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Sunscreen: is it safe?

Jul 16, 2014

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You’ve seen the ads and pay attention to the latest articles.  Many times it’s darn if you do and darn if you don’t.  Unfortunately, sunscreen is the latest topic of do-or-don’t discussions.  Each year the Environmental Working Group takes a look at approved ingredients in products and the new research that focuses on their effects on the body.

Sunscreen is supposed to reduce our risk of skin cancer by blocking harmful UV rays. The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, refers to the product’s ability to block UVB rays, the ones that cause burns, help with Vitamin D production and are absorbed in the upper layers of the skin.  UVA rays penetrate deeper and sunscreens don’t always protect against this type.  Higher SPF’s are dangerous because they give a false sense of security in protection, leaving users exposed to longer periods of harmful sun exposure.  Choose a product with SPF 50 or lower and apply frequently.
 
The FDA regulates the chemicals that go into sunscreen.  The most popular is Oxybenzone, which has been shown to mimic estrogens in the body.  It’s easily absorbed through the skin and then distributed through the bloodstream.  Findings are preliminary, but why risk it?  Choose products with either zinc or titanium because they don’t get absorbed into the skin and offer lasting protection.
 
Get your Vitamin A elsewhere. Also known as retinyl palmitate, it’s frequently added to skin products for anti-aging benefits. However, studies have shown that this unnecessary ingredient actually speeds up the growth of skin lesions and tumors. It’s best to avoid using it when sun exposure is expected.
 
If you plan on venturing out into nature, don’t mix your sunscreen and bug repellent.  The sunscreen may actually increase the absorption of the repellent chemicals.  Instead, wear a light, long sleeved shirt and pants, or choose a different activity or location.
 
Think a spray, powder or towelette would be better?  Think again.  Wipes and powders aren’t even allowed by the FDA, and your airway and lungs shouldn’t need sun protection in the first place.  Go the old fashioned route and apply the cream.  It’s easier to regulate coverage and it won’t blow away in the wind.
 
So, did your favorite sunscreen make the 
list?
 
Like the San Francisco weather proves, moderation is the key to sun exposure.  Choose your products wisely and apply regularly.  It’s Summer time!



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