Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Truly Natural Sunscreen Alternatives

Summer is here! We all know it is suggested to take in 20 minutes of sun every day to maintain Vitamin D levels, bone health and activate natural skin defense mechanisms. That said, many people are concerned about the risk of skin cancer. And despite sun exposure recommendations, we spotted a few 'lobsters' walking around Laguna Beach this weekend.

We hear a lot about UV rays, but what do UV (ultraviolet) rays mean to us relevant to our skin?
UVA=Aging rays
UVB=Burning rays
UVC=Cancer-causing rays

And then there are sunscreens. Recent studies have made us aware of the dangers chemical-laden and nano-tech sunscreen products present to our health (which not only filter rays, but also inhibit our body's natural function to naturally protect itself). Check out

The truth is that most sunscreens on the market contain toxic and carcinogenic ingredients. Cosmetic companies and dermatologist's have known the startling truth for well over a decade. It is no secret. Many of these ingredients found in commercially sold sunscreens actually contain free radical generating properties. One such ingredient is octylmethoxycinnamar (OMC). This ingredient is found in nearly 90% of sunscreens currently on the market and acts as a UV attracter making it twice as toxic during sun exposure, thus actually increasing your cancer risk. Another ingredient called Psoralen also increases your skin cancer risk by as much as 83%! This is outrageous considering 35% of sunscreen applied to the skin is directly absorbed into the blood stream.

So, what are the alternatives? In the case of sunburn, we look to our expert friends in Australia, where two out of three people are treated for skin cancers during their lifetime.

Many people who live in Australia choose to wear sun-protective clothing that is specially made with a tighter weave to block the harmful rays of the sun and offers the equivalent of approximately SPF 30. Australia-based Coolibar is a company that offers sun-protective clothing, swimwear, and hats. Other companies offering clothing with sun-protective fabrics include Solar Eclipse and Solartex.

In actuality, there are many options for sun protection that respect both the body and the earth:
• First, use common sense. Try to stay out of the sun during peak sun hours, between 10 am and 2 pm, when sunburn and sun damage is most likely to occur.
• If you have to be out in the sun during peak hours, try to find a shaded area, an umbrella, or wear a wide-brimmed hat. If you have the budget, check out sun-protective clothing (or find bargains on eBay). Make sure to research protective clothing vendors, as some of them use chemical additives to confer sun-protective abilities into the clothing.
• When you use sunblock, check the label and choose one that isn’t going to make you worry about carcinogens or environmental toxins. Of over 120 manufacturers of sunscreen products, only 9 companies claim not to use toxic ingredients. It's easy to make your own sunblock with zinc oxide (the white stuff) and lotion. We also like to use pure coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter. They smell good and your skin loves them! If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, you probably don’t want it on your skin. Also, whatever you put on your skin absorbs is absorbed into the bloodstream. That said, if it isn't fit to eat, you probably don't want to use it on your skin.
• Eat plenty of dark green, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables, to keep your skin healthy and less prone to skin damage. People whose diets are high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (such as sunflower, safflower and other vegetable oils) are more prone to have sun-damaged skin. Once consumed, these oils work their way to the skin surface, where sunlight oxidises them, rapidly creating free radicals -- unstable molecules that damage the cell's DNA, leading to photoageing as well as skin cancer (Nutr Cancer).
• Researchers from Germany found that beta-carotene supplementation protects against sunburn. If you are going to be out in the sun, consider increasing your intake of Vitamins C and E. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermotology, 2g of Vitamin C and 1000IU of Vitamin E daily reduced the tendency to sunburn. And according to JAMA, Beta-carotene is a safe and effective treatment for those whose skin is overly sensitive to sunlight. UV exposure depletes the body of this nutrient, and the evidence indicates that supplementing with 25mg of mixed carotenoids plus 500IU of natural Vitamin E will provide extra sunburn protection (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Lycopene is also helpful. Supplement when necessary, but LNH suggests getting vital nutrients from organic food sources. Yams, carrots, mango, papaya, spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens, and sweet potatoes are all viable sources of beta carotene.
• In an extreme situation (some of our readers are extreme sports-enthusiasts and dare devils), covering oneself with mud or other opaque, light-blocking substance will shield the skin from UV rays.

If you do end up with a sunburn, consider natural, eco-friendly remedies for sunburn relief. Aloe vera gel is very soothing and effective. It can either be purchased from a natural foods store or taken directly from an aloe vera plant. (LNH maintains aloe plants and suggest using the raw aloe directly from the plant leaf for burns of any kind.) A soothing oatmeal bath can also be helpful.

Finally, remember that every choice you make has some kind of an environmental impact. It’s a good idea to treat the planet kindly by living lightly—you will also reap the benefits!


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