Natural Sun Protection
The Importance of Sun Safety
In moderation, sun exposure can provide you with several health benefits. Sun exposure helps you synthesize vitamin D, which is beneficial for bone and immune health, and can also help stave off seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression.
Despite the benefits of the sun, sun safety is crucial, because excessive exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can put you at risk for skin damage and increase your risk of developing medical problems like skin cancer and cataracts. Over time, sun overexposure may also lead to cosmetic concerns, including wrinkles and skin discoloration (dark spots).
With all the health risks posed from prolonged sun exposure, many turn to sunscreen lotions or sprays to help block harmful UV rays. In recent years, concerns have arisen about the safety and efficacy of sunscreens. While these concerns have not been clinically substantiated, many Americans prefer alternative sun protection measures.
To schedule a consultation with a holistic dermatologist in Morristown who can discuss natural sun protection options with you, call (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
What Exactly Is in Sunscreen?
Millions of Americans depend on sunscreens to decrease their risk of sun overexposure, but few know exactly how sunscreen provides sun protection. The active ingredients (UV blockers) in sunscreens come in two forms: chemical and mineral filters.
Most sunscreens on the market include chemical filters, which absorb harmful UV radiation. Chemical sunscreens often include a combination of two of the six following ingredients:
There have been some health concerns about the contents of chemical filter sunscreens, namely possibility of allergic reaction and contribution to the development of cancer. Some of the listed chemical filters - specifically oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone and octocrylene - can cause allergic reactions in the skin. If you are allergy-prone, the best safe sunscreen for you may not be one with chemical filters.
Additionally, retinyl palmitate, while not a UV filter, is also added to about a third of chemical sunscreens; this chemical has been reported to cause skin cancer, but dermatologists are still unsure about whether or not such a link exists.
Some also claim that when oxybenzone is exposed to UV rays, it can produce free radicals, which are molecules with extra unpaired electrons that can cause cancer. Another recent claim about oxybenzone is that it can enter the skin and be absorbed by the cells in high enough amounts to cause hormone imbalances. Claims of harmful effects on humans have never been substantiated, and oxybenzone is FDA-approved for use in sunscreen. Still, some people choose to avoid sunscreen that contains the substance.
Made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, mineral filters reflect the sun's rays as opposed to absorbing them.
Sunscreens with mineral filters may be less irritating to sensitive skin than those with chemical filters, and many forms of organic sun protection are sunscreens with mineral filters.
However, sunscreens labeled as mineral sunscreens may contain chemical filters too, so be sure to read the full list of ingredients if you have sensitive skin or an allergy to a chemical filter.
Another important sun safety fact about mineral sunscreens is that they can be made in the form of nanoparticles. While nanoparticles don't penetrate the skin or create free radicals upon coming into contact with UV rays, they can be harmful to the lungs when inhaled, so spray-on sunscreens with nanoparticles should be avoided.
Finding the Best Sunscreen for You
Due to its proposed benefits, many Americans are choosing to use mineral sunscreens and avoid chemical sunscreens. However, mineral sunscreens tend to be less effective at reflecting the sun's rays than they claim. As such, there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating that either mineral or chemical sunscreens are healthier.
Some Americans turn to natural oils to act as sunscreen, but while coconut, jojoba, soya, and raspberry seed oils may be beneficial additives to natural sunscreens, they are not sufficient sun protection on their own.
Despite the lack of conclusion regarding the safest kind of sunscreen, the dermatological community has several sunscreen-related suggestions for safe sun protection:
- Wear SPF 30 sunscreen daily if you will experience sun exposure
- Research your sunscreen of choice to ensure that the SPF is accurate
- Apply sunscreens evenly and liberally over all exposed skin areas
- Wear sunscreen even when it is overcast, as sunburn and sun damage can occur on cloudy days
- If you are at the beach or pool, reapply sunscreen every two hours or after every swim
Safe Sun Protection Techniques
If you are unsure about the sun's intensity in your area, be sure to check the daily UV index before engaging or planning any outdoor activities. Issued daily by the National Weather Service and the EPA, the UV index predicts the level of intensity of solar UV radiation, and also indicates the risk of overexposure on a scale of 0 to 11.
Aside from sunscreen, practicing the following sun safety tips can help you limit your risk of sun damage:
- Seek the shade, particularly during times when the sun is the strongest (between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Never fall asleep in the sun without protection
- Be sure to wear sun protective clothing like a hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, and light-colored clothing when you will be out in the hot sun for extended periods of time
- Stronger sunscreen should be used while sunbathing by the beach, pools, boating, or skiing, because UV rays bounce off sand, snow and water
- Keep young children (6 months or less) out of the sun
For those that enjoy outdoor activities and warm summer days, it is important to always practice sun exposure safety. Just follow our sun protection tips and you can significantly reduce your exposure to harmful UV rays and skin and eye damage.
To learn more about this topic, schedule your consultation with a Morristown holistic dermatologist. Call (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center
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Johnson City, TN 37604
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