Your skin is your largest organ.
It covers and protects everything on your body. How you treat it is incredibly important to your health. However, the skin is one of the most unappreciated organs, and one that I used to totally take for granted, slathering products full of toxic chemicals on it day after day. When I look back at all the different potions I’ve tried, I shake my head in disbelief and wish I would have known better. Not only would I not have developed eczema all over my body and face, but I would have looked a million times better growing up.
One of those products that has always caused me issues – is sunscreen. Every time after a beach vacation or going to the pool, I’d end up with a rash on my face or body. I wondered if I’d eaten something that I was allergic to. Little did I know at the time – the culprit was sunscreen.
The unknown long-term consequences of the chemicals in sunscreen are just starting to be revealed and the results are shockingly horrific, going beyond the common skin rash. Here in the United States, the FDA does not regulate cosmetics as rigorously as pharmaceuticals or food – allowing cosmetic companies to get away with using all types of chemical ingredients that are not used and in some cases banned in other countries. Sounds familiar – eh?
Sunscreen is supposed to protect us from harmful UV radiation from the sun, but as more people use sunscreen, the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise. This fact alone has to make you think – do sunscreens really provide skin cancer protection? Or could the chemicals in them actually be contributing to causing skin cancer?
It gets complicated trying to answer those questions. Some studies have shown that sunscreens do in fact protect us from some types of less threatening forms of skin cancers, but others have found that sunscreens have actually contributed to the risk of some of the worst forms of skin cancers.
So what do you do?
I certainly don’t want to look like a wrinkly old hag when I’m older from laying out in the sun too long without protection – but I also don’t want to increase my cancer risk by using products that could be harmful. Anti-aging is important to me and that’s why I live the way I do – not only do I want to look my best when I’m older, I want to feel my best too.
There are over 1800 products on the market to choose from, making it incredibly confusing and difficult to pick the best and safest brand. Here’s what you need to watch out for:
- Oxybenzone - this is a hormone disrupting chemical which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. It is the most popular ingredient in chemical based sunscreens and only blocks UVB ray (sun’s good rays that provide vitamin D production), not UVA which are the most free radical damaging rays. Avoid any sunscreen that has this chemical at all costs, especially for children.
- Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate) – A 2009 study by U.S. government scientists released by the National Toxicology Program found when this is applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.
- Fragrance – Sure it may make the product smell nice, but this is a petroleum based product that is linked to organ toxicity and allergies.
- High SPF – The FDA does not regulate SPF higher than 50 and there’s no scientific proof they work better than lower SPF. Many of the higher SPFs do not provide any additional protection and studies have suggested that users are exposed to as many or more ultraviolet rays as those who use lower-SPF products.
- Sprays or Powders – Generally speaking, sprays and powders have additional chemicals added to them for performance purposes. These additional chemicals are usually not something you want to be spraying on your body and can be toxic to the lungs. Besides, remember sunscreen is formulated for your skin, not your lungs. Many of the side effects of sprays and powders on the lungs are not tested before being approved.
- Popular Conventional Brands - Aveeno, Banana Boat, Coppertone Sport, Coppertone Water Babies, Bull Frog, Neutragena, Storebrands (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens), Hawaiian Tropic and many other popular brands are rated the worst in terms of safety in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. You can use this guide to find out how good or bad the brand you have or want to buy is rated.
How To Choose A Safe Sunscreen:
- Look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide based mineral sunscreens, which do not penetrate the skin and provide UVA protection against the sun’s most damaging rays.
- Choose non-nano products that do not have small particles that can absorb into skin
- Choose sunscreens that are unscented or use essential oils as fragrance
- Pick lotion based sunscreens with water resistance
- Pick broad spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays
- Choose sunscreen products that are rated 0-2 in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide.
Below are my favorite sunscreen brands that are rated between 0-2 for their entire line of sun care products and are the safest available. I’ve included the links on where to find these brands online if you can’t find them in stores near you – but most natural food stores and vitamin shops will have one of these options available.
- Badger - Certified organic, several different SPFs and option for kids, babies and active people, unscented available
- Aubrey Organics - SPF 26-45 available, unscented available
- California Baby (Target carries this brand) – Formulated for sensitive skin, SPF 18-30
- John Masters Organics - SPF 30, only one option available
- The Honest Company (Online only) – SPF 30, only one option available
- Seventh Generation - SPF 30, only one option available
*Note – Alba and Kiss My Face are two other brands that are safer than most conventional brands. However, you must only choose their mineral based products – for example Alba’s Mineral SPF 30 Unscented and Kiss My Face’s Mineral Lotion SPF 40 are great choices – but other versions in the same brand category may not be as safe.
When it comes to being in the sun, I’m lucky. I tan, don’t burn and don’t completely freak out if I forgot my sunblock – however, because of my olive complexion I have to stay in the sun longer in order to get sufficient Vitamin D. (The lighter your skin color, the faster your absorption of Vitamin D). I wear sunblock at the pool, at the beach and when I’m outdoors for extended periods, but I’ve decided not to wear it everyday.
Using as little as 15 SPF blocks your body’s ability to convert the sun’s rays to Vitamin D by 99%. If you want to increase your chances of avoiding diseases linked to deficiencies in Vitamin D (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and depression) – you must get sunshine! The sun’s rays are pure wonderful energy your body needs.
Before I go – I want to mention this important fact. The biggest immediate benefit of getting sun a few times a week is the reduction of cravings. When Vitamin D levels are low, the hormone that controls appetite stops working. You eat and eat and eat, and never feel full when this happens. The sun contributes significantly to the daily production of Vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure a few times a week is enough to help prevent deficiencies. Vitamin D also helps boost serotonin levels, your happy hormone, warding off depression which naturally reduces cravings. For me, this is reason enough to let the sun shine in!
If you know someone that might still be buying sunscreen with shady ingredients, please share this post with them, you could have a serious impact on their livelihood!
Thank you for spreading the word to the ones you love.