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Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Sun Safety-it Might Not be What You Think

The sun is a powerful source. A powerful source of controversy that is! We need the sun for basic functions like growing food and producing vitamins within our own bodies. But, like most everything else, too much of it can be hazardous to your health! Ten to 15 minutes of unprotected (no sunscreen) sun before 10:00 am or after 4:00 pm are just what the doctor ordered. More sun than that and you better be protected! So what are good, healthy choices when it comes to sun screen and sun safety? The answer may surprise you.

The skin is our bodies’ largest organ, so the last thing we want to do is be thoughtless in our approach to protecting it. The best, safest, healthiest choice you can make is to cover your largest organ in tight knit clothing or clothes that incorporate SPF, and a wide brimmed hat. If bikinis, swim trunks and flip flops are more your style, read on…

The Environmental Working Group (a group of scientists, engineers, lawyers and lobbyists who exist solely in Washington to protect the health of consumers and push for national change) tested 1,797 sunscreen products and found that 2 out of 5 products offer inadequate protection, and contain ingredients with “significant safety concerns”. EEK!

Don’t forget that sunscreen is a cosmetic, and much like supplements, its advertising (and claims written on the bottle) do not have to be substantiated or proven.

As for the “significant safety concerns” there are many. Some sunscreens release free radicals when exposed to sunlight, some ingredients are absorbed into the blood and still other ingredients are hormone disrupters. Apparently, that is why it isn’t safe to put sunscreen on someone younger than six months old.

Oxybenzone and the very vague “fragrance” are two of the most common trouble makers and Nivea, Coppertone and Blistex all produce products that the EWG recommends avoiding as harmful and ineffective. The EWG does have a list of 10 favorite products, and 140 sunscreen products that they recommend as safe and effective.

The other 140 safe products can be found here.

Can’t find one a sunscreen on the EWG’s recommended list that you can easily access? Look for products that have zinc oxide or titanium oxide and are free of diethanolamine, triethanolamine (DEA, TEA), padimate-o, octyl dimethyl PABA, homosalate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), salicylates, and parabens. Many popular sunscreens contain the chemical ingredient Benzophenone (or its derivatives Benzophenone-3 or the afore mentioned Oxybenzone) since it is one of the best of the chemicals in protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, Benzophenone is turned into a powerful free radical when it is exposed to ultraviolet light (while it is supposed to be doing it’s job), and those free radicals could ultimately lead to the skin cancer you are trying so to hard to prevent. Zinc oxide, on the other hand, is a mineral that provides complete UVB/UVA protection, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is even FDA approved for use on children less than 6 months of age.

Have a sunscreen in your protective arsenal that you aren’t sure about? Go to the EWG’s cosmetic data base and enter the title of your sunscreen. The database will let you know if you have a safe product, or if it is like one of the 84% tested that are considered unsafe (it works for cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes and lots of other house hold products).

It may seem expensive to purchase the smaller tubes of sunscreen at the higher price, but you should be buying a new supply of sunscreen each year. After time, sunscreen loses its efficacy, and after spending a winter in the closet, it is pretty unreliable and should be tossed. In the end, you may use the entire tube of the more pricey, safe sunscreen, but considering that you may throw away half of a bottle of the cheap stuff, the cheap stuff really isn’t all that cheap.

All of this may leave you thinking “Who knew!?!” Now that you do, it’s time to make a healthy choice!

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