5 Steps to Safer Sun Protection

At The Livewell Clinic, we are aware and concerned about the chemicals found in all sorts of products we put on our skin and allow into our bloodstream — chemicals that potentially disrupt our hormone systems and wreak toxic havoc on our body’s systems.

As you venture outside for activities this summer, you’re probably going to be armed with sunscreen. Great! Now, let’s talk about taking steps toward safer sun protection:

Do not rely solely on sunscreen.

Rates of melanoma have tripled over the past 35 years. Most scientists and public health agencies have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer. Wearing hats and sunglasses, finding shade when you can, and planning to go out in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower are all (even more helpful) steps you can take to prevent burning.

Opt to slather rather than spray.

Sprays cloud the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe, particularly zinc and titanium. There are also concerns about the effectiveness of sunscreen sprays providing adequate coverage.¹ If you are using aerosol sprays, make sure to spray it on your hands and then apply to your face and/or body.

Don’t be fooled by higher SPFs.

Anything higher than SPF 50 can tempt you to stay in the sun too long. Skin damage still happens, even if you don’t burn. High-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals with ingredients that have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Studies show that high-SPF products don’t reduce skin damage and cancer risk any more than low-SPF, so the extra chemical exposure isn’t worth it.²

Check the ingredients before applying.

The Food & Drug Administration has never reviewed evidence of potential hazards of sunscreen filters. Instead it grandfathered in ingredients used in the late 1970s when it began to consider sunscreen safety. The biggest additives to avoid, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are:

  • Oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system, linked to causing endometriosis in women. Instead look for products with zinc oxide, 3 percent avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. They protect skin from harmful UVA radiation.³
  • Vitamin A in vegetables is good for you, but spreading vitamin A on your skin may not be. Government data show that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with creams laced with vitamin A, also called retinyl palmitate or retinol.⁴
  • Octinoxate, a hormone disruptor in the reproductive system and thyroid.

Avoiding the sun? Make sure you’re still getting Vitamin D.

This vital nutrient is produced by the skin in the presence of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, depression and muscle weakness. We can test your levels and recommend supplements if you are Vitamin D deficient.

If you’d like to ditch the Coppertone and find a chemical-free sunscreen, here is list of the EWG’s Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens of 2017.


¹http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2011/07/don-t-spray-sunscreens-on-kids-at-least-for-now/index.htm
² https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/whats-wrong-with-high-spf/
³ https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
⁴ http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/top-sun-safety-tips/

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