Sun Care and Sunscreen Safety

sun care and sunscreen safety at the beachSun Care Safety Tips

One of the best things you can do for your health is to get a safe level of sun exposure each day.

Being sure to wear sunscreen that is safe and not toxic and provides adequate protection from sunburn is important, as well as realizing why we need some sun each day.

Vitamin D is produced after exposure to the sun’s UVB rays and is very important to our immune system and other  body functions.

Vitamin D is known to help: maintain a healthy immune system, blood pressure levels, keep bones strong, muscle strength, healthy teeth, as well as helping support our cardiovascular and kidney function. It has even been shown to protect against cancer.

But we need to recognize when we’ve had enough sun. If you’re Caucasian and you see your skin is a bit pink, you’ve had enough. At this point your body won’t produce any more vitamin D and you will begin to burn, which is not good.

Sunscreen Facts

  • Sunscreens block the ultraviolet light your body needs to product vitamin D, which are the UVB rays.
  • Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 50 are not any better or even necessary. (Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent. SPF 50 blocks 98 percent.)
  • Not all sunscreens block the dangerous UVA rays that cause skin damage and cancer.
  • Many sunscreen products may actually increase the rate at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, as well as other toxic ingredients.
  • 56 percent of sunscreens contain oxybenzone (see note below)

Toxic Sunscreen Ingredients

If you or a family member choose to wear sunscreen it’s important to be aware of which sunscreens are safest and what ingredients they contain.

To be considered a ‘safe’ sunscreen by the Environmental Working Group, sunscreens must NOT contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate and provide a maximum of SPF 50, plus protect from UVA as well as UVB sunrays.

Note: Oxybenzone was found to be in 56% of sunscreen products and is believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may lead to cancer.

It is important to realize that chemicals can easily be absorbed into your body through the skin and being aware of what may be toxic will help us to choose alternatives.

Another common sunscreen ingredient is Retinyl palmitate, a type of vitamin A, is also classified of “high concern” due to its developmental and reproductive toxicity by the EWG’s research.

The Environmental Working Group recently released their updated review of safe sunscreens and sunscreen ingredients. They tested 800 sunscreens and found only 25% of these sun care products effectively protect our skin without the ingredients that may be considered toxic or harmful.

To find out if your sunscreen is safe visit the EWG’s website.
EWG Sunscreen Ratings and Reviews (New for 2012)

Additional things you can do to add more protection from sunburn:

  • Eat a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants.  Fresh, raw vegetables supply your body with the anti-oxidants that can help reduce free radicals caused by the sun’s damage.
  • Cover up with light cotton clothing when you’ve gotten enough sun for the day and wear a sun hat or cap with a visor to shield your eyes and face from direct sunlight. It’s important for your eyes to receive indirect sunlight with it’s full spectrum of light in order for them to function properly. (sunglasses will block this essential light)
  • Another important thing you can do to protect yourself from sunburn is to be sure you’re getting enough omega 6 and omega 3 oils in your diet and in your skin. If not, your skin won’t have the proper fat protection it needs at a cellular level. Processed foods with their oxidized fats won’t deliver the same nutrients that fresh, raw foods can.

How to be sure you’re getting enough vitamin D and safe sun exposure:

Dr. Mercola explains how to easily determine your UVB exposure

Sun care advice from Dr. Mercola: “From a health perspective, it’s counterproductive to expose your skin to the sun when it is lower than 50 degrees above the horizon because you will not receive any valuable UVB rays, but you will expose yourself to the more dangerous and potentially deadly UVA rays. UVA’s have a longer wavelength than UVB, which allows them to penetrate the ozone layer and other obstacles (like clouds and pollution) on their way from the sun to the earth. UVA is what radically increases your risk of skin cancer and photo aging of your skin. So while it will give you a tan, unless the companion UVB rays are available you’re likely doing more harm than good and should probably stay out of the sun to protect your skin.”

Link to the U.S. Naval Observatory Azimuth table

Dr. Mercola’s website

All in all, we need some exposure to the sun but too much of a good thing can be harmful if we don’t follow some sun care and sun screen safety advice.

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