Human beings were designed to spend a lot of time in the sun, and in fact the vast majority don’t do so nearly enough. That’s a reflection of our nearly entire departure from a hunter gatherer life if you want to stick to the evolutionary perspective angle, but from a more literal one most of us work indoors and are far too sedentary overall.
Then of course there’s the fact that with an ever-depleted ozone layer it’s more risky than ever before to spend long hours soaking in the sun. It’s still highly advisable (particularly if you’re one of those who’s indoor the bulk of the 168 hours in a week) and entirely pleasurable, but you really need to be wary of getting too much sun and suffering a sunburn as a result.
In truth, however, it’s not simply about the sunburn itself. That’s a temporary pain and inconvenience, but the way excessive sun exposure is degenerative for the skin’s epidermal layer and can alter cell structure that makes it up can lead to conditions like premature aging, wrinkling, and dark spots on the more unpleasant end of things, and diseases like skin cancer on the direr end.
Simply put, the best sunburn treatment is being proactive and preventing it in the first place!
It’s certainly not something to be taken lightly, and now that summer’s here in the Northern Hemisphere it’s the time to get out and enjoy the summer sunshine in all its glory. A ‘golden glow’ is great and a nice sun tan is indeed a boost to your appearance for most of us, but it’s important to know how to tan SMARTLY.
Be Demanding with Your Sun Screen
We won’t go at length about the physiological benefits of sunlight, A) because they’re well understood by the majority of you, and B) that’s not the focus of this blog post. We’ll say briefly that when direct sunlight hits our skin under peak conditions, our bodies manufacture high levels of vitamin D and it is essential for both our physiological and mental wellbeing.
Keep in mind as well that it’s very beneficial to get natural sun on unprotected skin for maximum Vitamin D ingestion. You don’t necessarily need to wear a sunscreen, but only if you’re exposing 20% of your body for approximately 20-30 mins. No longer.
Ok, enough about that. Let’s focus more on the actual sun exposure, and to a lesser extent how does sunscreen work and which of them are healthier choices and why.
We’ll lead here by saying that natural & organic sun care products are vastly preferable. With that said, you need to be equally critical and discerning when it comes to organic products too. It shouldn’t be hard to convince you of that when considering that a 2017 report from the Environmental Working Group in the US found that nearly 75% of ALL sunscreens either didn’t work or didn’t work sufficiently well in blocking UVA / UVB rays.
Further, the majority of conventional sunscreens contain harmful ingredients, and many of them to the extent that they wouldn’t meet the consumer protection guidelines that are adhered to in Europe. Our sunscreens on this side of the pond allow up to 3x the UVA rays to make their way through to the skin than compared to the sunscreens sold and applied in Europe.
The Skinny on Sun Exposure
Sunlight rays contain both UVA and UVB rays. Both have the potential to be harmful for the skin, and the UVB rays are more numerous and more often responsible for your sunburn. It’s the UVA rays, however, you need to be more concerned about. They can damage your skin more stealthily and less immediately apparently by suppressing the immune system and aging the skin over time. More concerning though is the fact that being overexposed to UVA rays can promote the development of melanomas and squamous and basal cell carcinomas – skin cancer.
Accordingly, proven RELIABLE sun protection is of great importance if you’re going to be out and about on days when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the UV rating is high. Again, keep that 75% number above^ in mind. That many of them simply aren’t reliable for keeping your skin safe from harm.
The Case for All-Natural or Organic Sunscreens
We’re going to go ahead and assume that if you’re a man you want nothing to do with anything that promotes greater estrogen (the predominant female physiology hormone ) in your body and less testosterone (the predominant male physiology hormone) and results in diminished reproductive capacities. Similarly, if you’re a woman we’ll also imagine that the prospect of endometriosis and lower birth weights in your daughters to-be is disturbing.
Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in conventional sunscreens, and it promotes those effects I’ve just detailed above. It penetrates the skin, gets into bloodstream and proceeds to act like an estrogen in the body. It’s a known endocrine disruptor and is also a skin allergen for many people. It’s nasty stuff and you REALLY don’t want to be putting yourself in harm’s way while simply just trying to get a sun tan and stay healthy while doing so.
Another additive in those standard sunscreens is Retinyl Palmitate, a form of Vitamin A. That part of it is fine – but that it has been linked to skin tumours is definitely NOT. In fairness, the number of sunscreens that contain Retinyl Palmitate has declined considerably in recent years, but the same can’t be said for Oxybenzone or Retinyl Palmitate’s equally malevolent sibling, Retinyl Linoleate.
Last but not least of the list of harmful ingredients found in most sunscreens is methylisothiazolinone – which, interestingly enough, was voted 2013 Allergen of the Year by The American Contact Dermatitis Society. Not an accomplishment to be proud of, and not something you want to be in your sun cream.
Mineral sunscreens are generally a better choice, but even some of them can contain nanoparticles that as of yet haven’t been determined to be safe and for human (or aquatic) health.
Favourable Constituents, and Application Tips
We’ll conclude today by giving you a comparison of the common ingredients found in most organic sunscreens put up against those found in conventional sunscreens. Likely you don’t need any further convincing, but if you do this should almost certainly be sufficient.
Organic sun care products typically contain titanium and / or zinc oxide along with a mixture of some or all of the following ingredients: aloe vera, coconut oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, shea butter, rosemary or seabuckthorn berry extracts, green tea extract, eucalyptus oil, sunflower oil, and citrus fruit extracts.
Conversely, check out all the chemicals that make up the bulk of conventional sunscreens: oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.
Clearly, the organic suncare products are going to be more appealing to the informed consumer. And so they should, as they’re much less potentially harmful.
How to Apply a Mineral Sunblock:
Mineral sunblocks don’t degrade under sunlight, won’t permeate the skin, and provide strong sun protection
- Apply it in small amounts, you don’t need to slater it on like conventional sunscreen
- Apply 15 to 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Only apply it to clean, dry skin
- Rub it into the skin in a small, circular motion to help reduce the whiteness of the lotion. Avoid rubbing in too much – it will begin to ball up and flake
- Although many mineral sunscreens are water-resistant, it is always best to reapply after swimming
Here’s to a long, hot summer, and you enjoying it to the max!