Healthy Sunscreen Choices

boy slathering sunscreen on belly

Slather that Sunscreen

Summer is in Full Gear

Choose A Healthy Sunscreen

For most people this is the time of year that we should be paying particular attention to how we are applying and what we are applying for sunscreens.  Those of us on the island are blessed with lots of sunshine year round, so we should pay attention to this information all the time.

Choosing a healthy sunscreen not only benefits you as an individual, or your little ones, but it also benefits the sea.  Yes, just think of all the people slathering on their chemical laden sunscreens and then jumping into the aqua blue waters of the ocean.  All those chemicals washing from the skin into the sea wreaking havoc with the quality of the water as well as all of the marine life.  It is no wonder that there continues to be a decline in sea life close to tourist areas.

Yes, it is true.  The Caribbean is suffering from all of the chemicals spewed into her waters as a result of bug repellents and sun screens.   Mexico has begun to take the right steps.  In many parts of Mexico, they have actually banned the use of chemically laden sunscreens.  KUDOS! to them.

So how do we know if our sunscreens are bad?  My first piece of advice is to read the label.  If you can’t pronounce the chemicals going into the product, it probably isn’t the right choice.  Many of the chemicals that are in our sunscreen actually turn carcinogenic when they are exposed to the sun!  Can you believe it?  And the sad thing is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) allows this to happen.

Yes, the FDA created to protect the consumer relies on the manufacturer of the sunscreen products themselves to regulate their industry.  FDA does no testing of products.  The manufacturer is required to submit results of their own testing to FDA for approvals.  Somehow this just doesn’t seem like a logical, or safe approach to insure the consumer is not exposed to chemicals or other components that are harmful.

But, let me step back for a moment.  Is a healthy sunscreen even necessary?  There was a recent article in the UK paper “The Independent” which shared results of a major research study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden.  This study found that women that avoid sunbathing during summer are twice as likely to die of anything than those that sunbathe every day.  This was a 20 year study that involved 30,000 women.  Essentially the results showed that by limiting our exposure to the sun, we weaken our immune system because our bodies become Vitamin D deficient.  When our body is Vitamin D deficient, it is known to increase the risk of all sorts of diseases, including: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, rickets, and more.  This study suggests that the women that stayed out of the sun also had an increase in skin cancer and melanoma that was nearly twofold more than those women in the sun every day.

So if we are suppose to be in the sun every day, then shouldn’t we be using sunscreen?  Yes and No.  First off, we need approximately 15 minutes to 20 minutes of sunshine everyday to help us build Vitamin D.  The best time to do this would be first thing in the morning, before the sun becomes too intense and causes burning.  Second, if you are going to be in the sun, I’m suggesting we be smart about it.  Yes, if you are going to wear sunscreen, be sure to choose one that is natural, and a healthy sunscreen choice.  If you choose not to wear sunscreen, take precautions so you don’t get a sunburn.  Minimize the amount of time you are in the sun between the hours of 10:00 – 2:00 when the sun is at its zenith.  Or, cover yourself up with long sleeves and long pants.  Acclimate yourself to the sun by getting a bit more sun each day, building up a healthy tan.

Our body has melanin, which is a natural skin protectant.  When we are in the sun, we are bombarded with both UVA and UVB rays.  The melanin in our body transforms 99.9% of those rays, absorbing the UV radiation and changing it into heat that is easily dissipated.  This in effect avoids radiation damage and minimizes cell damage.

Now, if you do choose to use sunscreen, please for your skin, your health, and the health of the environment, choose a healthy sunscreen.  One that is not laden with chemicals.  Find a broad spectrum sunscreen.  This means it will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.  If you are using a mineral based sunscreen, (which is a very healthy sunscreen choice) be sure it is not made with nano-particles.  Nano-particles are tiny little particles of the mineral, and can be absorbed into the body.  We don’t want this to happen.  We want those protective particles to stay right on top of the skin, and they will if you get a good mineral based sunscreen without nano-particles.

