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.

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!).

Read part 2!

This post has a part 2, where I talk more about the specifics of being protective and proactive in regards to our sun exposure, things we should consider, as well as some natural sunscreen recommendations. Check it out HERE.

My Thoughts on Sunscreen

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?