Guys, we made it…Summer is finally around the corner! Thank God. So now it’s time for me to tell you what kind of sun protection I recommend and WHY.
If you’re not worried about the why, just scroll down to the list of best sunscreens for you and your littles!
I am an advocate for safe sun exposure because of all the benefits the sun provides. In fact, it’s not the sun itself that’s the problem – it’s the unbalanced exposure to it. And this can mean too much sun, but it can also mean prolonged exposure to the wrong UV rays while blocking the right ones and sometimes, with the wrong sunscreen.
But before talking about my favorite sunscreens, I need to mention some facts about Vitamin D, or what I like to call, the sunshine vitamin. 🙂
We can get vitamin D naturally two ways: through the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which stimulates the conversion of cholesterol within our bodies into vitamin D, and in foods containing Vitamin D, like egg yolks, lard, cod liver oil, and raw milk.
Vitamin D doesn’t just affect our bones. We now know that depression, high blood pressure, autism, acne, psoriasis, diabetes, obesity, multiple sclerosis, pre-eclampsia, heart disease, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease and many forms of cancer are all associated with vitamin D deficiency.
The 3 S’s: Sun, Skin Cancer and Sunscreen
We blame the sun for skin cancer, but after years of slathering sunscreen all over our bodies and avoiding the sun, skin cancer diagnoses have actually increased. In fact, since SPF sunscreens received FDA approval in the 1970s, the incidence of melanoma in children has risen nearly 3 percent per year— throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the incidence of melanoma in the United States increased faster than that of any other cancer (Source). First time melanoma diagnoses overall have tripled over the past thirty-five years, and just between 2000 and 2013 there was a nearly 2 percent increase each year. Despite the questionable increase in skin cancer when we’ve tried so hard avoiding it, we’re still slathering on sunscreen (blocking the UVB rays) and avoiding high-cholesterol foods (which are high in Vitamin D), instead of questioning what the real problem is.
The rise in skin cancer coincidentally coincides with the billion dollar profits of sunscreen industries. Our modern lifestyle keeps us out of the sun. Indoor screen time has replaced outdoor activities. Instead of playing outside in the yard, kids are playing on their Play Stations. Instead of going for a walk with friends, we text and tweet. We get our fruit and vegetables from fluorescent lit supermarkets rather than sunny outdoor gardens, for cryin’ out loud. And modern day health crisis’ make us scared of the sun and cholesterol. So we aren’t getting Vitamin D-not through the sun or our food.
Oddly enough, staying indoors has actually been shown to increase risk of melanoma in several studies. One study of indoor workers observed a steadily increasing rate of malignant melanoma even though the workers were exposed to as much as nine times less sunlight than outdoor workers, whose rates of malignant melanoma have not increased. These studies concluded that sun exposure actually helps protect against skin cancer, thanks to the vitamin D generated in the body as a result of sun exposure (Source).
UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, and only UVB rays stimulate the production of melanin. Melanin, which also causes us to tan, protects our bodies from UV-induced damage by acting as an antioxidant. Once UV exposure has exceeded melanin’s ability to protect us, is when our skin begins to redden and develop inflammation, otherwise known as sunburn.
We should think of a sunburn as a blessing in disguise. It’s actually a signal telling us that we need to get out of the sun, that we’ve had too much. UVB signal rays help warn us when we’re in danger of overexposure, usually starting with that hint of pink on fairer skin. UVA rays don’t give us any warning.
UVA rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and can cause more damage to skin cells than UVB rays. UVA rays cause oxidative damage, which can lead to photoaging, including wrinkles and collagen loss. Even worse, UVA rays can damage our DNA. UVA does not cause us to tan or burn like UVB does; in fact, it actually causes damage to our melanin-producing cells, which is why it is associated with malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Since UVA rays don’t give us the sunburn signal, it can wreak havoc and leave no immediate trace.
The hard truth about most sunscreens- they block the wrong UV ray, leaving us susceptible to the damage we are trying to avoid in the first place. Sunscreens block UVB rays and their effects, including sunburn, cancer-fighting vitamin D, and the antioxidant melanin. UVA rays however are not blocked by windows or sunscreen! This means that we are being exposed to damaging UVA rays without the benefit of sunburn to warn us once we’ve had enough. Whether we’re sitting indoors near a window or outside slathered in SPF, we’re soaking up excessive amounts of UVA.
The most important question you need to ask when choosing a sunscreen is not the number associated with the product (15, 30, 45 etc.) but rather if the sunscreen is a chemical or physical barrier. Chemical sunscreens (like Benzophenone and Octinoxate) absorb UV rays and keep them trapped on the surface of the skin- not ideal. Physical sunscreens (like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide) are minerals that provide a barrier against UV rays by reflecting the sun and scattering away ultraviolet rays- ideal.
My favorite sunscreens are below. It’s important to find physical, natural sunscreens that have UVB and UVA protection and are safe for your skin and the environment.
- Mistaya Organic Skincare Organic Sunscreen Stick: Zen Zinc contains a superstar list of certified organic dermal-active, skin-regenerating botanicals, oils, and extracts including sea buckthorn, tamanu, castor seed, coconut and cacao. It is safe for everyone (mamas and babies) and gentle enough for sensitive skin. This is a non-greasy formula that won’t clog your pores, and does not leave a white residue. Made in the USA with 99% certified organic ingredients – 100% Natural, no animal testing, reef safe, reef friendly, bio-degradable, chemical-free, and BPA-free.
- Beauty by Earth Mineral Sunscreen: 100% Natural and Organic Ingredients – Organic Aloe Vera and plant extracts. No chemicals or junk, it contains no parabens, no oxybenzone, no nano-particles, no chemical fragrance, no phalates, no retinyl palmitate, no Paba and no toxic chemicals. This sun block is crafted with ingredients that are completely environmentally safe.
- PEAK Sunscreen: Made with natural ingredients and no harmful chemicals. PEAK sunscreen is eco-friendly, so you can feel confident that you are not harming the fishies while you are swimming. Non-nano, non-allergenic, safe for all skin types. It is completely free of Parabens, Synthetic Chemical Fragrance, Retinyl Palmitate, PABA, Oxybenzone, Propylene Glycol, SLS, SLES and Phthalates.
Want to learn more?
- Go to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website.
- Book: Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe: “We live in an era of health hype and nutrition propaganda, and we’re suffering for it. Decades of avoiding egg yolks, choosing margarine over butter, and replacing the real foods of our ancestors with low-fat, processed, packaged substitutes have left us with an obesity epidemic, ever-rising rates of chronic disease, and, above all, total confusion about what to eat and why. This is a tragedy of misinformation, food industry shenanigans, and cheap calories disguised as health food. It turns out that everything we’ve been told about how to eat is wrong. Fat and cholesterol are harmful to your health? Nope-they are crucial to your health. “Whole grains” are health food? Not even close. Counting calories is the way to lose weight? Not gonna work–nutrients are what matter. Nutrition can come from a box, bag, or capsule? Don’t count on it! In Eat the Yolks, Liz Wolfe debunks all these myths and more, revealing what’s behind the lies and bringing the truth about fat, cholesterol, protein, and carbs to light. You’ll be amazed at what we’ve been told in the name of healthy eating.” Oh, and she also talks a whole lot about Vitamin D and the causes of our deficiencies! This is a must read.