Before you slather that sunscreen on your skin, or your child’s, as you vacation in sunny places this summer season, there are a few important things you should consider.
Of the many sunscreens and sunblocks sold on the American market, most, unfortunately, contain a plethora of harsh chemicals that have been found in laboratory studies to produce all kinds of damaging effects in animals, as well as in humans who were tested.
A well-known study conducted by the University of Zurich in Switzerland found that several chemicals commonly used in sunscreens mimic the effects of the female hormone estrogen, and were found to trigger developmental abnormalities in rats. Some ingredients also caused cancer cells to grow more quickly.
Some chemicals in sunscreens and sunblocks are readily absorbed by the skin, and they have been found to cause hormonal disruptions in the human endocrine system, cause cell damage by producing free radicals in the skin, and cause skin allergic reactions.
The most common chemical used, Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone) was shown in a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy. Incredibly, this compound, which also mimics the effects of estrogen, was found by the CDC to be present in 97 percent of Americans over the age of 6 who were tested!
So, What Are the Alternatives?
With the increased awareness about the potentially serious toxicity of chemicals commonly used in sunscreens and in sunblocks, makers of natural products have stepped up to the challenge and now offer the consumer a few natural, non-toxic alternatives.
Some natural products rely on zinc oxide, instead of artificial chemicals, to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide particles on the skin act like thousands of tiny mirrors, deflecting UVA and UVB rays before they touch the skin.
Another point to consider, however, even when using natural products to ward off against the sun, is that sunscreens and sunblocks greatly reduce the amount of sun light that penetrates the skin — thereby also greatly reducing the body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D naturally.
Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is not present in too many foods that are not enriched with it, and as such, many Americans (as many as three-quarters of the population, according to some estimates) have minor to more serious vitamin D deficiencies. This vitamin is very important, as it helps regulate every cell in our bodies. It’s hard to get too much (or even enough) of it. So, some sun is very good for us.
Instead of always grabbing for the sunscreen or sunblock, you and your children will want to get a little sun every day, without any protection — just not endless hours of it.
So, another thing you may want to consider is skipping the sunblocks and sunscreens altogether, and simply limiting direct daily sun exposure, insuring the rest of the time that you and your children are wearing protective clothing, such as light-colored clothes with long sleeves, hats or sports caps (to protect the face), and sunglasses.
By Marc Courtiol