Long, lazy summer days spent lounging on the beach or next to a sparkling pool is what dreams are made of. Unfortunately, our skins can’t take too much sun before it starts burning, and we have to think of ways to protect it. If you Google, ‘how to protect skin from sun’, you will get page after page of recommendations on buying and using sunscreen, along with dire warnings of how UV rays from the sun will give you cancer. Oddly, vitamin D which is provided by the sun has a range of health benefits that include fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and ironically, preventing cancer.
A Clever Marketing Scheme
It turns out that all the hype about the sun causing cancer and how sunscreen is essential to all is more about marketing than it is about the health of your skin. Corporate marketing campaigns are creating fear and encouraging people around the world to slather themselves, and especially their children, with liberal amounts of sunscreen so that they can increase their profit – they don’t care that it is actually not a healthy practice.
We all know the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. But we are also affected by what we choose to put on our skins. Think about it… if you apply a topical ointment like cortisone cream, it is absorbed into your body to do the healing work it needs to do. What makes sunscreen any different? And more importantly, what is in sunscreen? The truth is that it contains a range of toxic chemicals that have a negative effect on the human body.
The Science Behind the Ingredients in Sunscreen
Several scientific studies about sunscreen have been conducted around the world, with similar findings:
• Sunscreen is significantly absorbed into the skin
• Chemical ingredients found in most commercial brands of sunscreen are toxic
• Chemicals that disrupt hormones are used in most commercial brands of sunscreen
• These chemicals enter multiple tissues within the body
On the other hand, a study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud de Valle Salinas, and published by Environmental Health Perspectives had some interesting results. It was found that participants who switched to ‘cleaner’ products (i.e. products without chemicals like oxybenzone, parabens, triclosan, and phthalates) experienced a drastic drop in hormone disrupting chemicals. Why this is significant is because these chemicals are all found in sunscreen.
Is Sunscreen Really Dangerous?
We now know that our skins absorb cream and the chemicals contained therein. Is this cause for concern? Although the companies that manufacture sunscreen (and profit greatly from it) argue that it’s safe, companies like Johnson & Johnson have been exposed putting known carcinogens in baby powder, and selling it. So-called ‘science’ funded by corporations simply cannot be trusted. Because of conflicting information the consumer market has become a confusing place, and perhaps it is best to err on the side of caution. When it comes to sunscreen, let’s take a look at the ingredients:
Oxybenzone – Probably the most worrying ingredient, this chemical penetrates the skin and enters into the bloodstream where it causes issues that could lead to cancer. It acts like oestrogen in the body and studies have linked it to health problems like endometriosis, endocrine disruption, cell damage, mitochondrial stress and even the growth of cancer cells.
Retinyl Palmitate – Scientists of the US government found that this particular form of vitamin A applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight could speed up the development of skin tumours. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola this chemical could cause cancerous cells to develop and spread faster because of what it contains.
Parabens, phthalates and synthetic musks – Used to give sunscreens a pleasant fragrance, these chemicals have extensively tested and it has been scientifically proven to disrupt the endocrine system.
The Truth About the Sun and Cancer
Claims that the sun is a major cause of cancer is not true. As little as 10% of cancer cases are caused by radiation and UV radiation is a minuscule part of that. Contrary to what sunscreen manufacturers would like you to believe, the right amount of exposure to the sun can actually protect us against skin cancer and other cancers. Vitamin D is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight. A lack of this vitamin can cause problems with bone tissue, cause cognitive impairment, asthma in children, and can cause cancer. We were built to absorb sunlight through our skins but cultural changes (including marketing campaigns promoting sunscreen) have caused our skin to become less resistant to the sun. This is unfortunate because vitamin D is one of the most potent natural cancer fighters. A study by the European Journal of Cancer revealed improved survival rates of patients with melanoma who have had more frequent exposure to the sun. When searching for the reasons why cancer is drastically increasing throughout the world, we should rather start exploring pesticides and preservatives, which incidentally is also manufactured and marketed as ‘safe’ by massive corporations – just like sunscreen.
Although more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of sunscreen, there is still a very real need for us to protect our skins and the skins of our children from burning in the sun. Luckily there are healthier alternatives available:
• The best sun protection is to stay in the shade. It is not necessary to get burnt to absorb valuable vitamin D.
• Cover up your skin for periods of time every now and then when you are spending time outside.
• When shopping for sunscreens read the ingredients on the labels, and don’t buy sunscreen that contains toxic chemicals.
• Try to find sunscreen that contains zinc instead of the toxic chemicals mentioned earlier.
• If you can’t find a toxin free sunscreen at your supermarket, try a health store, or an online health store.
• Use coconut oil for low level sun protection. Although it only has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of around 8, it does help. If you are spending time outside and keep applying coconut oil it will also hydrate your body which will make it less prone to burning.