While we’re often told that covering up with sunscreen is one of the best things we can do for our skin, more and more researches are emerging to show that this may not be the case.
Even though the number of people using sunscreen each year is rising, the incidence of skin cancer continues to climb worldwide.
Article published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, states that:
“Sunscreens protect against sunburn, but there is no evidence that they protect against basal cell carcinoma or melanoma. Problems lie in the behavior of individuals who use sunscreens to stay out longer in the sun than they otherwise would. Vitamin D inhibition is, at this stage, unlikely due to insufficient use by individuals. Safety of sunscreens is a concern, and sunscreen companies have emotionally and inaccurately promoted the use of sunscreens.”
That’s why we need to become much more vigilant about what we put on our skin – starting with sunscreens.
Difference Between Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens can cause a chemical reaction that works to prevent damage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens are almost like a physical barrier – they block or ‘scatter’ the rays away from the skin.
Some scientists are worried that mineral sunscreens by containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in nano-particle form,may be small enough to enter the bloodstream.
It is estimated that we come into contact with anywhere between 700,000 and 2.1 million different toxic chemicals per day, many of which are in our personal care and skin care products.
Some of these pose serious health concerns by entering our bloodstream without any filtering.One of the most common sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone, has been detected by the CDC in the bodies of 97% of Americans tested.
Also,two European studies have found sunscreen chemicals in mothers’ milk up to 85% of samples tested, indicating that the fetus and newborns are at risk of exposure to these substances.
Influence To Hormones
Based on a research,several of the most common chemicals used for sun protection,including oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate ,have raised suspicions that they may mimic hormones and disrupt the hormone system. Of these three, oxybenzone is by far the most studied sunscreen chemical.
Citing oxybenzone acts as a hormone disrupt-er,and a link has been found between higher concentrations of oxybenzone in the body and increased risk of endometriosis and lower birth weight in daughters.
Meanwhile, the chemical octinoxate has been linked to thyroid and behavioral changes in animal studies, while homosalate is thought to disrupt estrogen, androgen and progesterone.
Skin Irritation & Allergies
Those with sensitive or allergy-prone skin should be careful about the type of sunscreen they use as many contain irritating preservatives, fragrances or sun-blocking chemicals.
People who use sunscreen often, like outdoor workers or women who use skin care products containing sunscreens, should also be vigilant as they are more at risk of skin irritation.
Symptoms like rash, itchy skin, blisters or swelling don’t always appear immediately, and can take up to a few days to emerge.
Of the 1,400+ sunscreens tested by the EWG, over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer.
This may occur because some of these sunscreens contain a form of vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol, and retinyl palmitate, which can release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, increasing the speed at which malignant cells develop.
Bigger Danger From Spray-On Sunscreens
Spray-on sunscreens can present some unique dangers as they can be inhaled which may lead to further risks not associated with creams.
In fact, many of the studies which highlight the dangers of sunscreen chemicals, actually involve the subjects inhaling or ingesting the chemicals, rather than rubbing them on the skin. This is why the FDA is in the process of investigating the potential dangers of spray-on products.
Protect your skin from the inside out! The American Cancer Society says that,because oxidative damage can increase your cancer risk, consuming a variety of antioxidants through food sources (rather than supplements which are often ineffective) can help reduce cancer risk.
It is recommended to include in your diet :
- Orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe which are high in beta-carotene (Vitamin A) and can reduce sunburn and wrinkles
- Citrus fruits – contain quercetin and Vitamin C
- Spinach, kale and other leafy greens which are high in lutein
- Tomatoes, watermelon and red peppers which contain lycopene
- Omega 3 fatty acids, found in salmon, fish oil, flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil
- Foods rich in selenium (which has been found to reduce risk of death from skin cancer by 50%) such as Brazil nuts, walnuts and grass-fed meat
- Teas – which are high in antioxidants
- Berries – the highest fruit sources of antioxidants
- Fish or UV treated mushrooms which are full of Vitamin D
- Olives,olive oil,nuts and seeds rich sources of Vitamin E, great for healing the skin
Oils with Natural SPF
Here is a list of the natural oils that can be used as sunscreens:
Red Raspberry Seed Oil
Red raspberry seeds contain high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids in addition to antioxidants and natural vitamin E. Red raspberry seed oil has a natural SPF between 28 and 50 and may also contain clinically significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Carrot Seed Oil
Carrot seed oil is an essential oil with significant antioxidant, antiseptic, antifungal and fragrant properties with high levels of vitamin A.
When applied topically to the skin in the form of a diluted carrier oil, carrot seed oil also provides natural sun protection. Carrot seed oil has a natural SPF of 38 and 40.
Wheatgerm is one of the best sources of natural vitamin E and is also a good source of vitamin K, B vitamins and choline.
When applied to the skin, wheatgerm oil helps to moisturize tissues and acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage. Wheatgerm oil has a natural SPF rating of 20. This is a good deal and you get a lot of it.
Properly fermented soybeans are a rich source of essential fatty acids, protein, lecithin, iron and calcium in the diet. When used topically on the skin, soybean oil is a cost-effective moisturizer compared to other oils and has a natural SPF of 10.
