SUMMER IS HERE and THE SUN IS HOT!
There is a lot of controversy surrounding sun exposure, the use of sunscreen, as well as how to select a good sunscreen. We know that sun exposure is healthy in reasonable doses. For example, we need it to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. Yet, too much sun exposure can lead to accelerated aging, sun damage, as well as an increased risk of cancer.
The chemicals found in sunscreen have been found in 75% of a mother’s breast milk, in our water sources and even in fish and algae.
The FDA actually states that that the evidence does not support that broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF greater than 15 reduce the risk of skin cancer. As of now, its stance is as follows: “To date, there are no clinical studies demonstrating that use of any sunscreen alone can prevent skin cancer.” (FDA: 2011). The National Cancer Institute also says that “It is not known if non-melanoma skin cancer risk is decreased by staying out of the sun, using sunscreens or wearing protective clothing when outdoors. This is because not enough studies have been done to prove this.” (National Cancer Institute: 2011).
What this means is that the jury’s still out. This doesn’t mean we should all skip the sunscreen and run into the sun unprotected. It means we need to make smart choices. So, let’s try and understand sunscreens a bit better, so we can make informed decisions to keep ourselves and our families protected.
What’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays?
There are two forms of ultraviolet (UV) light, UVA and UVB, both of which are harmful to our skin. UVB rays can only penetrate the outer layer of our skin and are more likely to cause immediate damage that we see in the form of sunburns. These rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, can’t penetrate glass and are pretty low in exposure on cloudy days.
UVA rays are the rays that cause more long-term damage. These rays are strong all day long, can penetrate glass and clothing and DO NOT cause redness (sunburns), so you don’t actually know when you’ve had too much exposure. These rays penetrate deep into the skin and are responsible for the damage seen years later, in the form of sun spots.
How Do I Pick a Good Sunscreen?
When it comes to sunscreen, our options really come down to two: 1) Chemical sunscreens, which are not very stable, may cause hormonal disruption, environmental burden and have been linked with increased cancer risk; or 2) Mineral Sunscreens. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) completed extensive research on chemical and mineral sunscreens and determined that mineral sunscreens are the safest. They can be found 100% organic, are extremely stable in the sun and do not penetrate the skin, so won’t be found in breast milk!