It was a 'goy-geous' today in NY. And the Beatles' tune, "Here Comes the Sun" stayed in my head all day. I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better weather. It was sunny, 80 degrees with clear blue skies with no humidity. And lucky for us, it will be like this for the rest of the week. I used to love days like this but unlike the other sun related song, "Sunshine on My Shoulders" doesn’t quite make me happy on some days because the Earth is getting hotter and hotter with strong UV rays that can damage our skin. Global warming doesn't care about skin cancer.
Gone are the days when we can step out into the sun without completely covered up in sunscreen, hiding behind sunglasses, and hats, even when we step out to go to the grocery store and not necessarily the beach or the pool. These days, I feel the prickly sun’s rays on my arms and I wonder, “Should I have lathered up more sunscreen? Why does the sun feel so stingy this year? Maybe I should have worn long sleeves. Maybe my sunscreen is not working.” I’m paranoid, you say? There’s not one ad in health and beauty magazines without mentioning the types of damage sun does to your skin, in addition to the news in the media, and the internet.
We are gobbling up mega tubes of sunscreens and covering up throughout the year, looking like snowmen and women because we learned that the sun is bad for us but now we are told that there are ingredients in the sunscreens that are more harmful than good for us. And what’s just as bad is that the toxins from the sunscreen are affecting the good microbes in the environment, disrupting the ecosystem when they get washed away from our skin.
You gotta be kidding me, you say? Well, I hate to be the bearer of the bad news (read the three part series on the common toxic chemicals" in our lives.) but I do have good news. I can tell you that there are alternative ways to protect yourself from the sun without worrying about the effectiveness and the safety of the products we are using.
How to Protect your Skin Against Sun Damage
Sunscreens expire – Make sure to check the expiration date when you purchase new sunscreens for the season. They last up to three years so you don't have to buy a new one every year.
Tanning Beds – UVA rays that tanning beds emit cause the deadliest skin cancer of all – Melanoma. Avoid Tanning beds at all cost. If you want the golden glow of a tan, try using sunless tanning lotion and spray.
Sunglasses – UV radiation from the sun can cause damage to your eyelids, cornea and conjunctiva. Exposure to UV rays also can contribute to the development of certain types of cataracts. Sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVB rays and at least 95 percent of UVA rays should be used, according to the American National Standards Institute. Stay away from sunglasses that do no offer any UV protection. The lenses on some of them that do not offer protection might actually cause more damage than not wearing them. You can usually find good ones in reputable eye glasses stores or outdoor gear stores. And we can’t forget about babies too. It’s hard to find good sunglasses for babies that provide UV protection but it’s really important to protect their eyes at a young age.
SPF confusion – One of the big kahunas of the sun block manufacturers, Neutrogena, came up with SPF 100+ sunblock but, contrary to what that number might suggest, it doesn’t offer 100 percent protection. It blocks 99 percent of UVB rays while SPF 50 of any sun block offers 98 percent. SPF of 30 deflects the sun 97 percent which indicates that higher SPF doesn’t mean better protection. Higher SPF just means you can stay in the sun longer than the lower SPF if used properly but that doesn’t mean you will get more protection. The SPF number game is confusing at best, misleading the consumers, but remember, no products that you can see through will block 100 percent of the sun from your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least a 15 SPF, reapplied every two hours, after swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen "Market Leaders" – According to EWG.com, only product from the market leader Coppertone's sunscreen products met Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) criteria for safety and effectiveness, and four products from Neutrogena, the third-largest manufacturer, is recommended by EWG. (2017)
Minerals - since chemicals in commercial sunscreens may cause cancer disrupt hormones, and cause skin irritation, more manufacturers have been using minerals as active ingredients. The two most effective minerals are zinc and titanium oxide. They are minerals that are considered physical blockers since they reflect and scatter UV rays -
you can tell by the chalky white appearance when applied - but the downside is that some of them are nanoparticles and can be absorbed into the body. Inhaling nanoparticles in sprays can enter the lungs and skin can absorb from lotion but EWG still finds them to be safe enough to be used in sunscreens, especially in a lotion. Read the full rerport about nanoparticles in minerals from EWG HERE. The other active ingredients are “chemical blockers” because they absorb and disperse UV rays is oxybenzone, and is widely used but it gets absorbed into the skin rapidly, causing stability and toxicity concerns. It also causes allergic reactions and growing concerns about hormone disruption.
There are hundreds of safe sunscreens on the EWG's Safe Sunscreen Guide. The guide gets updated every year so check the list in the Spring each year for the updated list. But here are my favorite sunscreens that make the list annually. Some are available on Amazon (linked), some are from the company stores, and many are available in your local stores' shelves.
My Recommended Safe Sunscreens
- Goddess Garden Organics(Amazon Affiliate Link)
- Beauty Counter - I'm really loving this Skin Dew Tinted Moisturizer!
- Kiss My Face - Mineral Face and Body Spf 30
- Badger Sunscreen - All Natural Sunscreen Cream Lavender
- The Honest Company - Mineral Sunscreen Spf 50 <---CHEAP!!(Amazon Affiliate Link)
- Think Baby - Safe Sunscreen Spf 50 <----CHEAP!! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Check out the WORST baby sunscreens, including some of the most popular brands: Banana Boat, Coppertone, CVS, Equate, Neutrogena, and Up & Up Kids.
Source: EWG.org (2017)
You can lather up all the sunscreens you want in the sun but the best protection against sun damage is to stay away from the sun. But you can't do that nor do I recommend it. But if you have to go out, I strongly recommend wearing protective clothing and hats. There was only one clothing manufacturer, which I know of, that produced a small line of UV protection clothes about ten years ago. Now, there are numerous companies throughout the world that make a stylish collection of clothes that protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Here are some that I found on the internet. I'm sure there are more.
Lastly, I can't emphasize enough how eating a well-balanced and healthy diet is important for skin damage prevention. When you eat real food, no added sugar, good fats, and avoid processed foods, your body will naturally protect your skin from sun damage. It's better to get some sun for Vitamin D than to avoid sun totally and with some of these guidelines, you should be able to enjoy this wonderful gift nature gives us without worrying about damage to your skin.