The Natural Sunscreen Guide

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Recent research has surfaced regarding the potentially harmful ingredients in sunscreen.  Subsequent media coverage on the topic has led to a state of frantic panic amongst consumers.  Is this panic justified?  Should we really be worried?

Some consumers are under the impression that sun exposure is bad altogether, avoiding the sun and slathering on large amounts of high-SPF sunscreen lotions and sprays when they do choose to brave the rays.  This is not necessarily true, or needed.

To calm your nerves and put the fun back in being outdoors this season, let’s review the data together.  This article will draw a few straight forward conclusions as to which sunscreens and acne products are safe, and which you should avoid.

Your Body Needs the Sun!

First of all and perhaps the most important thing to take away from this article is that the sun will not kill you.  It is not bad.  Our bodies and skin actually need the sun.  After all, there would be no life without it.  The key is to limit the amount of exposure to a healthy range and at the appropriate time of day to get the most benefit out of it.

In order for our bodies to get enough Vitamin D, we need to be in the sun at least 10-15 minutes each day.  However, your magic number (the number of minutes of sun exposure needed for optimal Vitamin D) will vary depending on your skin type, location, and the time of year.  Being in the sun longer does not necessarily mean your body will produce more Vitamin D, but it can increase your risk level for cancer and premature aging (depending on numerous factors).  Exposing more skin to the sun, however, will help your body produce more. For more tips on how to optimize the benefits of the sun, see my guest blog on Heliotherapy: Benefits of the Sun Far and Beyond Vitamin D 

“Should I still use sunscreen when I go outside?”

That depends on the amount of time you will be spending out in the sunlight. Sunscreen is an important factor in protecting yourself and your loved ones from harmful UVA rays, although the benefits of the sun come from UVB rays which we don’t want to block out immediately. Depending on your background, skin color and exposure, you may need to take precaution, which I recommend, so long as you are using healthy products to do so. There are many different sunscreens to choose from and it can be confusing to know which is best for you.  Let’s take a look at why and how sunscreen can be harmful instead of useful.

Harmful Ingredients in Sunscreens

Research suggests that two notable ingredients found in most sunscreens may be harmful to your health.  There are sunscreens available that do not contain these chemicals, though.  It is important to read the labels if you are concerned with chemical-containing products.

The first ingredient to look for and avoid is oxybenzone.  It is included in more than half of sunscreen products on the market today and is used to absorb ultraviolet light.  However, government-backed research shows that oxybenzone is linked to hormone disruption and cell damage that can lead to cancer.

The next ingredient to avoid is retinyl palminate or retinoic acid, both forms of vitamin A.  It seems silly that we should avoid a vitamin that our body needs to survive, but in this case Vitamin A can be very harmful.  When applied to the skin for indoor use, it is perfectly safe.  However, by applying products containing retinyl palminate or retinoic acid – present in most sunscreens – and then exposing your skin to the sun, you are actually speeding the growth of cancerous lesions and skin tumors.  Avoid sunscreens with these ingredients.

 “Sunscreens make me breakout, so I don’t use them.”

Many sunscreen products contain oil and other ingredients that clog pores and can cause acne.  However, it is still important to wear sunscreen when outside for long periods of time.  There are several products available that will help protect against sun damage as well as provide and maintain healthy clear skin.

I spent the last couple months testing out a variety of non toxic healthier sunscreens. Here is a list of my top picks of my favorites. These should help you make an informed decision when choosing the best option for you:

For Face and Acne:

Eltamd UV Clear SPF 46 – One of my favorite face sunscreens! Oil free, broad spectrum protection, lightweight, oil-free formulation, may be worn alone or under makeup, calms and soothes skin, and ideal for sensitive or acne-prone complexions.

Colorescience Pro Sunforgettable SPF 30 Brush – easy powder application, includes make up coverage for flaws, refillable, suitable for rosacea and eczema.

Suntegrity Skincare – Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer, Broad Spectrum SPF 30 – anti-aging component, vegan, non-greasy, moisturizer and face primer.

For Face and Body:

Eltamd UV Physical SPF 41 – smoothes and brightens skin tone, suitable for sensitive skin, broad spectrum, uses mineral ingredients.

Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream – SPF 35 – Just 5 ingredients! Unscented, antioxidant-rich, water & sweat resistant for at least 80 minutes of swimming or activity, broad spectrum protection, 94% Certified Organic, and biodegradable-  safe for coral reefs and other ecosystems.

Suntegrity – “5 in 1″ Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen – all-in-one factor provides moisturizer, sunscreen and foundation. Featured in the “Best Sunscreens” Category in the EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide.

Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body SPF 30 - Vegan, non greasy, cruelty free, and baby safe (over 6 mos. of age). Top Rated Sunscreen by the EWG/Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. Featured in the “Best Sunscreens” Category with a #1 Rating in the EWG’s 2012 Sunscreen Guide.

Burn Out Eco-sensitive Zinc Oxide Sunscreen SPF 35 –  Goes on clear, no chalky whitening, matte finish, non-greasy, great for sensitive skin, fragrance-free, eco-sensitive, ocean safe, biodegradable

We hope that this sunscreen guide helps you make informed decisions about the products you choose to purchase and put on your skin.  Have fun being safe in the sun!

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