With summer in full swing, there’s no doubt that you’re out enjoying all it has to offer. Being out, you’re probably protecting yourself from the damaging UVA and UVB sun rays by slathering on as much sunscreen as possible. Did you know though, that most sunscreens are toxic and many of the ingredients they contain actually may cause the cancer they’re reported to prevent?
That’s right people. Your sunscreen could be doing far more damage to your body than you could ever begin to imagine. With more than 2 million people diagnosed with skin cancer every year and more people using sunscreen than ever, it’s interesting to note that malignant melanoma is being found in those that tend to use the most sunscreen.
Come spring each year, the Skin Cancer Foundation heads its warnings to the masses about how dangerous it is to get out in the sun without sunscreen. They’ve repeatedly told consumers that “sunscreen should be an integral part of a comprehensive program” to prevent melanoma when long periods of time are spent outside. However, the thing is that the Skin Cancer Foundation is heavily funded by the sunscreen industry. Makes sense then that they’re not going to talk publicly about the growing number of reports that show sunscreen does nothing to prevent melanoma.
As skin cancer rates continue to climb, sales in sunscreen steadily rise right along with them. Coincidence? Not likely.
A Brief History of Sunscreen and Melanoma
Once upon a time, way back in the early 1940s, sunscreen was introduced to the masses as a tanning lotion. The concept behind it was that if you could stay out for longer periods in the sun without burning, you’d eventually tan. Not bad thinking, except a few years later melanoma rates began to rise.
The connection wasn’t yet clear and, in the 1960s, improved sun lotions hit the market and sun-worshiping people everywhere were taking advantage of these improved products. Guess what? Melanoma rates skyrocketed once again. This time the public took notice.
Melanoma became big news and sunscreen companies jumped right on board. Tanning lotions became “sunblock” and the manufacturers of these products began their sermons on how important it was to keep it on when going in the sun. It was now designed not only to protect you from the sun, but from skin cancer as well.
But skin cancer rates have continued to rise right along with a continued rise in the sale of sunscreen. Before you keep feeding in to what these multi-billion dollar companies are saying you need, it’s probably a good idea to look at what your sunscreen is really doing.
Why Your Sunscreen Could Be Making You Sick
A report released by the Environmental Working Group in 2011 claimed that almost half of all popular sunscreen products could actually be increasing the rate in which malignant cells develop and spread throughout the body. In 2014, they continued on with reports which found out that of the 2000 sunscreens and 257 brands they tested, over 75% of them contained toxic chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other health problems.
The chemically-based sunscreens most of us are conditioned to lather on every year when the weather turns warm and the sun begins to blaze actually soak right through the skin and straight into our bloodstream. So aside from “protecting” us from the sun, sunscreen is getting into our blood and releasing free radicals into our bloodstream.
A study published in Environmental Science Technology also offers some frightening news. PABA, oxybenzone, and methoxycinnamate are all common ingredients found in sunscreen, which just so happens to be estrogenic chemicals that are linked to cancer. Other toxic chemicals found in sunscreen include:
- Para Amino Benzoic Acid
- Octyl Salicyclate
- Menthyl Anthranilate
You do your best to stay away from ingredients in food you can’t pronounce, but have you thought about staying away from the ingredients in sunscreen you can’t pronounce? These chemicals don’t just go on our skin, but also make their way into our systems where they’ve been shown to do extensive damage to our health.
Nine out of fifteen ingredients in sunscreen are known endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that have been shown to interfere with normal hormone function, namely estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid. The ingredients in sunscreen that are proven endocrine disruptors can cause a number of health problems in both children and adults.
A few health problems associated with endocrine disruption include:
- Low Sperm Counts
- Abnormal Fetal Development
- Premature Breast Development
- Early Puberty
- Undescended Testicles in Boys
- Breast and Ovarian Cancers
- Prostate Cancer
According to R. Thomas Zoeller, the official representative for the Endocrine Society, “Sunscreens are applied to skin in a formulation that serves as a drug delivery system and that some sunscreens are known to interfere with hormone action. The way in which these chemicals can interact with hormone systems could plausibly increase the risk of various cancers as well as other endocrine disorders.”
The Sunscreen and Cancer Connection
While research has shown that there is both an increase in the use of sunscreen and an increase in melanoma rates, it is still unclear what the cause actually is. There’s been speculation that it is because those that wear sunscreen typically stay out in the sun much longer than those that don’t wear sunscreen, which offers more exposure to the sun’s radiation. Others surmise that it could be the free radicals that are released from the chemicals in sunscreen when exposed to sunlight.
Another connection in the ongoing controversy of sunscreen’s role in causing cancer has to do with a very common ingredient that is found in most commercial sunscreens. Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, is one ingredient added to sunscreen that could be doing far more damage than good. Results from a study conducted by the FDA in 2009 showed that when retinyl palmitate was applied to skin in the presence of sunlight, that it had the possibility to speed up the development of skin lesions and tumors.
While vitamin A is amazing for skin as an antioxidant that slows down the aging process, it is only beneficial when used indoors and out of direct sunlight. Vitamin A contains photocarcinogenic properties, meaning that when it hits sunlight it has the possibility to instigate cancerous tumors. The lab rats used in the FDA study that were coated in a vitamin A-laced cream developed lesions and tumors 21% sooner after only being in the maximum sun-equivalence for nine minutes.
The best thing to do? Stay away from these chemically-laden sunscreens and opt for something more natural instead.
