I hope you are having a relaxing summer, healthy and serene. As I write this, I’m experiencing my first summer in the NYC-metro area, where temperatures have hit some record highs and the through-the-roof UV index rays of sun are sizzling. And as they do, millions of people are slathering sunscreen, thinking that they are protecting themselves.
Sunscreen may indeed protect you from getting sunburn. But most people don’t realize there are a few harmful and dangerous consequences of using conventional sunscreen.
After reading this, my hope is you’ll think twice about using most sunscreens that are sold in stores….
Reason #1 NOT to use Sunscreen: No Protection Against Skin Cancer
Wait, what? Doesn’t sunscreen protect you against skin cancer, not to mention sunburn?
Yes, sunscreen can protect you from getting sunburn. But I’ll share with you in a little bit a couple better ways to avoid sunburn.
As for skin cancer, the shocking truth is that sunscreen isn’t protecting you against it like you think it is. In fact, check out this review from the European Journal of Dermatology. (If you don’t feel like it, I’ll summarize the key deets for you….)
The review looked at 29 studies involving over 300,000 participants (not mice or rats; actual people). Here’s what the researchers concluded: “The use of sunscreen is a key component of public health campaigns for skin cancer prevention, but studies have raised doubts on its effectiveness in the general population.”
The review of all the studies, said the researchers, did not show a significant association between skin cancer and sunscreen use. Using sunscreen, at least for the over 300,000 people did not offer protection against melanoma (malignant skin cancer) or non-melanoma skin cancer. “This review does not confirm the expected protective benefits of sunscreen against skin cancer in the general population,” concluded the researchers.
Nonetheless, millions of Americans spray themselves silly with sunscreens that contain chemicals that are toxic to your health.
Which brings me to the second reason to think twice before you slather or spray sunscreen on your bod….
Reason #2 NOT to use Sunscreen: Bad for Your Hormones
Almost every mainstream medical organization recommends using sunscreen to protect against skin cancer. But what do these health experts and institutions such as the American Cancer Society have to say about the synthetic chemicals in sunscreen? Can they actually be doing more harm than good?
I checked out the American Cancer Society’s website. Here’s what they say about the safety of sunscreens:
“The FDA checks that active ingredients in sunscreens do not cause serious problems including cancer, reproductive harm, or endocrine effects. But the FDA does not test sunscreen products themselves….”
[Chef V’s takeaway: Great, so how do we really know they are safe. The answer: we don’t!]
“In Europe, there are different requirements for regulating and marketing sunscreen products. The FDA says it is working on ways to recognize some of these other ingredients as safe and effective.”
[Chef V’s takeaway: Great, so how do we really know they are safe. The answer: we don’t!]
“Oxybenzone is one of the common active ingredients in sunscreens that are sold in the US. The FDA says it is safe. But some environmental and health groups single out oxybenzone as potentially unsafe for some people and the environment. This is because some studies have shown oxybenzone can cause skin allergies. In addition, studies in animals and in human cells in laboratories show that oxybenzone can interfere with how some hormones work.”
[Chef V’s takeaway: Dear FDA, so how is that if your organization has yet “to recognize these ingredients as safe and effective,” can you conclude oxybenzone is safe? In my opinion, the health of millions is at risk and oxybenzone should not be callously regarded as safe.]
Sunscreen: Bad For The Environment?
Here’s another reason not to use sunscreen; at least one that contains oxybenzone: The American Cancer Society on its website points to evidence that the chemical damages coral reefs. (Which is why starting in 2021, Hawaii will be the first U.S. state to ban the use of sunscreens containing the toxic ingredient.)
Now, I’m not going to go as far as other blog articles I’ve read that claim using conventional (non-organic) sunscreen can actually cause cancer. But I will conclude this section on the health risks of using them by referencing the Environmental Working Group. (Check out the EWG’s Skin Deep research database to see if the sunscreen you use is considered safe.)
