7 Problems With Sunscreen, and What You Can Do

Sunscreendangers1. Some sunscreens are flammable

Last week I wrote about the Massachusetts man who applied aerosol (spray-on) sunscreen on his body just before walking over to his grill, and caught on fire! See "Flammable Sunscreen Lights Man's Body on Fire"

Sunscreen in the form of lotion is not flammable, but the aerosol particles are, and those that remain in the air can ignite. I have to ask – what is the sense in protecting yourself from a sunburn, and getting a second degree burn from a real fire?

2. Undisclosed ingredients

Sunscreens are essentially unregulated and manufacturers do not need to disclose the ingredients they use on the product label. It's hard to believe there are no real federal regulations for sunscreen, but that has been the case since 1978. How else could a spray-on sunscreen go up in flames?

This makes all product claims suspect. Its hard to believe a sunscreen is waterproof or offers 8 hours of protection if there is really nothing required to back up those claims.

3. Retinyl Palmitate cancer risk

While vitamin A is normally an antioxidant, the synthetic form of it is photocarcinogenic. When exposed to light, it can cause tumors and lesions and has been shown to speed up the development of cancer. This form of vitamin A is called retinyl palmitate, and should be avoided in all skin care products. But since listing ingredients on lables is not required, you may be using retinyl palmitate and not know it.

4. Little protection from cancer-causing sun rays

woman-in-pool-200In the recent past, most sunscreens protected only from UVB rays. But those are not the rays that cause cancer. While UVB rays cause sunburn and redness, UVA rays penetrate far deeper than UVB – into the base layer of the skin where most skin cancers generate. UVA rays are also the rays that cause wrinkling and aging in skin. So while you may not get a sunburn, your risk of cancer isn't mitigated, and could be increased.

More sunscreens are now protecting from both UVB and UVA rays, however, the majority do not. In 2011, The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) sunscreen guide stated that 60% of sunscreens in the United States are inadequate against protecting against UVA radiation.

5. Loaded with toxic ingredients

Sunscreens are comprised of long lists of chemical ingredients such as: paraben, octinoxate, oxybenzone, cinnamate and synthetic camphor, to name a few. Studies have found that these chemicals accelerate the growth of skin tumors when absorbed into your skin, are highly allergenic, and have inferior stability at the skin surface (i.e., cause free radicals). They also disrupt hormonal balance, particularly those containing oxybenzone, the most common sunscreen ingredient.

6. Sunscreens are dangerous to the environment

Not only are these toxic chemicals absorbed into your skin and taken throughout your body, they also damage the environment and pollute the water. As these chemicals wash off the skin in the water (despite claims, none are completely "waterproof"), they disrupt natures delicate balance and activate dormant viruses in algae, causing the algae to explode!

7. False claims

Many sunscreens claim a high SPF when in truth, the SPF is not even close. False claims make you think you are getting more protection for a longer period than you are.

Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100 for example, claims SPF 100, but is rated as only "moderate" by the Environmental Working Group. It also contains oxybenzone, contains vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate – and this product is meant for children!

Are there alternatives?

Yes! Natural sunscreens are far safer to both humans and the environment and surprisingly more effective. They generally contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and they effectively cover the skin and prevent the sun's rays from penetrating. They do cover the skin with white film, a look some people don't care for.

Products that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide have received a green rating from the Environmental Working Group because they don't get absorbed into the skin (however, dermatologists suggest that people with eczema or other skin conditions avoid these products). Products containing titanium dioxide, ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), avobenzone, or zinc oxide are also more effective than conventional sunscreen because they block the sun along with UVB and UVA rays.

Cover up with sunblock clothing

sunprotective-tunicThe age-old way of protecting oneself from the sun was by wearing a long-sleeved shirt with a collar that has a tight weave, long pants, a hat, sunglasses, and even a sun umbrella.

While that might seem too hot for summer wear, newer sunblock clothing designs, like the one on the left, are made of lightweight fabrics. Mesh panels in the sleeves and the back help keep the heat down.

Natural and essential oils

What some people have discovered is that blending select essential oils with natural moisturizing oils allows them to tan gently without burning. Jane recently offered her recipe:

Natural Sunscreen Recipe:

H-L-MIn at least a 14 oz glass jar, pour:

    4 oz sesame oil
    4 oz avocado oil
    4 oz coconut oil
   30 drops helichrysm
   15 drops lavender
   10 drops myrrh

This creates a gentle, nourishing sunscreen, rather than a total block and allows her to tan safely without burning, as these oils are natural sunblockers and are extremely restorative for the skin. She reapplies often.

Pamela's recipe:

Pamela's natural sunscreen recipe is even simpler: 30 drops of Lavender oil in a 4oz bottle of Avocado oil.

Lavender is a wonderful oil for skin. Helichrysm and myrrh have been used for centuries for skin rejuvenation.

Don't neglect getting Vitamin D naturally

With all the attention on preventing sunburn and skin cancer, its easy to forget that we need the sun to stay healthy. For one, it is critical to get at least 10 to 20 minutes of sun on the skin every day so that our body can manufacture Vitamin D. This vitamin offers protection from osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon. Because sunlight also sends healthy signals to the brain, sunlight protects against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.

Vitamin D supplements are available, but the best Vitamin D is the kind your body makes itself with a little sun exposure. So don't cover up every minute you're out in the sun. The biggest reason for being deficient in Vitamin D used to be decreased outdoor activity, but now it's also from too much sunscreen!

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