Looking at Natural Alternatives for Sun Protection
With constant-driven claims that the sun causes skin cancer, many of us have forgotten that the sun is responsible for bringing us life. Just as a garden cannot grow without sun, our bodies too need its immense power. Not only is some sun exposure good for you, but without it, our bodies would not be able to produce vitamin D. Sunscreen actually blocks your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, with a deficiency in this essential nutrient linked to a higher risk of heart disease and cancer.
UV rays have been used since ancient times to treat a variety of different diseases. Before the introduction of antibiotics, it was the sun that was used to treat cases of tuberculosis. The sun is our life-force and when the proper precautions are taken, there is no reason why we can’t be outside and enjoy it without the need for chemically-laden sunscreens and without the fear of getting cancer.
Before you get outside and enjoy everything summer has to offer, you should keep in mind that sunscreen should be your last resort for sun protection. Wearing clothes such as shirts, hats, pants, and shorts will shield you from 27% of the sun’s UV rays. If you plan to spend time outdoors, do it earlier in the morning or later in the day when the sun’s rays aren’t as powerful. If you are outside during the hours of 10am-2pm, try to stay in the shade as much as possible and you’ll reduce your risk of burns by up to 30%.
Use Natural Sunscreen
If you just can’t stay out of the sun and are a beach-loving, sun-worshiping god or goddess, stick to the following sunscreen brands and you’ll be doing your best to protect yourself from burning while keeping a volatile list of chemicals from invading your system. They’re all backed by the Environmental Working Group (EWO), whose commitment to healthy living has been unprecedented for more than 20 years.
10 Best Natural Sunscreens
1. Alba Botanica Very Emolliant Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
2. Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Sunscreen SPF 45
3. Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick SPF 30
4. California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+
5. Derma e Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen, Body SPF 30
6. Dr. Mercola Sunscreen SPF 50
7. Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, Natural SPF 30
8. True Natural Baby & Family Sunscreen SPF 30
9. Nature’s Gate Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 20
10. MyChelle Dermacueticals Sun Shield, Unscented SPF 28
Protect Yourself Internally
You probably haven’t given much thought to the foods that you put in your body having a direct relation to the damage your body receives from the sun. There is, however, a huge correlation and those foods that are toxic to your system could also be one of the causes of UV damage from the sun’s rays.
When people transition from eating chemically-laden foods to a diet that is rich in real, whole foods, they tend to notice something different when they go out into the sun. They’re finding that they can stay out in the sun longer without burning. While the mainstream media has done a good job at ignoring the role a healthy diet plays in relation to sun exposure, it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
4 Best Foods to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage
1. Lycopene-Rich Foods
Both tomatoes and watermelon foods that are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent free radicals from forming. A study performed in 2001 where participants ate 40 grams of tomato paste over a period of ten weeks. The results showed that this test group was 40% less likely to develop a sunburn than those who consumed no tomato paste at all. Apricots, pink grapefruit, and red carrots are all lycopene-rich foods as well.
2. Wild Salmon
Wild salmon is one of the best food sources out there that contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid antioxidant that helps to repair damage from UV rays. It is 1000 times more effective than vitamin E and offers an excellent way to protect your skin from the inside out.
3. Green Tea
Full on the antioxidants your body needs to fight UV damage from the sun, green tea is an excellent choice for not only protecting from sun exposure, but for overall health as well. Its power comes in the form of catechins such as EGCG, which is 100 times more powerful than vitamin C and 25 times more powerful than vitamin E. Green tea is the richest source of EGCG available.
4. Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil
Fish and flaxseed oils are both very high in EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps prolong the time it takes for skin to get burnt because of sun exposure. It also does an excellent job in reducing the risk of cancer. Adding a supplement or eating plenty of salmon, tuna, and halibut will do the trick and add to your body’s natural sun protection element.
Supplements for Skin Protection
Adding on to the internal ways to protect yourself from sunburn are a few supplements that will offer the protection your body needs from damaging UV rays. Try adding the following supplements to your diet come spring and enjoy a summer that is free from sunburn and the potential of skin cancer.
1. Vitamin D3
Blame it on the sunscreen that blocks vitamin D from entering our body or the hype that scares us out of the sun, but most of us aren’t getting the amount of vitamin D we need. When your blood levels have the correct amounts of vitamin D in them, however, you protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer. Try approximately 5,000 IU per day for maximum benefits.
2. Vitamin C
As a powerful anti-inflammatory, vitamin C has the power to prevent sunburn and strengthen the immune system. Supplementing 2,000 IU per day is excellent and will aid in the protection against any further sun damage.
Selenium is an antioxidant that has been shown to help skin cells suffer from less oxidative stress that has the potential to lead to cancer. Taking selenium before sun exposure is a great way to get some extra protection from too much sun exposure.
This supplement that is derived from the French maritime pine contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds that are responsible for attacking free-radicals in the body. It also inhibits inflammation caused by UV exposure, which in turn helps reduce the risk of sunburn.
The Bottom Line
Knowing the real risks associated with the sunscreen you think is benefiting you and your family is vital. If you wish to live a healthier life that is free from products comprised of harmful chemicals, you must realize that much of what you’re putting on your body has the potential to do just as much harm as what you put in your body.
Although it might go against everything you’ve been told, slathering your body with sunscreen each summer is not the way to go. Ditch your traditional sunscreen and go natural. Not only will you stay protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but you’ll also be protecting yourself from the health risks associated with these toxic creams. Natural sun-care is an option and one that should quickly be integrated into your already healthy lifestyle.