The skin is the largest organ in the body and acts as an important barrier between the outside world and our carefully managed internal environment. Everything we put on our skin should be judiciously considered as most substances are absorbed systemically to some extent. Once in the bloodstream, chemicals in lotions, sunscreens, makeup and other beauty products can wreak havoc on sensitive chemical pathways. This is especially important when it comes to sunscreen as we apply it over large areas of the body and reapply multiple times in a day!
Chemicals in beauty products are especially harmful as they can attach to hormone receptors on cells. When they attach, they block the ability of real hormones to attach or change the internal environment of the cell similar to the way a real hormone would. In sunscreen the chemical most likely to do this is called Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone can change the way estrogen works in the body making of special concern for women. Sunscreens with Vitamin A (a normally healthy vitamin) can also promote tumor growth when applied to the skin. In all, there are more than 12 chemicals commonly found in chemical sunscreens that the FDA has not appropriately evaluated. This does not mean that we know they are all dangerous; we just do not have enough information and educated guesses make us believe most
are potentially harmful. With that in mind, what should you be doing to protect yourself from the sun?
Best Ways to Beat The Sun
1. Avoid it. First; avoid it! Obviously, some sun is necessary and healthy (and absolutely needed to make and activate Vitamin D) but planning ahead to avoid times when the sun is most powerful.
2. Cover up. Consider covering up your skin with hats, longer clothing, or wraps to limit the rays.
If you are planning to be out in the sun all day, make your own shade with an umbrella or scope out shade places (those friendly trees can come in handy).
3. Sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen that is mineral based with Zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the main ingredient. Make sure to always use one with an SPF 50 or less. For more on choosing the correct sunscreen, or to evaluate the one you currently use, check out the Environmental Working Group. In general sunscreen sprays are more harmful (even those expensive “natural” brands) because they add more chemicals than lotions.
4. Sunglasses.Finally, don’t forget to wear sunglasses in bright sun as the rays can lead to cataracts.
With that information in hand, get out there and enjoy the summer!