There is nothing better. The kids are out of school, it’s time for beach vacations, the hectic pace of life slows down…I like to get into a carefree frame of mind for the summer. But, I still don’t let my guard down when it comes to protecting myself and my family from the sun and from dangerous chemicals.
Have you given any thought to the kind of sunscreen that you use lately? There are some pretty scary ingredients in most of our favorite brands of sunscreen. Our skin is our largest organ and anything that we put on it is absorbed and can affect our health. Some functional medicine doctors that I trust believe that chemical sunscreens are contributing to the rise in skin cancer. Another contributing factor to skin cancer may be that many people are deficient in Vitamin D which is sometimes caused from using so much sunscreen. Low Vitamin D is linked to many types of cancer. Make sure you get yours tested the next time you go to the doctor.
But isn’t getting sun dangerous?
We all know that too much sun exposure can be dangerous. So what is the solution? In my opinion, the best option is to get a small amount of sun exposure each day (my dermatologist does not agree) without sunscreen to get some Vitamin D and then try and stay out of the sun as much as possible during peak hours. Of course that is easier said than done especially when you are at the beach or the pool. For times when we do need sunscreen, I do my very best to find some of the safer options. Finding safe sunscreens (that we like to use) is not always easy. There are 2 basic types of sunscreen – chemical and non-chemical (mineral). Mineral sunscreens physically block the rays with ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Yes, it’s the same idea as the white nosed lifeguards but most of them today are not that white! I have tried so many and lots of them are very thick and hard to apply and do still leave your skin with a slightly whitish tint. That is not a problem for little kids because they don’t notice but don’t try and get your teenagers to use it. No way!
How do I choose?
The best resource is Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. This year, they rated 1700 sunscreens and you can go to their website to find out how each one is rated for safety. They also have an app so that you can scan barcodes when you are at the store. They rate them from 1-10, with 1 being the best. I was discussing with my dermatologist a few years ago how it is hard to find a non-chemical one that my teens will use. She suggested that I try some of the sunscreens that are not mineral but have better ratings. For example, this Banana Boat Sport Spray scores a 5 (moderate risk) while this Coppertone Sport Spray that I used to buy has a score of 7 (high risk). I now use this Neutrogena Beach Defense stick instead of this Coppertone one that I used to buy. There is a wide range of scores in each brand, so you really have to look up the specific one you are buying. For young kids, I would suggest finding something that has a score of 1 or 2 to be extra cautious. The Honest Company makes some good ones that have a score of 1 and you can sometimes find them at Costco.
My absolute favorite non-chemical facial sunscreen (for me) is TIZO 3 Solar Protection. It is tinted so there is no white glow and it gives your face a matte finish almost like a really nice foundation. It is a little pricy but it lasts forever and it is so worth it to me. I just found a mineral spray sunscreen at Target called Bare Republic and it has a 3 rating! It goes on a little white but it is not bad at all. We also like this Alba Sport Sunscreen Lotion.
Something else to consider is the danger of inhaling spray sunscreens. I would love to stop using them altogether but I know it is hard to give them up. I usually make my kids use a lotion first and then use a spray to reapply. Be sure to never spray directly on your face and do your best not to inhale them. I tell my kids to hold their breath, spray their body, then step out of the cloud to breath. Many sprays have worse scores than lotion for that reason.
Hope you have a safe and happy summer!
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any condition. It is based solely on my opinion and is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor.