This topic actually hits real close to home, y'all! If you didn't know, I had a personal skin cancer scare back in 2014. I had an excised skin biopsy that came back positive with cancerous cells, and let me tell you...there's nothing that will help slap ya' health-lovin' silly faster than a cancer scare, y'all! The doctor physically removed the cells, but after that, I began taking a deeper interest in supporting my body and all of its systems - including the skin I'm livin' in - in a different, more holistic and natural, way! Safer sunscreen has definitely been a part of that journey.
The sun itself is not really our worst enemy. A healthy dose of sunshine is the best form of vitamin D we can get. Vitamin D is manufactured by the skin in the presence of sunlight and actually promotes a number of benefits in the body.
The benefits of vitamin D:
healthy bones and teeth
immune system support
nervous system + cognitive support
helps regulate insulin levels
supports cardiovascular health
helps regulate cell growth/cellcommunication in the body
The problem with sun exposure is often the sunscreens on the market, and the ingredients in them, that are magnifying the negative side effects of over-exposure to the sun and its rays. And many of the sunscreens out there block the healthy dose of sun that allows our skin to produce the vitamin D we need.
Ingredients to watch out for:
Why these chemical ingredients are a concern:
According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), these ingredients have been studied, and there's a staggering concern that they cause allergic reactions, birth defects, hormone disruptions in both men and women (endocrine, thyroid, reproductive hormones/fertility, etc.), and cancer.
The thing is, our skin is the largest organ of the body, and it absorbs whatever we put on top of it roughly 20 seconds after application. It begins circulating our body through our blood. Sometimes we think, "Well, I'm not ingesting it. It's just going on top of my skin." Our skin is a sponge that soaks up much of what we put on it, so it's important we apply healthy AND safe ingredients to minimize our toxic load and keep our bodies in efficient working order.
Additionally, these harmful ingredients are beginning to infiltrate our oceans and rivers, harming our little fishy friends, nature buddies, plant life, reefs, food for the wildlife, and are disrupting the whole ecosystem. Hawaii is actually the first state to ban the sale of chemical sunscreens that could harm the environment. Not surprising since Hawaii is surrounded by water - they should know more than anyone!
What SPF really means:
A higher SPF is not really the answer. What SPF really tells us is how much time we can spend in the sun with "protection" from that particular SPF. I put protection in quotations because it's important not to fully rely on sunscreen for protection - other factors are important, too. An SPF of 10 means you can get 10x the protection of no sunscreen. An SPF of 30 means you can get 30x the protection of no sunscreen (and so on and so forth). So, a lower SPF generally means you just need to reapply more often to make sure you're getting continued protection from your sunscreen.
Switching to safer sunscreen:
We should also consider switching to safer sunscreen. Like I mentioned earlier, there are chemical sunscreens, but there are also mineral sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens are typically healthier than chemical ones, but this doesn't mean that ALL mineral sunscreens are void of the harmful chemical ingredients I mentioned above. Additionally, mineral sunscreens can also contain nano particles that can penetrate the skin and cause potential issues in the body.
The sunscreen I personally use is an over the counter mineral sunscreen that is approved by the FDA as protection against broad spectrum UVA and UVB rays, helps prevent sunburn, decreases the risk of skin cancer and early signs of aging caused by the sun. It is available in both SPF 10 and 50, and is formulated with non-nano particles and is free of phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, harmful synthetic ingredients/fillers/fragrances, and is never tested on animals. That makes my skin (and my heart) happy!
What else we can do:
limit your direct sun exposure
reapply, reapply, reapply your sunscreen - and don't forget those ears, the top of your head, toes, etc...not just the large parts of your body
always have layers ready for covering up - hats, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, etc.
eat a well-balanced diet loaded with fruits, veggies, and healthy fats to help protect you from the inside-out