If you’re like me, you probably enjoy spending hot, sunny days at the beach or in a pool. Or maybe you like playing baseball, bike riding, or taking your kids to the park. Whatever outdoor activities you enjoy, it is important to take care of your skin while you’re at it. I’m sure you’ve been warned about the danger of getting cancer from spending too much time outside without sunscreen. And we probably all know of someone that has or had cancer. One of the most common types of cancer is melanoma, a skin cancer. Besides the risk of developing cancer, too much sun exposure can cause sunburn, dehydration, and early aging of your skin. Therefore, it is important to keep your skin protected when you are spending a lot of time outside! However, it’s important to know when to wear sunscreen and which sunscreens are the best to use. Not all sunscreens are created equal! So keep reading for tips for sun safety and the best non-toxic sunscreens to use.
Tips for Sun Safety
Do you need to put on sunscreen every time you step outside?
First things first. Is it important to put sunscreen on EVERY TIME you go outside? No! The sun is not the devil. It actually provides us with great stuff, like Vitamin D. We need to be responsible about our sun exposure. But part of being responsible is not going overboard with our sunscreen slathering and getting a daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun’s rays, without applying sunscreen.
Why is Vitamin D important?
Vitamin D works with calcium to promote good bone and dental health. It also supports the immune system and regulates the neuromuscular system (the nerves and muscles working together to make your body move).
Vitamin D deficiency can cause many health problems, including rickets, muscle weakness, cardiovascular disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. So, we’ve heard that TOO MUCH sun exposure can lead to cancer, but NOT ENOUGH sun exposure can lead to Vitamin D deficiency and can, therefore, lead to cancer as well.
The rate of skin cancer in children has been rising. This is crazy to me, because most children have been spending more and more time indoors playing video games and watching TV. Or, if they go outside, they are being slathered with sunscreen.
Liz Wolfe, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, writes in her book Eat the Yolks, “Oddly enough, working indoors has actually been shown to accompany an increased risk of melanoma in several studies. One study of indoor workers observed a steadily increasing rate of malignant melanoma even though the workers were exposed to as much as nine times less sunlight that outdoor workers, whose rates of malignant melanoma have not increased. These studies concluded that sun exposure actually helps protect against skin cancer, thanks to the vitamin D generated in the body as a result of sun exposure.” (Eat the Yolks, page 212).
So, the Vitamin D that we get FROM THE SUN helps PROTECT the skin from sun exposure.
Why Is Sunshine Beneficial?
There’s no denying that the best way to get Vitamin D is from the sun. We can get it from foods like egg yolks and beef liver (which most of us don’t probably don’t eat) and from supplements, but the best form of Vitamin D is naturally, from the sun.
Sunshine is amazing. I believe in God, and I believe He made everything perfectly and in order. He created the sun, one reason being, to give us Vitamin D. But that’s not all. Sunshine also provides us with sulfate. That is a mineral that is produced when the sunshine reacts with our skin. It helps keep our blood fluid, aids in detoxification, and aids in neurological health.
Because of the rise of skin cancer, many people fear the sun. So they spend usually too much time inside, or layer on the sunscreen every time they step outside. Therefore, many many people have not been getting adequate Vitamin D.
Not only does sunshine give us Vitamin D, but it also regulates our circadian rhythm, and promote better energy throughout the day and better sleep at night. It also increases our serotonin, a hormone that boosts our mood and leads to happy, calm feelings.
UVA & UVB Rays
Sunscreens protect us from UVB rays, but many do not protect us much from UVA rays. UVA rays are actually the more harmful of the two.
UVB rays are the ones that aid in Vitamin D production. They also cause us to tan and burn. However, it is the body’s natural warning sign when we are getting too much sun exposure. When we put sunscreen on, we block UVB rays, and therefore, are not able to get Vitamin D or our body’s warning signal.
