Summertime: Is your Sunscreen Helping or Hurting You?
The sun-filled, longer days of summer are a blessing and a curse. Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a pandemic and is being studied for its role in cancer, dementia, diabetes and heart disease. But, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer and one person dies of melanoma every hour. We need a little sun, but how to get what you need without getting burnt.
Most turn to conventional sunscreen – it’s easy (spray bottles) and, thanks to the work of the the American Academy of Dermatology (who recommend wearing a minimum of SPF 30 at all times) available everywhere from 7Eleven to your favorite drug store. However, the chemicals in conventional sunscreen cause concern. Sunscreens contain benzophenone (BP), which is: persistent, bioaccumulative, a suspected carcinogen and endocrine disruptor (plus a 2014 study found high exposure may impair men’s ability to father children in a timely manner). A derivative of benzophenone, oxybenzone (BP3), is an ultraviolet light absorber that can permeate the skin and accumulate in the blood, kidneys and liver (it may be toxic to liver cells). Plus, the chemicals in conventional sunscreen are also thought to be killing coral reefs around the world.
For safer choices, opt for broad spectrum sunscreens (protects from UVA and UVB rays) that include “active” zinc or titanium dioxide in the ingredients. Not the chalky, white sun creams you might remember, the latest non-toxic versions are light and easy to apply. Two of our favorites are:
- Kiss My Face – started as an olive oil soap company created on a 200-acre farm in New York’s Hudson River Valley over 30 years ago, Kiss My Face has grown to a personal care line of over 200 bath and body products sold in over 19 countries. All Kiss My Face sunscreens are cruelty-free, paraben and oxybenzone free, including sun protection for face, body, lips and kids.
- Marie Veronique – which appeared in skin care offers a multi-tasking Everyday Coverage SPF 30 in three tints — extra-light, light and medium — and has zinc oxide for full-spectrum coverage.
If you have to wear conventional sunscreen (a surprise trip to the beach), here is some advice to make it safer:
- Don’t use sprays
- Apply liberally
- Reapply often
- Wash to remove the cream as soon as you are indoors
And whether you are using nontoxic or conventional sunscreen, don’t forget to wear a hat, avoid the hottest part of the day and cover up. See you at the beach!