Health experts recommend applying sunscreen for good reason. Exposure to sunlight causes oxidative stress, accelerating the aging process. UV radiation is also a major contributing factor to sunburn, skin cancer, and photosensitivity. According to dermatologists, there is no such thing as a healthy tan.
Considering these facts, sunscreen seems to be the best option for those who enjoy spending time outdoors. After all, it protects your skin from UV radiation, acting like a natural barrier against harmful sun rays. Unfortunately, this product isn’t free of side effects. The chemicals in sunscreen could cause more damage to your skin than UV radiation from natural sunlight.
UVA vs. UVB: What’s the Difference?
Before we dig further into the dangers of sunscreen, let’s see why sunrays are so harmful to our health. There are two primary types of UV rays, namely UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave).
UVA rays have the ability to reach the deepest layers of your skin. They are present during all hours of daylight and make up about 95 percent of UV radiation. While they do give us a gorgeous tan, they also damage the basal and squamous cells in the skin. This increases the risk of cancer and accelerates aging.
UVB rays only penetrate the superficial layers of the skin, so they cause less damage. Their intensity varies throughout the day, reaching its peak between 10 AM and 4 PM. Research shows that UVB rays are more carcinogenic than UVA radiation; they just have a different mechanism of action. Exposure to either UVA or UVB rays promotes the formation of wrinkles and suppresses immunity.
The Hidden Dangers of Chemical Sunscreen
Despite its ability to protect your skin, sunscreen is anything but healthy. In fact, most products available in the U.S. wouldn’t pass European standards because they fail to offer adequate protection. What’s worse is that they contain dangerous chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
Titanium oxide, octinoxate, avobenzone, and oxybenzone are just a few of the chemicals in sunscreen. Oxybenzone and octinoxate, for instance, disrupt endocrine function and mess up your hormones. On top of that, they harm the environment.
Researchers have found these substances in the bloodstream and urine of more than 96 percent of Americans. They’re absorbed into the skin, spreading throughout your body. Studies have linked oxybenzone to a higher risk of endometriosis in women and hypogonadism in men. Yet, this ingredient is used in over 56 percent of sunscreen products.
Another harmful chemical is retinyl palmitate, which may cause vitamin A toxicity and skin tumors. This toxin increases vitamin A levels in the skin, contributing to DNA damage and cancerous lesions. It’s particularly harmful for women with osteoporosis as it reduces bone density.
Are There Any Safe, Natural Alternatives?
The good news is that you can always use natural alternatives to sunscreen. Coconut oil, sesame oil, and aloe vera gel are safer and have none of the side effects associated with SPF products. Even though they offer less protection against UV rays, they improve skin health and are unlikely to cause allergic reactions. A good example is aloe vera gel, which blocks up to 20 percent of sunrays.
Check out this recipe to make your own nontoxic sunscreen.
- Place all (except for zinc, Myrrh & Lavender) into glass mixing bowl. Fill sauce pan with 2-3" of water & turn on medium heat. Place glass bowl in sauce pan; stir until melted.
- Remove from heat. Add Myrrh, Lavender & zinc.
- Pour into glass jar or squeeze bottle after it cools.
Store in cool place. Apply before sun exposure. Reapply often (as needed).
Another way to protect your skin is to eat foods with high antioxidant levels. Nuts, seeds, berries, citrus fruits, and leafy greens should come first on your list. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocado and salmon, have protective effects as well.
Don’t be afraid to spend time outdoors! Just make sure you take the steps needed to protect your skin. The human body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, which keeps your bones strong and prevents osteoporosis. This nutrient supports brain function, fights cancer, and boosts immunity.