Now that we can be outside, enjoying the beautiful summer weather and sunshine, safe sun exposure is at the top of the mind. But before you stock up on sunblock, the truth is skin cancer rates are rising despite more sunscreen use and reduced sun exposure in recent decades.
Sunscreens can be loaded with hazardous chemicals. Those chemicals can cross through skin and into other tissue, raising serious concerns, especially in children―allergic reactions are only one concern. New research by the Environmental Working Group reveals that the commonly used chemicals in sunscreen (oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate) are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic, and may interfere with thyroid and other hormonal functions.
We are slathering ourselves and our children with these toxic chemical cocktails to protect against skin cancer when many of them may actually cause skin cancer. Specifically, retinyl palmitate, a vitamin A derivative, often used in sunscreens, was shown to speed up the growth of cancerous cells by 21%. Also, the body’s ability to produce cancer protective vitamin D is completely blocked by conventional sunscreens.
The sun isn’t quite the enemy it’s been made out to be. Baking until you burn and extreme sun exposure are what pose a problem. We need the sun for life!
One study concluded:
“This review considers the studies that have shown a wide range [of] health benefits from sun/UV exposure. These benefits include among others various types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease/dementia, myopia and macular degeneration, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The message of sun avoidance must be changed to acceptance of non-burning sun exposure sufficient to achieve serum 25(OH)D concentration of 30 ng/mL or higher in the sunny season and the general benefits of UV exposure beyond those of vitamin D.”
Here are some of my best tips for reaping the benefits of sun exposure safely:
- Start gradually. Get less sun exposure at first and work up slowly to avoid burning. Covering up (a hat and long sleeve light shirt) and getting out of the sun should be your first course of action before resorting to any sunscreen. That being said, mineral sunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun. After reviewing the evidence, EWG determined that mineral sunscreens have the best safety profile of today’s choices.
You can also eat your sunscreen, to protect your skin from the inside out and that’s what I prefer to do.
- Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense, real food diet is where you begin and of course one of the most important parts of that is lots of fresh, organic leafy greens, full of antioxidants.
- Be sure to include healthy sources of saturated fats and monounsaturated fats like pastured butter, coconut, avocado and olive oil.
- Get plenty of omega-3 rich foods like wild caught salmon2, sardines, tuna, walnuts, egg yolks, grass fed and finished meat, flax, hemp and chia seeds.
- Foods rich in the carotenoid lycopene such as tomatoes, tomato paste, watermelon, guavas, carrots, red peppers and purple cabbage are also skin protective.
- Antioxidants help reduce inflammation, skin damage and free radicals. Simply eating more fresh veggies and eliminating packaged foods and refined vegetable oils increases antioxidant intake as well as including berries of all kinds and dark chocolate.
Avoid inflammatory foods, such as:
- Refined, processed vegetable oils
- Processed grains
- Excess sugar
Some effective, natural supplements are:
- Natural Astaxanthin. Numerous studies have shown this supplement to be a very effective internal sunscreen. According to experts, this supplement is not recommended for children under 10 or pregnant women. Food sources are shrimp, krill, lobster, crab and red trout.
- Vitamin D3. Sensible sun exposure and supplementation is the best way to achieve optimal levels of this critical vitamin. It’s also a good idea to have your levels checked when you do routine blood work.
- Vitamin C. This is a potent anti-inflammatory, and immune system booster.
- Omega-3s and Krill oil. Krill is a great source of omega 3 as well as a natural source of astaxanthin.
So instead of avoiding the sun, get sensible about exposure and reap the benefits.
1The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5129901/
2According to the Journal of Nutrition, farmed salmon contains 10 times the amount of PCBs over wild-caught. According to research conducted by the Environmental Working Group, farmed salmon in U.S. grocery stores contains 16 times the concentration of contaminants, which includes dioxins and PCBs. https://www.ewg.org/research/pcbs-farmed-salmon#.WvmcC4gvyXJ
Ann Musico is a certified holistic health coach, independent nutritional consultant, author of Today is Still the Day and other books. She works with women of all ages to empower them to live well so they can model health and wholeness – spirit, soul and body – to their families and beyond. Visit her website at www.annmusico.com to learn about the coaching options and weight loss plans she offers as well as numerous free resources you can access.