Sunscreen: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Outside time is important for all of us, especially coming out of a long winter and months of covid quarantine. Fresh air and sunshine are not only good for the soul but also for our physical health. But, as we head into the heat of summer, it is important to consider sun safety for yourself and your family especially on hot days. Yes, the sun provides our skin with an essential nutrient, vitamin D, but too much exposure to the sun can cause adverse health effects in the long run, like advanced aging and even skin cancer. Sunscreen is one way to help protect our skin from harmful UV rays but not all sunscreens are created equal.
Traditional chemical sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals that should be avoided at all costs. The biggest of these such ingredients is oxybenzone. This compound is a form of synthetic estrogen that can cause disruption to your hormones. It has actually been banned in Hawaii because of its damaging effects to coral reefs. Maybe not the best thing to be smearing all over your body! Another ingredient to watch for is octinoxate. Also banned in Hawaii, this chemical can cause skin allergies and has negative effects of the reproductive system and thyroid. Avobenzone is an irritant that is not sun stable, meaning it must be mixed with other stabilizing chemicals in order to be used as sun block. Lastly, retinyl palmitate is a synthetic form of vitamin A which is normally a strong antioxidant. However, when mixed with the sun, it begins to break down and form free radicals which can be strong cancer-causing compounds.
Instead of chemical sunscreens, try a mineral based sunscreen to help block the sun. Mineral sunscreens provide a barrier on the skin and don’t get absorbed by the body nearly as much as their chemical counterparts. The most effective mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active sun blocking ingredients. Great brands to try are Badger, Farmacy, Beauty Counter and Thinkbaby. I use Badger on my infant daughter and Beauty Counter on myself—both work great and neither leave the white residue that is often associated with mineral sunscreens.
Stay safe and enjoy your sunny summer!
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