Summer 2019 is coming in hot here in Cali. For decades I’ve been figuring out the sunscreen dilemma. I faithfully applied mainstream sunscreen brands to my babies to “protect’ them from the bad sun. When I learned years later that the vast majority of sunscreens (especially in those days) are chemical sunscreens that work by getting into our bloodstream and creating a defense in that way AND the things introduced to our bloodstreams were toxic and harmful I was FURIOUS. Furious at what? I guess that this was not on billboards on every street corner, easily seen by each of us, trying to do the right thing and make sure our babies were safe. I realized then that I couldn’t rely on what the advertisements and commercials told me to be anything near fact. I guess maybe I was naive at 30 even though I had a master’s degree in a medical field.
So then what? Embrace sunshine? What effect would that have on future skin health and appearance? Is it negligent to do nothing about protecting the skin from the sun?
Well, I’m certainly not the conclusive expert in the field but I encourage you to read what I have learned and discovered and then add to it with your own research, especially if you are a person that is outside a lot (which is actually way healthier) or live in a sunny climate, enjoy poolside, beachside, etc.
Sunscreens are divided into two groups: Chemical and Physical. I am strongly opposed to adding anything else to overburden our body’s toxicity, so I only use and preach the physical sunscreens which are also sometimes called mineral sunscreens. The work by physically reflecting the sun off the skin. The two LEAST damaging ingredients I have found to be zinc and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. Because they work by reflection it has been challenging to find a brand that is not chalky and white on the skin. Yes, I am vain, as well as healthy lol, so this is important to me AND my kiddos even more so. Things are getting better in this department, or maybe I’ve just tried enough and failed enough that finally I’ve found some winners. Look for labels claiming “invisible zinc” and the like. I have found that even those that make the claim are not necessarily so.
Badger makes my current favorite mineral sunscreen, and it comes in a cream, which is denser and more water resistant, and a lotion, which one could use for every day face, neck, arm coverage when outside for many hours. They both appear invisible to me and the cream has a yummy tangerine vanilla light scent.
Cerave also makes a pretty good clear mineral sunscreen called Invisible Zinc. I can detect a faint whiteness if it’s not rubbed in well.
Shade is a brand I found in the surf shops that was also mineral and almost completely clear.
An ingredient that shows up in so many sunscreens that you need to avoid is Oxybenzone and it’s sisters which sound similar. It acts like a false estrogen in the body. This is just terrific (not) when we are slathering it on our babies. (eye roll) The key here is READ YOUR INGREDIENT LIST BEFORE PURCHASE. If you’re a geek like me and want to read the research here check out drmercola.com and search articles on sunscreen.
Remember the skin around your face and eyes is thinner so it needs more protection on the regular (here’s a good place for the Badger daily lotion sunscreen). Really working your way up with small exposures builds the skins natural defense we call melanin.
One more fact you may not have thought about in regard to chemical sunscreens: They not only pollute your body but they pollute our seas and kill our coral reefs.
Now let’s talk about the importance of actually being exposed to the sun and Vitamin D levels. Should we always place a barrier on our skin? This is a tricky question. Your dermatologist (especially the cosmetic dermatologist) will always say yes. I believe for optimal health the skin and eyes should be exposed to the sun daily. Small frequent exposures that allow melanin to build in the skin and give you natural protection are great. Burning is never ever advised of course. One should know that Vitamin D is produced even if you are sitting outside next to the sun but it is an indirect exposure, as in under an umbrella. I try to get a bit of direct exposure but plenty of indirect. It’s important to note that this doesn’t preclude the need for Vitamin D supplementation in most cases. Lifeguards and landscape workers who are outside all day still may be low on Vitamin D.
Natural sunlight supplies many different benefits to the body such that I am willing to submit to the loss of flawless porcelain skin to have these benefits. It’s definitely a balancing act. Different times of the day the light is different and exposure at these varying times allows the body to produce different chemicals that affect well-being. For example it is helpful to be exposed to morning light and evening light for serotonin and melatonin release respectively.
I hope this is helpful. And, as always, clean water providing full hydration, and a diet rich in phytonutrients and whole foods helps in having the best skin possible. I love the sun and the water and nature so this has been a quest of mine. See you out there! Surf’s up!!