Sunscreen 101

There are many, many brands of sunscreen available on the market. Before you lather sunscreen all over your body, have you thought about the fact that the skin is a semi-permeable membrane that will absorb some of the contents of your sunscreen? So the next logical question should be “is my sunscreen safe?”  Will it be okay if my skin absorbs the contents of my sunscreen and passes those contents into my body?

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The majority of major brands of sunscreen contain toxic, even carcinogenic ingredients. Yes, you heard that right–carcinogenic, meaning, cancer-causing. So you think you are using the sunscreen to prevent cancer but the ingredients in the sunscreen have been shown to cause cancer. Many ingredients should be avoided, for example, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) or oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor). Some sunscreen ingredients cause more free radical damage in the skin than the exposure to the sun would have caused. Look up the ingredients in your sunscreen.

There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths that affect our skin: UVA and UVB. UVA exposure can lead to skin damage and aging because it penetrates the skin deeply. UVB rays penetrate the skin superficially and are responsible for the sun burn. The majority of sunscreens on the market are good at blocking UVB, and not so good at blocking UVA. The ideal sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Many of the major U.S. brands of sunscreen do not block the UVA rays sufficiently to be accepted into the European market, which is much more stringent in their requirements for safety. Europe has developed chemicals that are good at blocking UVA but none of them have been approved by the FDA even though their companies submitted applications for approval here years ago.

There has been tremendous hype about vitamin D in the past few years because Americans have been shown to be extremely deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to play a role in numerous diseases including cancer, MS, osteoporosis, rickets, depression, and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is made by our body after being exposed to the sun. Sunscreen blocks your skin from making vitamin D. If you insist on wearing sunscreen whenever you are exposed to the sun, you will likely have a vitamin D deficiency.

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