Sunscreen or Sunburn? Which Risk is Greatest?
Dr Carlos Tools To Optimal Health Expert
We've been told for the past three decades or so that we must cover up; that the harmful UV rays of the sun could promote skin cancer if allowed to reach the body. But what we're finding now is that the once-touted saviors of our outer armor, called sunscreen, also come with risks - and pretty hefty ones at that.
Most traditional sunscreens contain ingredients known to be potentially harmful to the body. Some act as free-radical generators which can damage cells and cause advanced aging and immune system destruction. Other ingredients offer gender bending effects that increase the body's production of estrogen - a problem for both males and females as we'll see in a moment. Finally, these "xenobiotics," or foreign chemicals, are fat soluble and remain in our fat tissue, bones, and organs for many years, making us literal poison-toting vehicles for toxic substances.
Estrogen is the dominant hormone in females, though men do need a small amount of it as well. It is necessary for life to be certain, but when estrogen levels rise too high a host of problems follow. Infertility rates are at an all-time high, and we're looking at both men and women. Males have had a steadily declining sperm count since the 1950's, and prostate and testicular cancer has risen. We're not seeing this phenomenon in just humans either. The males of many species of birds, mammals, and amphibians are showing increasing feminization, as critical populations are on the decline. Some evidence shows this is from our chemically produced hormones in the water or soil.
In women rising estrogen is related to conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, fibrocystic breasts, and cervical dysplasia, all of which are associated with increased cancer risks, not to mention infertility. The obesity epidemic is worsened here as estrogen stores in our fat tissue and can literally draw more fat to itself! It's a self-promoting cycle seriously difficult to reverse.
Some cosmetic ingredients that seem most problematic include:
PABA and PABA esters
Parabens (ethylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben)
Benzones (Oxybenzone and Dioxybenzone)
To be fair, sunscreens are not the only culprit. Most commercially available makeup products including lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, and cover up contain similar problematic ingredients. If it were as easy as reading a label the problem would be fixable, but cosmetic companies do not need to practice full disclosure of all ingredients. Thus nothing short of contacting your favorite cosmetic company may help allay your concerns you're slowly being poisoned.
Vitamin D is now in the spotlight as a necessary nutrient to prevent cancer and osteoporosis. Our best source? You bet - the sun. And most of us are deficient in Vitamin D! Research is suggesting we actually need more sun exposure, not less. How about that for a myth buster!
Here are a few summer sun strategies to help you cope without lotion:
-When possible, wear a hat, long sleeves and pants when outside.
-Avoid sun exposure at the peak of the day, from 11 a.m. to two p.m.
-Start the season at short intervals of exposure and move up gradually. Always avoid burning. In particular do not allow children to sunburn. The base you develop will work to your advantage as it will actually protect your skin from damage.
-Wear protective eyewear that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Remember retinal damage is permanent so take care of your eyes.
There will always be times when we can't avoid the sun. So find a product that is based in titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. These ingredients appear to be safer (at least for now) and literally act as physical barriers to shield your skin. I recommend a company called ColoreScience® which is available through many doctors' offices and reputable skin care salons.
Have fun this summer, stay safe, and pay close attention to children when they are around sun-reflecting water!