The Great Sun Debate

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Summer is here and the Internet is drowning in articles about sun exposure and sunscreen…writers warning of the evils of the sun and the necessity of sunscreen all packaged in skin cancer statistics and delivered with a bow.  If you’re as sick of it as I am, there’s good news: Much of what they say is wrong!  Let me break down the basics for you as quickly as possible so you never have to read another article about sun exposure and sunscreen again…

Should I go out in the sun?

Yes!  Sure!  Our bodies need it.  Avoiding the sun completely is not good for you.  Excessive sun exposure is not good either and can lead to skin cancer. But getting a little sun exposure on a regular basis has actually been shown to decrease your risk for sixteen different types of cancer, including breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate!  All you have to do is get some sun but don’t get sun damage.  In other words, don’t sit outside and sunbathe all day.  Anyone can tell that’s not a smart thing to do.  But by all means play in the sun a while. Why?  Because your body needs vitamin D…

What’s the big deal about Vitamin D?

Known as the sunshine vitamin, our bodies produce it in response to exposure to sunlight and in turn Vitamin D helps the body use calcium from our diet to give us strong bones.  According to the Vitamin D Council, the amount of Vitamin D recommended for supplementation by the U.S. government is not enough to receive the full health benefits obtainable from this vitamin.  Low blood levels of Vitamin D can pose health risks such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, severe asthma in children and cancer.  A study by vitamin D expert Dr. William Grant, Ph.D. found that about 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented every year with higher levels of vitamin D because it reduces the spread and reproduction of cancer cells.

Even though Vitamin D occurs naturally in a few foods, sun exposure should be your method of choice for getting the Vitamin D you need…

How much sun exposure do I need?

Twenty minutes will do it, but don’t get hung up on numbers.  And no, lying out in the sun for two hours won’t get you “more of a good thing” because you’ll likely be subjecting your skin to sun damage.  But also know that there is no risk of getting too much vitamin D from being in the sun.  Vitamin D toxicity only happens when using vitamin D supplements.

What’s all this talk about UVB-rays versus UVA-rays?

UVA rays are the main cause of sunburn.  They penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB-rays and cause free radical damage. The reason tanning beds are not good for you is because the high-pressure sunlamps they use can emit doses of UVA-rays as much as 12 times that of the sun.  Hence all the controversy around tanning beds as people who use them all the time are much more likely to develop skin cancer.  Some tanning salons now have UVB-only beds, which are definitely an improvement.

So what am I supposed to do about sunscreen?

Put it on if you know you’ll be outside much of the day.  But if you’re obsessive about putting it on every single day under your makeup  you’ll never get the amount of Vitamin D you need because the sunscreen is going to inhibit your body’s production of it.  So use common sense.  Just don’t use anything except an all-natural sunscreen.

Conventional sunscreens are extremely hazardous to your health. Don’t use them on yourself and please don’t use them on your children.  The main chemicals in 90% of sunscreens on the market today contain at least one or all of these chemicals: Octyl Methoxycinnamate (OMC), Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane and Benzophenone-3.  OMC kills cells in mice, even at very low doses and Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane affects endocrine activity.

Studies have shown that the chemicals in sunscreens are absorbed through the skin and end up circulating in the blood stream.  Here’s a list of some other chemicals often found in sunscreens that you don’t want circulating through your or your baby’s bloodstream:

  • Octyl salicyclate
  • Para amino benzoic acid (PABA)
  • Avobenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Padimate O
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Homosalate
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Trolamine salicyclate
  • Octocrylene

You would think they would use safe ingredients in sunscreens made for kids, but they don’t.  For instance, here are the ingredients in Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Spray With Protective Vitamins:

Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 15%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10%, Oxybenzone 6%, Alcohol Denat. (63.5% V/V), Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Glycerin, Diethylhexyl Syringylidenemalonate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Fragrance, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

No amount of “protective vitamins” will help save kids from the dangerous chemicals used to make this sunscreen.  And most other popular kids sunscreen brands have the same thing going on.  Just check the label if you don’t believe me.

So what sunscreen should I use?

An all-natural one that uses zinc oxide to reflect and scatter both UVA and UVB rays.  For instance, this great kids’ sunscreen from Belly Buttons & Babies would be completely safe for little ones because it contains these ingredients only:

Purified water, zinc oxide, grapeseed oil, grapeseed extract, tocopherol (vitamin E)

The bottom line about sun

Get some. Not too much. Don’t get burned. Never ever use anything except an all-natural sunscreen.

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