My thoughts on sunscreen

My question is, do you know of or have an organic/natural sunscreen for babies? With the weather warming up here in Tennessee, I would really like to find a sunscreen for my almost 1 year old that doesn’t have all those chemicals in it. Thought maybe you would have some ideas!  Liz

This is an excellent question- thanks Liz! You’re not the only one who’s been asking me my thoughts on this very subject lately!

Before I delve into more natural options in choosing a sunscreen off the shelves, allow me a few minutes to do something that you may consider completely off-the-wall– let’s consider the question of whether we even need to wear sunscreen at all!

If you’re already starting to sputter, “But… but… UV rays… skin cancer… must. wear. sunscreen… must. obey. propaganda…” (ahem, did I actually write that?), please stick with me for a few moments and allow me to challenge some typically un-challenged ideas.

All right, here goes. I’ve talked before about the fact that our skin is the biggest organ in our body. Not only can it be affected by what we put on it (ie. creams, soaps, etc.) it is also an agent of absorption, simply meaning that what we put on the outside of our body quickly finds it’s way inside, and into our bloodstream. This is why natural and organic beauty and personal care products, which (hopefully) avoid toxic chemicals, colors, preservatives, etc. are so important.

Naturally, this applies to sunscreen as well.

Here is a quote from a study done by Skin Deep, the cosmetic safety database:

Some sunscreens absorb into the blood and raise safety concerns. Our review of the technical literature shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some are linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and could disrupt hormone systems, several are strongly linked to allergic reactions, and still others may build up in the body or the environment. FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients.

Aside from this, there are other issues with sunscreens:

  • According to this study, 86% of sunscreens tested offered inadequate protection from the sun
  • Many products guard against only UBV, not UVA rays (the ones that can actually cause more harm)
  • Many products (according to this study, up to 50% of them) break down in the sun and do not offer the protection for nearly the amount of time they are supposed to
  • Claims on sunscreen bottles are exaggerated and meaningless- there is no regulation for what they can and can’t say, and most statements made are false or unproven.

Ok, even so, what if you could find a naturally made sunscreen, non-toxic, and that actually provided the protection that you are looking for? Wouldn’t that be worth using?

Maybe.

The thing is, despite the widespread use of high SPF sunscreen, skin cancer rates continue to jump every year. If sunscreen is the answer, why is this trend continuing?

Possibly for a few reasons.

  1. Many sunscreens only adequately block UVB rays, but not UVA (or not well enough). We now know that UVA rays are the ones that the real concern when it comes to skin cancer.
  2. As a matter of fact, the UVB rays that our sunscreens are adequately blocking are the ones that help our bodies to make Vitamin D through sun exposure. Vitamin D research is revealing more and more that this nutrient helps to defend our bodies against all forms of cancer, and that it is absolutely crucial to our health!
  3. As mentioned above, many sunscreens are not providing the protection they claim, and yet we believe the claims anyways. So, we spend all day in the sun at the beach, applying sunscreen once, maybe twice if we remember. Yet many sunscreens are only providing protection for a couple of hours (if they are not breaking down in the sun). Ultimately, we spend more time out in the heat of the sun, without protective clothing or breaks in the shade, than we would have otherwise, because of our unfounded trust in the marketing claims of the product’s manufacturer (oh right, those people who make money when we buy more of their products!).

More on this in a couple days, where I will offer my suggestions for summer sun safety (and links to several good information sources, where I found much of my research material).

I know that there will be differing opinions on this topic, let’s just keep it friendly, ok? :) Much appreciated (as are your thoughts)! And really, truly, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject– do you use sunscreen? Why or why not?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Normally, we time our trips to the pool and lake so we don’t have to apply sunscreen. But, last week we went to the beach for Spring Break so finding something to prevent burning was a must. We were leaving behind the cold and snow and wanted to enjoy the sand and sun as much as possible. I’m happy to say that after much searching, I tried Blue Lizard baby sunscreen. What an amazing product for the entire family!!! Applies white, dries clear, no eye sting, no skin burning, no grease look or feel, unscented, no nasty cancer-causing chemicals, doesn’t stain fabrics, super water resistant, and doesn’t worsen acne or eczema. I still prefer to go without, but this was a happy product to fall-back on.

  2. Such a great discussion! I agree with so many of the comments! Sun does not cause cancer….our diet causes cancer! In fact, for our bodies to function properly sun is REQUiRED and most of us are deficient in D3 which we acquire from the sun as well as other important functions directly dependent on sun exposure (not overexposure). And yes ,some sunscreens actually cause the opposite of what they are used to prevent

  3. One word- organic sesame seed oil. It has many hidden health benefits – including ultra violet ray protection! (and eczema cure).