Here’s what EWG says: “The FDA has put the entire sunscreen industry on alert by proposing that in just two instances do we have enough safety information about ingredients to determine whether they’re safe and effective: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. For 12 other ingredients [including oxybenzoate] the FDA has said there isn’t enough data to determine whether they’re safe.”
[Chef V’s takeaway: if you’re going to use sunscreen, use a mineral-based one with zinc or titanium.]
Before You Apply, Fry (Not Really, But It’s A Nice Rhyme)
Let’s say that there’s absolutely no way you can avoid having your body be exposed to the sun for a long time. I get it, I used to like frying in the sun. But as I’m getting (just a tad) older, I don’t like baking in the sun like I used to. However, if I do use sunscreen (of course, it’s organic and mineral-based), I let most of my skin get exposed to the sun for at least 10-15 minutes.
If you use sunscreen before you even step outside, your body will not be able to synthesize vitamin D from the sun.
And as much as I went off above about the FDA saying sunscreens are totally safe when there’s absolutely no proof of that and even evidence to the contrary, not getting enough vitamin D might even be worse for your health.
In fact, there’s no doubt that lack of vitamin D increases the risk of certain cancers, not to mention bone fractures and diseases.
Vitamin D also is a precursor to your sex hormones (the 3 estrogens as well as testosterone, which women also need an adequate amount of to stave off excess belly fat). The sunshine vitamin also helps form healthy cholesterol, which provides structure to your trillions of cells.
I could go on and on about how important vitamin D is for your health. But let me just conclude by strongly advising you to let your skin feel the rays of the sun, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Try to expose about 70% of your body, such as your arms, legs and back.
If you’re concerned about age spots on your face and hands, then go ahead and apply your mineral-based organic sunscreen. Just make sure the rest of you gets some sun. If you’re really fair-skinned and fry easily, try to get sun exposure even if it’s only 5 minutes. You may also want to think about taking a vitamin D supplement if you spend much of the day indoors, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring.
Easiest Ways To Avoid Sunburn
If you’re deathly afraid of the sun because of sunburn risk, here are a few easy things you can do that may prevent frying:
Eat tomato paste
That’s right, canned tomato paste (make sure it’s organic; what else would you expect me to say 🙂 ) can help prevent sunburn. The antioxidant in tomato paste, lycopene, is what gives tomatoes their red pigment and also help protect the veggies from the sun. It turns out that lycopene also protects humans from sunburn. Just a spoonful a day of tomato paste may help keep the doctor away.
Wear long sleeves
This might seem like a “duh” recommendation. But I’m amazed at how many people walk around in the summer totally exposed to the sun with visible sunburn, wearing hardly anything. If you’re going to stay outside and even if you do apply sunscreen, I think it’s best to completely cover up after a while. So what if it’s super hot out? Today’s moisture-wicking synthetic materials are so lightweight; you hardly notice them. Personally, I love wearing sarongs. (I fell in love with them while on vacation in Bali.)
Keep cool in the shade
Another piece of “totally obvs” advice. But it’s one worth remembering; in the summer we want to spend time outdoors. Get a few minutes of direct sun exposure and then chill with a good book under a tree.
Green Leafy Veggies
If I were a shameless self-promoter, I would have included my last recommendation to you at the very top of this article. And that is: have 16 oz. of my Organic Green Drink every day!
What do the 7-certified organic green, leafy veggies in my Green Drink have to do with preventing sunburn, not to mention skin cancer? I’m glad you asked.
The answer is: the antioxidants such as retinol, vitamin C, and vitamin E, in green leafy veggies, protect against the damaging effects of solar radiation on the skin. In fact, there’s at least a 20 percent reduced risk of melanoma if you get enough retinol in your diet. And Chef V can easily deliver fresh, organic Green Drinks right to your front door this summer.
The takeaway: ditch the conventional, non-mineral sunscreen. Expose a good chunk of your skin to the sun’s rays for about 10 minutes before you apply sunscreen. Drink Green Drink. Every day.
Here’s to a fun and healthy summer!