Another Wellness Wednesday post and another rabbit hole I have gone down over the past year. Per usual, the more I learned on this subject the more I hated that it took me so long to learn it. This is exactly what a lot of us say when making baby steps to better health, cultivating true wellness, and learning the truth about things. It’s incredible what has simply been regurgitated over the years and passed as fact or truth – truly mind-blowing. So let’s chat about why I no longer use sunscreen. Well, at least the wrong kind of sunscreen – wink!
*PSA: None of this is medical advice. Speak with your healthcare provider. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions as to what is best for you.
As with everything our family has grown through and experienced as we have worked to reduce our toxin load, get intentional with our products and food, and truly understand for ourselves what is best, it’s hard to look back over the years and think about all the things we used to do, used to use, and just didn’t know. For example, so many years spent spraying my kids with junk sunscreen from the store all summer long. Groan.
However, we are not going to dwell on that and stay there. This very reason is exactly why I share on the subject of wellness in the first place. I know the peace of mind these changes and increased knowledge have brought me. I now understand that putting the effort and time into researching and knowing for myself deposits into the health bank all day long. And if I can help another do the same through what I share? That’s the goal. To link arms in knowing better and doing better for ourselves and our families.
Modern research and understanding of the sun’s benefits have proven the following:
Vitamin D (that we get from the sun) is critical to our immune system. And consistent exposure to it can help us strengthen it. Why is this important? Because a healthy and robust immune system helps to reduce the risk of illness, infections, and some cancers.
Sunshine helps to regulate our natural circadian rhythm. This is our body’s internal process that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is the hormone that our body uses for sleep. When we get regular daylight exposure, our body is better equipped to produce melatonin when it is time to sleep.
Sunshine also works to boost our body’s serotonin levels. This is a chemical in our body that helps to improve our mood as well as helps us to focus and stay calm.
Back to melatonin. This hormone works to also decrease the reaction we have to stress. And since sunlight aids melatonin and helps to regulate it, spending time in the sun can help to reduce stress levels. Not to mention, we are usually doing some sort of physical activity while outside (walking, running, playing, swimming, hiking) which is also proven to lower stress levels.
Vitamin D that we get from sun exposure helps our body to maintain calcium to support strong and healthy bones.
Well, to dive into that we have to first look back over the past handful of decades. And when I saw the following two facts side by side, it definitely triggered some red flags that prompted me to dig in further:
Sunscreen was invented in 1932, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that it became widely used within the United States along with the FDA beginning to regulate it.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma rates in the U.S. have been increasing rapidly over many decades 30 to 40 years. From 1982 to 2011? They doubled per the American Academy of Dermatology.
Does this have you scratching your head too?
Because it is our only protection against the damaging rays of the sun! But is it really? Or is it causing more harm than good?
Of course, too much sun exposure and sunburns do cause skin damage and can increase our chances of developing skin cancer. We want to absolutely take precautions. However, the fix we have been sold to for years might actually be the culprit for a host of issues. We have seen recall, after recall, after recall.
*Loading Sarcasm* The ridiculous part in the PR messages linked above is when the company, like Johnson & Johnson (whose baby powder continued to sit on store shelves even after being proven to cause cancer), claims Benzene is not one of the ingredients in their product, but they are getting to the bottom of how it managed to get into their product. Oh, and that they have made a voluntary recall. After all, we wouldn’t want the billion-dollar corporation to look money-hungry would we? Goodness gracious.
Here’s the thing, we as consumers have to be aware of what we are buying. Because no one is going to care about our health as much as we should. And we definitely need to be more aware of what we are applying to our skin. Because remember, our skin absorbs everything we apply to it and is eventually reaching our bloodstream. The sunscreens sitting on store shelves and from some of the most popular and well-known brands contain harmful chemicals that are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and more. I don’t know about you, but the idea of applying all of that to my skin and then baking under the sun with it on? Doesn’t sound like a great idea, actually.
Just below are the five most toxic ingredients to be aware of when it comes to sunscreens per the EWG:
At the time when sunscreens were first being widely used it was believed that the ingredients contained in them were not being absorbed into the body. Now we know that evidence shows the complete opposite. The FDA states that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only two ingredients that can be classified as “safe and effective”. A study that they did shows the above sunscreen chemicals are all absorbed into the body after one use and can be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after use.
First and foremost, I do not use chemical sunscreen. When I weigh the risks of unhealthy sun exposure (ie: sunburn) with the risk of applying those chemicals to my skin and then having sun exposure? Neither is a winner for me. Especially because, when we use sunscreen don’t we feel like we can be out in the sun longer? I know I used to!
I pay attention to what I am putting IN my body first and foremost. Diet plays a huge role when it comes to this area. Whole, honest, nutrient-rich foods are where it’s at. I don’t want to be filling our bodies with processed food, foods that contain PUFAs, or seed oils.
If we are going to be in the sun, I try and make it morning sun or evening sun. In this situation, I do not apply any sunscreen to any of us. This allows us to soak up all of those vitamins and nutrients safely. All summer long we have spent every morning in the pool. 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM has been our time to be soaking up the sun before studies. Studies show that even 30 minutes daily in the sun has incredible health benefits. We have been giving ourselves an hour and it has been perfect. And! Not a single sunburn all summer.
If I know we will be in the sun during peak hours (approximately 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM), I make sure that hats are available for shading, clothing is available to protect the skin, and I apply a mineral-based sunscreen to my face and neck only. Know wants to age faster, you know? Wink! But I am intentional with the time spent outside. During those hours, but if it will be just for a little bit, I won’t use anything. If it will be for a long while, I will make sure everyone has some mineral-based sunscreen applied.
Chemical sunscreens contain synthetic ingredients which are absorbed by the skin. As we saw above, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are the worst two that we want to avoid, followed by Homosalate, Octocrylene, and Octisalate.
Mineral-based sunscreens have natural minerals that cover the surface of your skin, not to be absorbed by it, but to block the sun’s rays. This is why mineral sunscreens feel a little thicker. These types of sunscreens will contain ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
When we do need to use something, and even though it’s not THE perfect solution, we make sure to use a zinc-based mineral sunscreen because it is far better for us than chemical sunscreens. The EWG has a wonderful guide to sunscreens that they suggest and you can catch that here.
We know how hard it is to find solid information in this day in age. You can find some piece of research or an article that will back up what YOU believe to be true just as easily as the person next to you. And since our naivety in certain things is what makes corporations big money, I like to dig into research when I am deciding how I am going to approach specific areas of my overall health and well-being – for myself as well as my family. Here are some resources and research that I found extremely helpful outside of the three letter agencies (they lost my vote a long time ago):
Research Article by Weston A. Price: Sunlight & Vitamin D Are Not the Same Thing
Research Article by Weston A. Price: The Dark Side of Avoiding the Sun
Research Article by The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine: Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct?
Research from PubMed: The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin
I hope the above research helps you as much as it did me. And I hope in sharing why I no longer use sunscreen, or at least the chemical-based kind that I used to reach for, helps you as you dig in deeper.
Also, I shared recently about how I shop for cleaner products and better options. That is the best way, in my opinion, to find a product that you can feel better about when applying to your skin to enjoy some sun!
And for more wellness topics, feel free to dive in and browse here!