Enjoying The Hawaiian Sun
By: Holly Pellham Davis
Who knew sunscreen could be so controversial? But, as with most products containing chemicals brought to us by cosmetic companies, it's all to common today. So what are the best products available? What do we look for and how do we best protect our families from the possible harmful effects of too much sun?
We know the sun’s radiation, UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave, most damaging) rays cause free radicals to increase in the skin. Sun exposure damages cellular DNA, increases the signs of aging and increases risk of skin cancer. But before you run inside and put your caftan and XL brimmed chapeau on, that awesome star of our galaxy has some major benefits to health also. Let’s chat about a couple of those first.
Vitamin D. It’s actually not a vitamin at all, it’s a hormone. (Background: In the 1930’s the dairy industry began fortifying milk with “vitamin” D) Vitamin D is vital in mineral metabolism, supports the immune system and is essential to bone health and growth making it especially important to developing children. Recent studies demonstrate the importance of healthy levels of Vitamin D and a wide range of benefits to our health, specifically a reduction in risk of colon and breast cancer. Recent trends show Americans to be deficient in vitamin D due to the use of sunscreens which block the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin and the overall decrease in outdoor activity. To increase your bodies vitamin D hormone, simply get direct sun (meaning without sunscreen) skin exposure for about 20 minutes per day. Your body will naturally produce the hormone vitamin D you need. Vitamin D supplements can be taken daily for those not wanting the direct sun approach, in addition to a diet rich in foods that support Vitamin D production such as wild salmon, organic free range egg yolks and mushrooms.
Be Happy. Sunlight makes us happy. Like the chemical reaction in the body that causes the hormone, vitamin D to be produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight, the body has similar reactions that release other hormones and signals to the brain and body. Sunlight exposure helps regulate our sleep cycle, decrease stress and depression. Making a short daily dose of sun part of your wellness regime can be life changing.
So, what about skin protection for everyday exposure or the pool days of Summer?
Here are some tips and guidelines to ensure protection from exposure to harmful rays as well as potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in sunscreens:
Clothing, the first line of defense: Shade and protective clothing including hats, shirts and sunglasses are among your first lines of defense. Sunglasses or water googles with UV added protection for the eyes is also strongly advised for children and adults alike.
Stay out of O-Zone: Avoid sun exposure on high ozone days which can increase free radicals, skin damage and exacerbate problems with breathing.
Liberal Application: Apply a BROAD SPECTRUM, (Block both UVA & UVB Rays) Sunscreen often and a LOT of it. Tests reveal, in order to have maximum protection, sunscreen must be applied in a large dosage that delivers the product completely over the skins surface. Half the “dosage” only gives half the protection.
Don’t get High on Numbers: Resist the temptation to get caught up in a numbers game when choosing sun protection. Products boasting SPF 50 do not always translate to greater UV protection or that you can stay in the sun longer. Go for an SPF in the 30 range, apply often and take breaks from direct exposure by seeking some shade.
NO SPRAY Sunscreens: Deep breath. This is a hot issue for me. Spray sunscreens should be banned from existence. Harmful chemicals are inhaled and can enter the bloodstream through the lungs with the possibility of causing damage to vital organs. In addition, many sunscreens contain powder, talc and other micro, nano properties that can be harmful if inhaled. The FDA recently banned all SPF (nano) from loose mineral powders, due to this health risk, but exempt small companies to make the change until December of this year. (Say what?) If you must use a spray, please refrain from applying in public places as it will put others at risk.
No Mixing: Don’t mix Sunscreens and Insect Repellants. It’s simply a toxic chemical cocktail. Use light colored clothing in addition to layering your mineral based sunscreen first, then apply your deet-free insect repellant. (More on that another time.)
No-Go Ingredients: Refrain from using any sunscreen product (including lip balms) containing these commonly used chemicals:
Oxybenzone and/or Octinozate- Both have been shown to cause reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption and hormone mimicking activity in humans. These chemicals are highly toxic and pose significant risk to people as well as animals and aquatic life.
Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A)- Research shows retinyl palmitate acts as a photo carcinogen, speeding up the development of skin tumors and legions on sun, UV radiation exposed skin. With sun exposure alone, free radicals are are formed and damage to DNA strands occur which contribute to the cause of skin cancer. With the presence of vitamin A, that skin damage increases, including tumor and lesion growth, compared to those without vitamin A. In my own research over the last several years, I examined the findings of studies such as this one and strongly believe retinyl palmitate should not be used in sunscreens, skin lotions or other applications for sun exposed skin. It can take 10-15 years for this type of research to reach mainstream and be “applied” to products. I want you to be informed now. Read your labels carefully.
Best choices for sunscreens are mineral based, zinc oxide & titanium dioxide. Despite the fact sunscreens and loose powder mineral makeup with SPF contain nano particles which carry a risk of inhalation, mineral based sunscreens are safer and less toxic, making them a better choice than chemical sunscreen varieties. Zinc oxide is king. Keep in mind the sunscreens that cause you to look like Casper, have lower levels of nano sized particles in them. We can all stand a ghost effect in the name of health and true anti aging benefits can’t we?
Some of my trusted, personal favorite sunscreens in my beach bag for kiddos include California Baby Sunscreen stick which I love for the easy application to the kids face and shoulders, Aubrey Organics is a brand I totally trust. The SPF lotion goes on a little thick and white so the kids may bark a bit, but this mom loves its protection!
And, for me it’s Devita’s SPF 30 for body and Renee Rouleau’s spf 30 moisturizer for face.
Not only is Renee one of my BFF’s, but her SPF is also a bestie to my skin!
If you would like to dive into the deep end of sunscreens a little deeper, check out the newly released, in time for “No-Fryday” (Friday prior to Memorial Day) Environmental Working Group’s “Guide to Safer Sunscreens”! You can find the complete report here which includes awesome information including ratings on the sunscreens they tested.
Wishing you a moment to close your eyes and feel the sun on your face.