Ohhhhh, sunscreen. Doesn’t it seem as if all the information we get about sun safety is conflicting? Don’t go in the sun, it’s dangerous! Go in the sun, you need to make Vitamin D! Too much sun causes skin cancer! Not getting enough sun contributes to so many illnesses! Geez. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.
Long gone are the days when we used to slather ourselves in baby oil and squeeze lemon juice in our hair, thank goodness. How did we ever think that was a good thing??? But unfortunately, there is still a challenge in understanding how to practice safe sun exposure. Sometimes I feel as if this whole “sun is bad” thing is a lot like the “fat is bad” epidemic.
Let’s be clear — exposure to the sun is healthy and has many wonderful benefits! We just need be smart about our exposure.
Vitamin D deficiency is a huge epidemic in this country and linked to a whole lot of issues and illnesses. We absolutely need Vitamin D for hormone balance and healthy immune systems! Our best and most bio-available source of Vitamin D is the sunlight — so why would we do everything we can to avoid it by being covered up in sunscreen all the time?
I know we have been warned repeatedly about the dangers of sun exposure in regards to skin cancer, but the sun is not really the problem. The problem is when we have unbalanced exposure to the sun. And while this can totally be linked to TOO MUCH sun, it is more often linked to prolonged exposure to the WRONG RAYS. We very often end up using sunscreens that block the rays we actually need while allowing exposure to the harmful rays. Isn’t that crazy? Why would those sunscreens even exist???
I know this all sounds really doomsday-ish, but I promise it’s not. It all comes down to healthy amounts of sun exposure and knowing which sunscreens are doing the safest job of protecting us from the harmful rays.
So let’s get to it.
There are two major types of sunscreens: PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL. Physical sunscreens contain ZINC OXIDE which acts as a physical barrier to prevent ALL of the sun’s rays from getting to us. Zinc oxide does not penetrate the skin, nor does it convert to anything harmful once it comes in contact with the sun’s rays. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens (which are typically the major brands we are all familiar with) use chemicals to block some of the sun’s rays but not all of them.
These chemical sunscreens also contain many ingredients which are not only endocrine disruptors and known toxins but can be converted to more dangerous substances once they come in contact with the sun. A very common ingredient in chemical sunscreens that you probably have heard of is OXYBENZONE. Oxybenzone is a very dangerous and toxic ingredient found in most conventional sunscreens and is easily absorbed into the skin — and it’s linked to hormone imbalances, testosterone disruption, allergies, endometriosis, and cancer. Not awesome.
So the moral of the story is, use PHYSICAL sunscreen when you are in the sun for prolonged periods of time. And allow yourself a little healthy sun exposure daily if you can. (And that, my friends, is why most of Alaska vacations in Hawaii in the winter!)
So what are my favorite SAFER sunscreens?
All of these have SPF 30 and truly do not leave a white mess everywhere, and can we lift all the praise hands for a mist that is actually safe?! Countersun is extra awesome because it uses a combo of zinc oxide and California poppy to block UVA, UVB and blue light — you know, all the junk we are exposed to because of those electronic devices which we are obsessed with. Keep in mind that when it comes to zinc oxide, you may have better and safer luck with the sun sticks as opposed to the lotion — this is because the ingredients in the lotions can separate and mean less consistent protection. Just make sure to massage the lotion in the bottle before applying! Same goes for the mist — make sure to shake well before applying. You don’t have to worry about separation with the sun sticks. Beautycounter offers a small stick, lotions in two sizes, and mists in two sizes, all of which are super easy to keep in your purse, diaper bag, or beach bag. And Beautycounter eliminates 1500 possibly harmful ingredients even though America only bans 30, so we can trust its safety!
HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY, YOU GUYS. Don’t let any sunscreen on the shelf at your local drug store give you a false sense of security. Do your homework, buy a safer physical sunscreen, and get out there for some time in the sun!
And please please please remember to REAPPLY! — one application when you first step out in the sun is not going to cut it. And I don’t know about you, if I’m anywhere near a pool or beach I’m staying out there ALL DAY LONG!