  4. Bella Shimko says:

    I agree. Sunscreen is more harmful for our bodies than the sun. I met a Herbologist during a long plane ride home many years ago. Within 1 hour she had me convinced how harmful sunscreen is. She also gave these 2 tips on protecting your skin al’ natural. Eat 2 organic carrots a day. The beta carotene is acts as a natural sunscreen. The pitfall… your skin will turn a lighter shade of orange ;) Her second suggestion: Go out into the sun for 30 minutes every day for 2 weeks between the hours of 8AM – 10 AM. This will help your body’s melatonin to increase, helping to create a thicker insulator for your skin.

    Thanks for your great articles and posts. I appreciate them all.

  5. I could not agree with you more! I really do believe that sunscreen is not necessary to protect from cancer, it actually does the opposite. (Search “Study: Many Sunscreens May Be Accelerating Cancer”).

    I am an immigrant from Russia and there is an interesting thing that I observed. My mom spent her childhood and youth outside. They used to work long hour on the fields harvesting different crops and hay for the cattle. And I mean all day, from morning to sundown. And this is how most of the people from the former Soviet Union have spent their childhood and youth. None of them have ever used SPF and have never even heard of it until I moved to the US in 1997. Out of hundreds and hundreds of Russian people I know I don’t know a single person who has skin cancer. Also my mom looks at least 10 years younger than her real age.

    I agree that it is not healthy to burn in the sun. And I admit if I know I’ll be in a the sun a lot I will you sunscreen mostly to avoid the pain of the sunburn. But I am completely against daily moisturizers that have SPF in them. Also, I heard some people even where it to sleep (AHH!!! WHY????).

    Anyways, I’m just happy I found your blog. I love it and already subscribed!

  6. I and my family don’t use any sunscreen or sunblock on a regular basis. I did find an all natural brand that seems to work some (no, not Burt’s Bees…it is not all natural and not an option for us), but I often forget to bring it with us when we go out.

    We need to watch what we put on our bodies due to sensitivities that we have. I also have had skin cancer. It was not caused by the sun…it had no known cause. I don’t want cancer again, so I am taking steps to try to do things more naturally and trying to eliminate manufactured (food, cleaning and cosmetic) products from our home, and am trying to at the very least minimize our exposure to what I can. I am extremely fair skinned by the way, but am fortunate that my husband and children aren’t. I am so thankful for that!

    I find it interesting (and unfortunate) that it often takes something serious to change people’s ways of thinking to try more natural ways of doing things. That is what it took with us…dealing with our daughter’s sensitivities, an unknown cause of infertility (we figured what was causing this on our own…no thanks to the “specialized” medical system…they would disagree with our findings, I am sure), and my bout with cancer. We have often talked about how chemical-containing products were developed to use up extra toxic chemicals after WWII. They weren’t commercially developed before that time. This is true for the herbicides and pesticides as well (we live in a spray-crazy farming community BTW). These companies did not want to lose money, but instead were creative so that they could continue to make their money.

    I believe that God made the sun for our benefit and overall health…we need it. Also, I think that we need to be wise in how we react to marketing…it is not God’s way but instead, motivated by greed. Nothing good ever results from greed. In this case it is our health that will suffer.

    There are many things that a person can do to minimize burning, and it is important that we explore and try to put into practice the healthy options available to us.

  7. I’m very fair skinned, and I started using Shear Miracles Sunny Daze sunscreen. It even worked the beginning of July when I vacationed in Florida!! Nothing short of a miracle for me, who always burns and peels. It even smells heavenly!!

  8. A very useful information provided for the Sunscreen.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] My Thoughts on Sunscreen (Part 1) and (Part 2) | Keeper of the Home [...]

  2. [...] Keeper of the Home: My Thoughts on Sunscreen Stephanie’s opinions on “whether we even need to wear sunscreen at all.”   [...]

  3. [...] do we even need sunscreen?Most of the time, I would say no. Our family rarely uses it because I don't believe it is generally helpful or even wise to use frequently. Particularly for us, living in the gray West Coast, we need the [...]

  4. [...] My Thoughts on Suncreen – Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home wrote a thorough post on the topic evaluating the pro’s and con’s of sunscreen. She also wrote a second part highlighting some recommendations of particular brands. She covered the topic better than I could! [...]