Strategies for Safe Sun Protection
Although you may aim to get your 10-15 minutes of sun to maintain your Vitamin D levels, safe sun protection consists of a variety of important strategies. To avoid over-exposure to damaging UVA rays consider the following tips.
- Take cover- by finding shade and wearing sunhats, sunglasses, long sleeves and pants.
- Really try to avoid getting burned.
- Consider making plans around the sun. Since the UV radiation is highest midday, aim to go outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Choose and apply (and reapply) safe sunscreen throughout the day.
You are what you absorb
Choosing safe sunscreen is such a critical step because you want to avoid using sunscreens that are ineffective or that contain compounds that may pose health risks. Remember that what you put on your body goes into your body. In the holistic view of naturopathic medicine everything we are absorbing either through the mouth or skin is important to monitor since there are many possible chemicals and toxins that would be safer to avoid. We can’t control all of the toxins we get exposed to or inhale by living in the modern day environment but skin care products is something we can control. Skin care products are like food for the skin which is why it is becoming necessary to be discerning about the ingredients in our skin care and body care products. The reason one needs to be especially cautious about choosing sunscreens is that it is now recognized that a variety of ingredients found in sunscreens could be potentially harmful and toxic to the body.
Sunscreens that may cause health risks
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in a variety of areas including toxic chemicals and corporate accountability. EWG is a respected leader in researching safe sunscreens. EWG is a non-profit organization whose mission, according to their website, is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment and to “drive consumer choice and civic action with breakthrough research and an informed public.” According to EWG, consider the following sunscreen don’ts or cautions:
- Avoid spray sunscreens due to inhalation risks.
- Avoid super-high SPFs as anything higher than SPF 50 can tempt you to stay out in the sun too long causing skin damage.
- Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone as it is a synthetic estrogen that can cause hormone disruption.
- Avoid sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate because on sun-exposed skin it may speed development of skin tumors and lesions.
- Avoid combined sunscreen/bug repellents because combining sunscreens and repellents may lead to increased absorption of repellent ingredients and sunscreen needs to be reapplied more frequently and often at different times in the day than bug repellent.
- Avoid sunscreen powders or towelettes as they only provide dubious sun protection and inhaling powders may cause lung irritation or harm.
How to Choose Safe Sunscreens
For a start EWG suggests looking for sunscreen products with zinc oxide, 3% avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. EWG has an excellent ‘Guide to Sunscreens’ which is updated yearly and provides a convenient way to assess the sunscreens you may be using and outlines safer brands through a comprehensive rating system.