Beware of the Sun (Screen)

How Toxic Is Your Sun Screen?       

Ahhh, that sunscreen time of year when we trade our sweaters and jeans for tank tops and shorts, exposing many body parts that had not seen the light of day in months. If we are smart, we use some practices to keep ourselves safe from some of the sun’s damaging rays. Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of great things about the sunshine. It’s one of my favorite bio hacks ever. But, better safe, than sorry does apply. 

Benefits of the SUN.

Nothing feels better than the sun on our skin and racking up our Vitamin D points goes a long way towards:

  • Strengthening immunity.
  • Upregulating the uptake of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
  • Decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation
  • Reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Helping to reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Contributing to lower blood pressure

We can see the many benefits of the sun and elevating Vitamin D can have on our health. For the safest and best results, we need exposure to the largest surface areas of the skin for about 15-20 minutes a day. Heeding this guideline will go a long way toward getting our daily dose. We also know that the sun can have some devastating consequences and that protection is a must beyond the 20-minute mark.

Even one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles your melanoma risk. Not only must we prevent sunburn burn, but most people would agree that they also want to minimize the aging effects the sun has on our skin.

Slather on the Sun Screen – SAFELY.

While sunscreen is an essential defense against prolonged exposure, there are a few other things to keep in mind. Sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and light, long-sleeved clothing can help. It can be tough to make the right choice for sunscreen. The marketing prowess of the makers of some of these products is top-notch.

SPF is another confusing issue that tricks consumers every time. It’s part of their marketing strategy.

Let’s clarify precisely how SPF (skin protection factor) works. The information below is courtesy of

  • SPF measures sunscreen protection from UVB rays, the kind that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer. SPF does not do measure how well a sunscreen will protect from UVA rays, which are also damaging and dangerous. Dermatologists recommend using an SPF15 or SPF30 sunscreen. Higher SPF’s don’t give much more protection. An SPF of 50 blocks 98% of the sun’s rays.
  • If your skin would usually burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer). This rough estimate given depends on skin type, and intensity of sunlight and, amount of sunscreen used. SPF is a measure of protection from the amount of UVB exposure.

How Sun Screens Work.

  • Chemical blockers: Block UVB rays (think of “B” for burn) Octocrylene, Homosalate, Octisalate, Cinnamate, Octinoxate, Padimate A, and Padimate.
  • Chemical blockers for UVA: Mexoryl and Avobenzone.
  • Physical blockers: Block UVA rays (think “A” for aging) Titanium Dioxide and Zinc oxide (inorganic)

Chemical blockers provide a chemical barrier to the UVA rays. They may be water “resistant” for up to 80 hours, but they are NOT waterproof.

Physical blockers do as the name implies. Anyone remembering lifeguards with their white noses can relate to physical blockers such as zinc oxide.

Are These Chemicals Safe?

Remember, anything put ON the skin gets absorbed into the body. Of particular caution here is to unborn babies who are already bombarded by chemicals in their mothers’ bodies.

Here are the ones to avoid.

Beware of the sunscreens to avoidOXYBENZONE: This chemical can cause an eczema- like reaction. Experts suspect that it can disrupt hormones by mimicking, blocking or disrupting the natural hormonal balance that can throw off the endocrine system.
Beware of the sunscreens to avoidOCTINOXATE and HOMOSALATE: Increases free radical damage to the skin. Hormone disruption of humans and wildlife. Hormonal disruptors which can cause serious problems in sexual development and sexual function. Disruptive to the thyroid. Dangerous to wildlife. Banned in Europe.
Beware of the sunscreens to avoidOCTOCRYLENE and AVOBENZONE: the Strong free radical generator that can cause damage to the skin and can cause DNA mutations. Accumulates readily in the body. Dangerous to wildlife.
Beware of the sunscreens to avoidRETINYL PALMITATE (Vitamin A Palmitate): This is a combination of Vitamin A and palmitic acid. When exposed to suns’ rays can lead to DNA damage or even cancer. FDA studies show retinyl palmitate may speed the development of malignant cells and skin tumors when applied before sun exposure. Thins the skin layer.

Scarily, all of the above are FDA APPROVED!

Paraben Preservatives: Namely (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-) can induce allergic reactions, cause hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity. Associated with both acute and chronic side effects. These parabens and other chemicals also lurk in underarm cosmetics. They may contribute to the rising incidence of breast cancer. Aim to avoid any crème/lotion that contains parabens.

Safe List

For blocking UVA (aging) rays, you can be safe with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that are naturally occurring. They will block both UVA and UVB because they put up a physical block that deflects the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them as the chemical blockers do.

Zinc oxide is insoluble in water. Keep away from the mouth and eyes. One great thing about zinc oxide sunscreen is that you can see where you put it and know when you need to reapply. All sunscreens require reapplication – about every two hours. You should use enough to fill a shot glass for each area except the face. Less can be used here.

European sunscreens appear to protect against UVA rays better than the ingredients that have been FDA approved. Four European sunscreen ingredients merit close consideration for inclusion in U.S. products. Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M UVA-filters, developed by the German chemical company BASF, appear to be much stronger and more photostable than Avobenzone without the toxicity.

Being safe in the sun just took on a whole new meaning. For a list of sunscreen that makes the grade see the Environmental Working Group guide below:
EWG’s Sunscreen Guide | EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens
* Sourced through