues to increase every year—and so does the incidence of skin cancer. If sunscreen really is as good for our skin as we’re made to believe, shouldn’t things be getting better, not worse?
Conventional sunscreen is the problem, not the solution
The thinking around sunscreen use is flawed for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, sunlight isn’t bad for you. In fact, the vitamin D that your body makes after being exposed to UV rays is absolutely essential for your health. An increasing number of studies demonstrate that being deficient in vitamin D is a much higher risk factor for various types of cancer than even excess sun exposure.
By slathering on sunscreen every time you step outside, you’re blocking the precious UV rays that your body needs to synthesize vitamin D—and thus depriving yourself of one of the keystones of immune function, DNA repair, metabolism, brain function, and dozens of other indispensable bodily processes.
And that’s not all; sunscreen poses even more direct dangers too.
The Environmental Working Group’s “Guide to Sunscreens” presents a startling statistic: out of 2000 different sunscreen products that were tested, 75% contain toxic chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other health issues.
These toxins include tongue-twisters like para-amino benzoic acid, octyl salicyclate, oxybenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, phenylbenzimidazole, homosalate, menthyl anthranilate, octocrylene, methoxycinnamate, and parabens, just to name a few.
When sunscreen is applied to the skin, these chemicals are easily absorbed into the bloodstream, where they act as potent endocrine disruptors, weaken the immune system, directly cause cancer, and even make UV rays that do manage to sneak through much more damaging than usual.
So in short, if your sunscreen contains any of these ingredients (or any other multi-syllabic monstrosities, for that matter), you’re better off throwing it out.
Organic, mineral-based sunscreens are far preferable. These products aren’t riddled with noxious chemicals, and instead use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to partially block UV rays (the term “sunblock” is a blatant misnomer, because it’s not possible to block all of the sun’s rays, nor would you want to do so). In many cases, these minerals have been shown to be even more effective at protecting your skin from sunlight overexposure than their chemical cousins.
Here’s the caveat, though: it’s still misguided to go buck-wild with sunscreen, and even mineral sunscreens have their issues. For example, the minerals in these sunscreens are usually included in “micronized” or “nanoparticle” form, and the jury’s still out on whether these tiny particulates can seep into the blood and cause mineral imbalances in the body.
The ideal regimen for protecting your skin
Research has shown that the body needs at least 20 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight per day in order to generate sufficient vitamin D. So when heading outside, soak up some rays before reaching for the sunscreen.
If you plan to be outside for an extended period of time, then you’ll need some protection for your skin—but the best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. Eating plenty of skin-healthy foods—like resveratrol-rich blueberries and grapes, omega-3’s like wild salmon and flax seed, green and white tea, and beta-carotene-containing foods like carrots and red bell peppers—will also increase your skin’s ability to protect itself.
Only apply sunscreen when absolutely necessary, and always avoid the conventional, chemical-laden brands. The best solution of all is make your own sunscreen at home.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when it comes to UV protection, Mother Nature has her own impressive array of solutions. Amazingly, red raspberry seed oil has an SPF of 30-40, and carrot seed oil has a SPF rating of 40—without any of the drawbacks of sunscreen chemicals.
Here’s a simple recipe using these natural sunscreens…
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup shea butter
1/8 cup sesame or jojoba oil or avocado oil
2 Tbsp beeswax granules (use more if you want it more water resistant)
1 tsp Red Raspberry Seed Oil
1 tsp Carrot Seed Oil
Just mix the ingredients together until the concoction has an even consistency (read here for more details instructions).
You’ll be thrilled by how empowering it is to create your own natural health products. And best of all, you can rest assured that you and your family are protecting your skin with the safest and most effective sunscreen that nature has to offer.