Monday, July 23, 2012

to burn or not to burn?

I have been very interested with the new influx of information on sunscreen these days. Basically there are those who believe you shouldn't go outside without wearing sunscreen and now those who think the chemicals in sunscreen are worse for you than sun damage. I do spend a significant amount of time in the sun so I have been concerned with finding out what is the best thing for my skin. 

Before diving into the sunscreen debate lets start with discussing the benefits of sunshine. With all the negative research out there it sometimes seems that the best option is to stay indoors but I know that a healthy amount of sun is good for me. Getting enough sun can increase the metabolism, boost the immune system, activate certain enzymes in your body, reduce stress, improve your mood and help your body synthesize Vitamin D. With all those benefits it seems hard to believe it can also do so much harm. How to live life outside but protect from too much sun is a constant question of mine.

What can be wrong with wearing sunscreen?

1. First, check your ingredients. Chemicals in traditional sunscreens have been shown to seriously damage our cells. Common ingredients (Benzophenone, Disodium EDTA, Padimate O, or Oxybenzone) found in these sunscreens can become oxidized by UV rays and create free radicals which age you while also possibly promoting the growth of cancerous cells. To avoid this, use a chemical-free sunscreen that uses zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and natural minerals to shield the sun rays. 

2. If that wasn't convincing enough, these common free radical generating chemicals can also have estrogen like-effects on our body.
 Estrogenic chemicals can mimic hormonal (or real) estrogen. When the body's hormone receptors recognize the estrogenic chemical as estrogen, the result is feminization of the tissue. Such effects can increase cancers, cause birth defects in children, lower sperm counts and cause many other medical problems. Another reason to consider buying chemical-free sunscreen. 

3. The final major problem with sunscreen is that it blocks your skin’s ability to make vitamin D by more than 95 percent. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It has also been associated with improvement of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, infertility and PMS, autoimmune disorders, fatigue, depression and seasonal affective disorder. Regular sun exposure is the best way to obtain the recommended amount of Vitamin D. For fair-skinned people it only takes about 20 minutes of sunscreen-free sun exposure on your hands and face to achieve the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). 

How to be smart in the sun

1. Plan outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon because the UV rays are the strongest between 10:00am and 2:00pm.
2. If you know that you will be exposed to the sun during peak hours, wear light clothing that covers as much as you can stand, and a wide brimmed hat. 
3. If you have to put on sunscreen to avoid burn, check out your brand on Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. You can type in almost any personal care product and it will rate it on a scale from 1 to 10 depending on its toxicity level. Badger Sunscreen registers as a zero, the lowest rating of toxicity. Jason and Burt's Bees are other popular, chemical-free brands. 
4. Check your diet. Most may not know that high-fat diets cause you to burn more easily in the sun than low-fat diets. Also consuming plenty of fish oil, as EPA and DHA fats have been shown to effectively reduce to risk of skin cancer.
5. Drink your antioxidants! (try Goji Ginger Lemonade or Antioxidant Smoothie)

If you do burn
If you do burn in the sun make sure to up your water intake. We lose more water when we’re out in the sun and our bodies need the extra fluid when healing our skin from the burn. The most effective and natural pain reliever is aloe vera. Aloe has anti-inflammatory characteristics and can be used as a healing agent. Aloe is one of the easiest plants to grow so we grow our own aloe and squeeze it out fresh from the leaves!
Another home remedy for neutralizing painful sunburns is the amazing apple cider vinegar. You can simply soak a cotton ball or small sponge in apple cider vinegar and dab on the burned spot. If you are burnt head-to-toe you can even take a bath in it, simply add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to the tub and soak for at least 15 minutes. Who knew apple cider vinegar had so many uses!


sources: Kimberly Snyder, My New Roots

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