I personally make my own sunscreen and I sell it in a few places here on the island.  I’m going to share this recipe with you, so you can make your own sunscreen at home.  It will take you approximately 30 minutes, and then you are set with a very healthy sunscreen that you’ve made yourself.  No chemicals, no preservatives, and ready whenever you need it.  Simply whip up a batch, and whatever you don’t use, place in the refrigerator.  This recipe will last a minimum of 6 months if you keep it refrigerated.

For those of you living on the island these ingredients are available for purchase at Upachaya.  Or, you may find the beeswax, and definitely the coconut oil at other locations on the island as well

Now first off, I use Zinc Oxide for my mineral based healthy sunscreen.  It is all natural, and it is the broadest spectrum UVA/UVB reflector approved by the FDA.  Again, make sure you purchase a regular Zinc Oxide, not nano-particles.  Coconut oil is used in my recipe as well and it is a natural skin protector.

The recipe we are going to make will provide you an SPF 25 healthy sunscreen.  The SPF is calculated based on the amount of Zinc Oxide you put in the product as a percentage compared to all the other ingredients.  The more the Zinc Oxide as a percentage of total ingredients, the higher the SPF.  But, don’t be fooled, because anything over an SPF of 30 really does not protect much more.  In other words an SPF 60 does not protect you twice as much as an SPF 30.  This SPF chart will help you calculate the amount of mineral you put in your product to obtain the level of SPF protection you want.

Homemade Healthy Sunscreen
1/2 ounce beeswax
2 ounces shea butter
2 ounces coconut oil
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) zinc oxide

Place beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil in a double boiler and carefully melt and combine ingredients.  You can place these ingredients in a saucepan, but be careful when melting so you don’t burn the oil.  Once all ingredients are melted, remove from heat and add the zinc oxide.  Blend well, pour into a container, and it will be ready to use once it has solidified.  Be careful with zinc oxide.  You do not want to breath the powder.

Yep, it is that easy.  That is all you need to do to make a wonderful Healthy Sunscreen!

Ok, here’s one more for those of you that don’t have the time to melt ingredients.

Homemade Healthy Sunscreen 2
Get 8 ounces of your favorite body lotion.  Again, I would suggest you choose a lotion that does not have chemicals in it, or you will be defeating the purpose of creating a natural healthy sunscreen.  Take the 8 ounce container of lotion, add 2 ounces of zinc oxide and mix thoroughly.  You have now just made yourself a healthy sunscreen with an SPF of 20% – 25%.

There are two other things we should be doing for ourselves in regard to sun protection.  One is to not be afraid to take the sunglasses off every once in awhile.  Our sunglasses block the blue light rays from hitting our retina.  It is the blue light rays that stimulates the hypothalamus and pineal gland into producing and releasing melatonin, the horomone that regulates our circadian rhythms.  It is also a powerful immune booster and anti-aging antioxidant that protects our DNA and delays neuro-degeneration.  So, if we use our sunglasses in the most intense light situation, and allow them to come off periodically at other times, we can absorb the blue light when needed to keep our circadian rhythms and immune system healthy.

Diet will also have an impact on our chances of getting a sunburn.  When we eat a diet high in antioxidants (colorful fruits and vegetables) it creates a form of internal sunscreen.  It helps to eliminate free-radicals in the body, which are the culprits that are precursors to cancer.

So, if  you choose to wear sunscreen please make sure it is a healthy sunscreen.  One that will protect you, and yet also protect our environment.

For more information check out these websites:

* Environment Working Group is an organization dedicated to testing products to insure they are not harmful to the public.  This link will take you to a variety of articles they have written on the use of sunscreens.
* Dr. Mercola always has great information on his site.  This link provides you additional information on what to avoid in sunscreens.
* In this video by Dr. Oz, he does a great job of explaining what is happening to those sunscreens you are putting on your body.  This is another good reason not to use chemically laden sunscreens and opt instead for healthy sunscreen.