UVA rays are the ones that go deep down into our skin. They are NOT blocked by most sunscreens or windows. They are the ones that can cause cancer and faster aging of our skin. So people wearing conventional sunscreens, sitting in a car, or in their house near a window are not getting beneficial Vitamin D from the sun’s UVB rays, but they are getting damaging UVA rays.
So…what do we need to do?
We definitely need some sunshine. But how do we get sun exposure without getting too much?
What is responsible sun care?
Okay, so we need sun exposure for several reasons. So let’s look at some good tips for sun safety. First, aim to get about 15 minutes of sun exposure every day without sunscreen (As US News & World Report suggests). Of course this is different for different people. If you burn more easily, you’ll need less than 15 minutes to get your Vitamin D dose. But if your skin is darker and it takes a lot to burn you, you may need more time in the sun to get your appropriate Vitamin D dose.
If you’re spending more than 15 minutes a day outside, that’s when you’ll need to change it up. Once you’ve gotten enough sun exposure or if your skin starts to get a little pink, that’s your body’s signal that you’ve gotten enough sun.
Some responsible options would be to:
- Cover up – Put a physical barrier between you and the sun with clothing, a hat, a tent and/or umbrella.
- Go indoors – If you’ve spent your 15 minutes outside, going back inside is an option.
- Wear APPROPRIATE sunscreen – After your sunscreen-free sun exposure time, you’ll need to add safe sunscreen if you’re staying outside but don’t want to cover up. Make sure you read the label on your sunscreen and reapply as needed. Keep reading for the best safe sunscreen options.
Is any sunscreen OK to wear?
No. Getting zero sun can cause damage to your health, getting too much sun can cause damage, and chemical-laden sunscreens can also cause damage. When looking for a sunscreen, there are things we need to look out for. Some do more harm than good.
What should sunscreens NOT have?
Looking for a sunscreen with a high SPF is not the only thing we should be looking out for. The SPF number refers to how much it blocks UVB rays. Even if it is a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays, the number only refers to UVB. A higher SPF number is not necessarily better. There is not much of a difference between SPF 15 and SPF 100 (You can read about the study on CNN Health here.). Shoot for a SPF 30-50 Sunscreen.
What you put on your skin can be absorbed into the rest of the body. So it is important not to put sunscreens full of harmful chemicals on your body. Anything you don’t want getting into your bloodstream or your breastmilk, don’t put on your skin!
These are some Ingredients that can be harmful to your body and your sunscreen SHOULD NOT have:
- Retinyl Palminate
- Polyethylene Glycol
Many of these ingredients are chemicals that are absorbed by the skin and can cause damage, including skin irritation, allergies, cancer, and endocrine (hormone system) disruption. They can act like hormones in the body and can disrupt estrogen, lower testosterone, decrease sperm count, alter thyroid behavior, affect fetal development, delay puberty, and more (read here about EWG’s research). Retinyl Palminate is a chemical form of Vitamin A that when applied to sun-exposed skin is potentially cancer-causing. Many are also harmful to and can even kill coral reefs.
You can read my post here about why I switched to clean beauty. I share my ingredients to look out for in beauty products and side effects those ingredients can cause.
What SHOULD sunscreens have?
When you’re looking for a safe sunscreen, you’ll want to look for mineral lotion sunscreens containing non-nano zinc oxide (the white stuff baby diaper cream is made of). This mineral provides a physical barrier agains the sun’s rays. It bounces the suns’s rays off your skin, instead of absorbing or scattering them. Zinc oxide is the best thing to protect against BOTH UVB AND UVA rays.
10 Safe, Non-Toxic Sunscreens:
I’ve searched and have found some GREAT options for safe sunscreen. I have not tried all of these yet, but have studied the ingredients, values, and reviews. These are all zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreen lotions without the harmful chemicals listed above. Here are sunscreens I recommend:
I am currently using Badger Sunscreen Cream and it works great! I love that I can trust that the ingredients won’t harm my body but will protect me from the sun. Have you tried any of these? What safe sunscreen is your favorite to use? Do you incorporate any of these tips for sun safety yet?