Safer Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun

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I love the heat, including the humidity and sunshine Minnesota summers are notorious for. You might be thinking I’m here to tell you to wear your sunscreen and stay out of the sun as much as possible. Not a chance!

But I am here to share some information about the sun and sunscreen that might be a little different from what you're used to hearing. It's time to set the record straight.

Did you know traditional chemical sunscreens block UVB rays, but don't block UVA rays?

UVB rays are what cause our skin to burn, which is a warning to us to find some shade. Of course, we want those blocked if we're in the sun for a long time. Sunburns are the worst! UVB rays are also responsible for stimulating the production of vitamin D and melanin in our bodies. Melanin is what gives us our nice tans and protects our bodies from UV damage. Once the UV exposure is too much for our melanin to handle, our skin begins to burn. Pretty clever!

However, UVA rays are what we need to watch out for. And they aren't blocked with traditional chemical sunscreens. UVA rays cause oxidative damage to our skin (read: wrinkles). We aren't warned with a sunburn when we've had too much if we're wearing sunscreen. UVA rays are also damaging to your DNA and can cause skin cancer.

Rates of skin cancer have been steadily rising. Chemical sunscreens have given us a sense of false security. Since we don't burn, we assume we can spend endless hours in the sunshine without a problem. Unfortunately, the problems we run into come much later down the road.

Additionally, chemical sunscreens are filled with, you guessed it, chemicals! These chemicals are absorbed through our skin into our bodies. Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxat are a few of the chemicals found in these sunscreens. Some may mimic hormones such as estrogen. Others cause skin allergies. You can learn more about the dangers of chemical sunscreens here.

These days, our bodies are overloaded with chemical toxins from products we put in, on, and around our bodies. Since sunscreen is applied repeatedly and over a large surface of our body, it's definitely a good place to start when cleaning up your products.

No need to worry though, because there is an easy way to decrease the toxic burden on your body while blocking both UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. They sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed. This allows the sunscreen to deflect the UV rays away from your skin and physically block them from harming you. You're protected from burning and you're also protected from the rays that cause wrinkles and skin cancer. Sounds like a win to me!

And these days, you don't have to worry about looking pasty and white when using a physical sunscreen. There are plenty of great products out there that go on your skin nicely.

The Takeaways

  • Use a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical one. Badger and Beautycounter are two great brands, but there are many others out there. Look for zinc oxide as the main ingredient. The Environmental Working Group has more than 250 safe sunscreen options in their Guide to Sunscreens.

  • Spend 2-10 minutes outside each day without sunscreen. This will help your body generate the vitamin D you need BEFORE you put on any sunscreen.

  • Consider wearing protective clothing and a hat to shield yourself from overexposure when you are in the sun for extended periods of time.

  • If you find yourself with a bit of a sunburn, lavender essential oil is great for inflammation. Burt's Bees After Sun Lotion is a safe, nourishing option as well.

Posted on July 10, 2017 .