Sun Protection

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The sunny days have arrived at last here in Vancouver and while picnicing in English Bay you may be wondering, “How can I best protect my skin from the suns rays?” Well we’ve rounded up a couple of great articles on the truth of conventional sunscreen, eating for sun protection and a homemade sunscreen recipe.


Nine Suprising Facts About Sunscreen


Do you depend on sunscreen for skin protection? Millions of Americans do, but they shouldn’t. Melanoma rates are increasing. The consensus among scientists is that sunscreens alone cannot reverse this trend. Yet a good sunscreen can play role in preventing sunburns that are a major risk factor for melanoma – provided you use it correctly.

1. FDA’s sunscreen rules have changed but products haven’t improved.

The federal Food and Drug Administration put new sunscreen rules into effect last December, but they have had little impact on the sunscreen market and could actually make things worse for consumers. FDA’s rules allow most sunscreens to claim they offer “broad spectrum” skin protection and also that they can reduce skin cancer risk. However, EWG’s assessment of 750 beach and sport sunscreens on the market this year spotted significant problems.

2. There’s no proof that sunscreens prevent most skin cancer.

Rates of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years. Most scientists and public health agencies – including the FDA itself – have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.

3. Don’t be fooled by high SPF

High-SPF products tempt people to apply too little sunscreen and stay in the sun too long. The FDA has proposed prohibiting the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading,” but it has not issued a regulation that carries the force of law. One in seven sunscreens advertises SPF values greater than 50+, so get the most bang for your hard-earned buck. Use EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to zero in on better products.

4. The common sunscreen additive vitamin A may speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A to nearly one-quarter of all sunscreens.
Retinyl palmitate is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging. But federal studies indicate that it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens, lip products and skin lotions containing vitamin A, often labeled “retinyl palmitate” or “retinol.”

5. European consumers can get better sunscreens.

European sunscreens offer superior protection from skin-damaging UVA rays. In Europe, sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays. American manufacturers can use only three UVA-filtering ingredients. They have been waiting seven years for FDA approval to use Europe’s better filters. Until the FDA approves these ingredients and lifts restrictions on combining certain active ingredients, American consumers will be hard-pressed to find sunscreens with the strongest level of UVA protection.

6. Sunscreen does not protect skin from all types of sun damage.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation generates free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. American sunscreens can reduce these damages, but not as effectively as they prevent sunburn. Consumers can run into problems if they pick a sunscreen with poor UVA protection, apply too little or reapply it infrequently. The FDA should strengthen its regulations to ensure that sunscreens offer better protection from skin damage.

7. Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies.

The ideal sunscreen would completely block UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours. It would not form harmful ingredients when degraded by sunlight. It would smell and feel pleasant so that people would use more of it.

No sunscreen meets these goals. Americans must choose between “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone system, and “mineral” sunscreens, made with zinc and titanium, often “micronized” or containing nano-particles.

8. Mineral sunscreens contain nano-particles.

Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens contain nano-particles a twentieth the width of a human hair. These help reduce or eliminate the chalky white tint that these minerals used to leave on the skin. Based on the available information, EWG gives a favorable rating to mineral sunscreens, but the FDA should restrict the use of unstable or UV-reactive forms of minerals that would lessen skin protection.

9. If you avoid sun, check your vitamin D levels.

Sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit — producing vitamin D. The hormone is enormously important. It strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces the risk of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers, and perhaps other disorders.

About one-fourth of Americans have borderline low levels of vitamin D, and 8 percent have a serious deficiency. Breast-fed infants, people with darker skin and people who have limited sun exposure are at greatest risk. Many people can’t or shouldn’t rely on the sun for vitamin D. Check with your doctor to see if you should get a vitamin D test or take seasonal or year-round supplements.


Seven Foods that Provide Sunscreen Protection


It seems like Mother Nature may be on to something: edible sunscreen.

While it is no surprise that we need to protect our skin from prolonged sun exposure, you may not realize that what you eat before you head to the beach plays a part in whether you burn or bronze. Certain phytochemicals in plant based foods can actually help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. The most effective protectors are carotenoids, such as Lycopene, Beta-carotene, and Astaxanthin.

In general foods that are bright orange, red, or yellow, contain carotenoids, as does anything that is dark green and leafy. While you will receive some protection from the sun after eating a serving or two of these foods, they offer even more protection overtime as you include them in your diet daily, with most studies citing 3 months as the optimal time for maximum efficiency.

Here are 7 foods that provide sun protection:

1. Dark Leafy Greens: Kale, Collards, Chard, Spinach and all their dark leafy green cousins contain powerful carotenoids which guard against UV-induced skin damage. They also contain a plethora of bioactive substances like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and flavanoids that all work synergistically to keep your skin healthy.  An Australian study using over 1,000 adults found that those who ate at least 3 servings of dark leafy greens regularly reduced their risk of skin cancer by up to 55%.

2. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a red carotenoid which has been proven to provide long-term protection against UV-induced effects. A recent study published in the Journal of British Dermatology found that women who ate tomato products daily were more protected from the sun than those who didn’t.

3. Watermelon: Watermelon contains about 40% more lycopene than tomatoes, making this juicy summer fruit an excellent protector against sunburn and skin cancer. It’s high water content also helps prevent dehydration.


4. Cantaloupe: Water-dense cantaloupe will keep you hydrated (helping protect against sun-induced dehydration), while also delivering a healthy dose of Vitamin C and the carotenoid beta-carotene. Vitamin C protects against free radical damage, while beta-carotene protects agains UV-induced sun damage.

5. Carrots: Carotenoids are named after carrots, so as you can imagine, they are a rich source of them. Carrots contain a high amount of Beta-carotene, and if consumed daily, can help prevent sunburn from UVB rays. You can eat them raw, lightly cooked, or even fresh-pressed into a juice to get their benefits.

6. Sweet Potatoes: There bright orange hue gives away the fact that these tubers are loaded with UV-protecting carotenoids. They are also high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which are needed for smooth, wrinkle free skin, making this a perfect sun food.

7. Micro Algae: While chlorella and spirulina come in pill or powder form, they are still a whole food that offers powerful sun protection. In addition to their high chlorophyll content, they also contain a carotenoid called Astaxanthin, which has been shown to protect the skin and eyes from UV radiation. Astaxanthin is currently the most powerful carotenoid studied, and is 54 times more effective at free radical scavenging than Beta-carotene.


Natural Homemade Sunscreen


Natural Homemade Sunscreen Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide (This is a non-nano version that won’t be absorbed into the skin. Be careful not to inhale the powder). This makes a natural SPF of 20+ or more can be added.)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference

Note: All ingredients and many essential oils are available here.

How to Make Natural Sunscreen:

  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.

Additional Notes:

  • This sunscreen is somewhat but not completely waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 20, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like a body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

An Even Faster Way To Make Sunscreen:

  • Get a bottle of your favorite lotion (that doesn’t contain citrus oils!)
  • Add a couple Tablespoons of Zinc Oxide
  • Mix well
  • Use as Sunscreen


Gratitude for these articles goes to the following:
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