Confused about sunscreens? Who isn’t!
In this video-newsletter I cover why chemical sunscreens that block UVA rays are harmful, symptoms and strategies for vitamin D3 deficiency, and how to protect your skin this summer.
New research now shows that the use of certain sunscreens actually increases the risk of skin cancer along with vitamin D3 deficiency (Environmental Workers Group, 2010).
The Truth about Sun Exposure
Skin Cancer Rates Have Increased with the Use of Sunscreen
During the past 25 years we thought we were protecting our skin safely with higher SPF factors – but we were not! Sadly, sunscreens have been blocking the good vitamin D3 making rays (UVB) and letting in the bad skin cancer causing rays (UVA).It now makes sense why skin cancer rates have risen to over one million cases a year though the industry fought back with higher SPF factors that only blocked the UVB rays.Simply put, sunscreens were blocking the wrong ray.
87% of Americans are Vitamin D3 Deficient – Are You?
The combination of decreased outdoor activity and sun exposure with the increased use of sunscreens has resulted in vitamin D3 deficiencies that are affecting up to 87% of Americans each winter. Seven of 10 children in the U.S. have low levels of vitamin D3 and 70 percent of breastfed babies are vitamin D3 deficient as young as 1 month of age, which can affect their growth and development.
Vitamin D3 deficiencies are responsible for more that 16 cancers, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, auto-immune diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, stroke, genetic disorders, and immune deficiencies – and this is just the short list.
Logically speaking if you take any life form away from the sun’s rays for any length of time it gets sick, withers and dies.
Is the Sun Good or Bad?
The question remains, surprisingly, “Is the sun good or bad?” It depends on who you talk to. The American Medical Association has recommended that everyone get 10 to 15 minutes of direct midday sun (without sunscreen) several times a week (AMA 2008). The American Academy of Dermatology expressed a different opinion in its 2009 Position Statement that “there is no scientifically validated, safe threshold level of UV exposure from the sun that allows for maximal vitamin D3 synthesis without increasing skin cancer risk.” (AAD 2009).
Interestingly, for millions of years humans have been getting their vitamin D3 from the sun. Food sources of vitamin D3 are scarce and insufficient to support good health. Outside the field of dermatology most experts and the vitamin D Council agree with the AMA’s recommendation of safe sun exposure.
What is Your Sunscreen Blocking?
There are two main UV rays that are potentially harmful to the skin. They are UVA rays, which occur all year long and UVB rays, which occur in the summer. If you live at a latitude south of Atlanta, GA. the UVB rays are available all year. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are more harmful than the UVB rays, which tend to stay on the skin’s surface and help our body make vitamin D3. Because UVB rays will stay on the surface of the skin, they are responsible for burning the skin. As a result, it was the UVB rays that were incorrectly blamed for causing skin cancers.
The SPF rating system only measures the UVB blocking power of sunscreens. In other words, a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 will block out all UVB rays (vitamin D3 making rays) but may not block any UVA rays. Though you may not burn, skin cancer causing rays are still reaching your skin.
How to Protect Your Skin
Sunscreens have been reported to reduce vitamin D3 levels in the blood by 97-99%, so knowing your vitamin D3 levels are essential. This is particularly important from October through March in areas north of Atlanta, GA because there are no UVB rays available to make winter vitamin D3. So the trick is to store enough in the summer from safe sun exposure and use proper supplemental vitamin D3 in the winter:
Summer Sun Exposure:
- Regularly receive midday sun exposure between 10am – 2pm in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much of the unprotected skin as possible for 10-15 minutes if your are fair skinned, longer if you are dark skinned.Wait one hour before showering or jumping into a body of water as it takes about an hour for the UVB rays and the cholesterol on the skin to make pre-vitamin D and be absorbed.
- Sun Protection:The rest of the time stay in the shade, wear sun blocking clothes, or a high quality sunscreen. Seethe 2010 Safe and Effective Sunscreen List below.
- Supplementation:Depending on your sun exposure, I suggest minimal vitamin D3 supplementation in the summer – perhaps a dose of 1,000 – 3,000 IUs per day.
- Test Your Levels:Test your vitamin D levels to ensure you have optimized summer sun exposure.
Winter Vitamin D3 Optimization:
- Supplements:Take 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day for three months, and then take a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test
- In my opinion the goal is to get your vitamin D3 levels between 50 and 80 ng/mL and keep them there. Testing is the only way to know for sure that you are maintaining these levels. Test yourself in the fall when the levels are the highest and in March when they are the lowest.With those two numbers, everyone can safely calculate their vitamin D3 supplement needs.
- If you haven’t had your vitamin D3 levels tested, please do so now so you can safely optimize your levels. The right amount, according to research, is essential. >>>See our Vitamin D Home Test Kit.
- Children: Take 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day during the winter.
Toxic Sunscreen Ingredients
Avoid sunscreens with Oxtinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Avobenzone and Retinyl Palmitate (a form of vitamin A). These chemicals have high absorption rates through the skin and are toxic when combined with sun exposure. They act as either carcinogens, irritants, allergens, or hormone disruptors.
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are Safe Sunscreen Ingredients
There are only a few active sunscreen ingredients that effectively block both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure your sunscreen is labeled that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. The only ingredients that are both safe and effective for UVA and UVB rays are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which do not penetrate the skin and reflect the sun’s rays.
2010 Safe and Effective Sunscreen List
The list of safe sunscreens below is from the Environmental Workers Group, (EWG) which tested over 1500 sunscreens for safety and effectiveness. All the sunscreens below use either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in a micronized form. The products with an asterisk scored the highest among the recommended group of safe sunscreens.
Notice that few – if any – of the brand name sunscreens appear on this list because they use chemicals to block the sun’s rays, rather than minerals to reflect them.
- All Terrain
- Beyond Coastal
- California Baby
- Caribbean Solutions
- Desert Essense
- Jason Natural Cosmetics
- Kababa Skin Care
- L’uvalla Certified Organic
- La Rosche-Posay
- Little Forest
- *Loving Naturals
- *Purple Prairie Botanicals
- *Soleo Organics
- *Thinkbaby and Thinksport
- *UV Natural
Note: The EWG reports these sunscreens to be the safest on the market but remarked that there are currently no sunscreens on the market that meet all the requirements of being: safe, long lasting, effective and somewhat pleasant to wear. Because of this, EWG does not recommend sunscreens as the first defense against the sun. They suggest that the best sunscreen is shade or to be covered with sun protective cloths and use sunscreens only when needed.