While not an oil, shea butter is derived from the fat of the shea nut. Shea butter melts at body temperature and absorbs rapidly into the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.
It contains the antioxidants, vitamins A and E both of which enhances skin cell regeneration and promote blood circulation below the skin’s surface.
Macadamia is known as the” king of nuts” and its oil is known to have almost the same properties as sebum. Sebum is the oil produced by our sebaceous glands to protect the skin from dryness and in a way makes skin and hair waterproof.
Macadamia nuts provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidant fatty acids. Good sources of magnesium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and vitamin E, the oil from Macadamia nuts also contains a natural plant chemical called cinnamic acid which provides a variable SPF level of 6. This is a good buy on this oil.
Hemp Seed Oil
The oil extracted from hemp seed is said to closely resemble the body’s natural lipids. Lipids refer to molecular compounds considered important for cell growth due to their large carbon and hydrogen content.
Lipids do not easily mix with water because their properties are more related to fat substances, although not all lipids are fats. As sunscreen protection, it is easily absorbed by the skin to provide the essential fatty and essential amino acids as well as other nutrients.
All these are needed for proper keratin formation in the skin, teeth, nails and hair as a major protein component. Hemp seed oil has an SPF rating of 6.
Coconut oil has an amazing ability to heal the skin and block the damaging effects of UV radiation from the sun. One of the reasons why it is so effective in protecting the skin is its antioxidant properties, which helps prevent burning and oxidative damage that promotes skin cancer.
There have been several recent studies done on the use of coconut oil as a sunscreen but there are fluctuations in the SPF rating of coconut oil. One study “proved” a rating of only 4 while another rated coconut oil at a 10.
Jojoba is a desert shrub effective for treating eczema, psoriasis and dry skin.Jojoba oil is more correctly described as liquid wax. As a sunscreen ingredient, jojoba oil not only provides natural moisturizers for the skin but also provides healing and anti-inflammatory elements through its natural substance called myristic acid. Myristic acid is a form of fatty acid naturally occurring in plant oils. This oil has an SPF rating of 4.
Sesame Seed Oil
Sesame seed oil is said to be composed of 20% protein and 50% lipids which gives the gamma tocopherol (Vitamin E) content. Tocopherol provides stable anti-oxidative mechanisms which include eliminating free radicals. UVR rays are said to be capable of activating the release of free radicals in skin cells.
The characteristic of being stable means they do not easily breakdown under the sun’s UVR or when kept in storage. As a sunscreen ingredient, it has an SPF rating of 4.
This oil is said to be rich in oligometric proanthrocyanidins or OPC. These are like the sesame seed oil components which hunt down free radicals that cause aging, with the purpose of eliminating them from the body system.
Studies show that the OPC in grapeseed is twenty times more effective than vitamin C in eradicating free radicals in its function as an antioxidant.
The antioxidating capabilities also promote the self-repair process of cells, which is important when the skin becomes affected by the sun’s UVR rays. The SPF rating for this oil as a sunscreen ingredient is 4.
This fruit is highly regarded by the Aztecs of Mexico for its high nutritional content. Avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, B, D and E , fatty acids and lecithin.
Avocado oil has quick-acting capacity to be absorbed by the skin tissue and provides the skin with emollients that can hydrate, nourish and regenerate the epidermis or the outer skin layer. Avocado oil has an SPF rating of 4.
Sea Buckthorn Oil
The fruit or berries of the sea buckthorn plant appear to be an unsurpassed natural source of vitamins A and E, carotenes and flavonoids. They are also rich in several other vitamins, including B1, B2, K and P as well as in more than two dozen microelements. Sea buckthorn oil is known for reducing the damaging effects of the sun’s radiation.
The restorative action of sea buckthorn oil may be partially due to the high content of fatty acids and essential fatty acids, carotenes, tocopherols and phytosterols, all important for the maintenance of healthy skin. The fatty acid content of seabuckthorn berry oil is 80 – 95%. The major fatty acids contained in sea buckthorn oil are oleic and linoleic acids. It has an SPF of 2-4.
Rice Bran Oil
Rice bran oil contains gamma oryzanol, a naturally occurring plant byproduct. The chemicals in gamma oryzanol suppress the rising melanin levels thereby blocking the transmittance of ultraviolet rays through the surface of the skin.
Other Tips on Avoiding Sunburn
Before you slap on the sunscreen, consider if there are other ways to protect your skin. You could try:
- Covering up – shirts, hats and shorts shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, reducing risk by 27%.
- Wearing shades and a hat – your eyes, and your thin facial skin is more prone to sun damage like premature wrinkling.
- Avoiding peak sun hours – usually from 11am to 3pm when sun is higher in the sky.
- Relaxing in the shade – take cover under a tree or parasol. Infants should also stay in the shade, reducing the risk of multiple burns by 30%.
- Checking the UV index – to help you plan your outdoor activities in order to prevent sun overexposure.
- Using ‘internal’ sunscreen – by eating the foods listed above.
- When using a safe sunscreen, use enough – you need to spread on about the amount that would fill a shot glass every two hours to safeguard your whole body. If you are sweating or swimming, you need to reapply more regularly.
- If you get burnt – use a mixture of aloe vera, coconut oil and vitamin E to cool down your skin. Here are some more sunburn remedies.