Monday, April 20, 2009

Natural Sunscreen

Call it wishful thinking, but according to my predictions the sun should be finding its way to Michigan soon for the summer. Besides all the fun that goes along with that, it brings to mind our daily need for sun protection. As usual, this got me thinking about natural alternatives to the traditional commerical sunscreens.

Keep in mind that 15 - 20 minutes 2 - 3 days per week of unprotected sun exposure is actually good for us. But, once you are done soaking up a dose of vitamin D, you and your kids will definitely want to be safe in the sun. This means more than just slathering on any old sunscreen you find in the drugstore.

Your first line of defense...

  • Try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. when sunburn and sun damage is most likely to occur.

  • Wear sun protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Try to eat plenty of dark green, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, to keep your skin healthy and less prone to skin damage. There is some evidence that nutritional protection against sun damage is possible.
  • There is also some evidence that coconut oil works as a sunscreen. No matter what, your skin can benefit from both the ingestion and topical use of coconut oil. If you do get a sunburn, try a little coconut oil to help soothe and heal your skin.

And when it comes to sunscreen, keep it "natural". Lucky for us, many of the companies that specialize in non-toxic body care products are now producing sunscreen with fewer harmful ingredients. Chemicals to be avoided include: parabens, which have been outed as estrogen mimics and endocrine disruptors, and other commonly used ingredients like benzophenone (onxybenzone), octinoxate, cinnamates and homosalate were found guilty of increasing the risk of cancer.

The two active sun protective ingredients that you will find even in "natural" sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. According to everything I have read, these ingredients are considered fairly safe unless processed into nano-particles. Companies that produce sunscreens use processed titanium dioxide and zinc oxide so that their product will be transparent. As you know, if you were to apply pure titanium or zinc to your face it would be an opaque white color. This is great for protecting your skin from harmful rays, but doesn't look so hot. The issue with nano-particles is that they can enter the body through the skin potentially causing harm.

So what alternatives do you have? Check out SafeMama's Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet for some brands to try. You may also want to take a look at The Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Database. This list has a hazard rating for each sunscreen and provides a comprehensive list of ingredients for each product.

I will certainly be reading labels and checking out the natural products this summer. Please let us know if you already have a favorite!


1 comment:

daedra said...

Standard Process brand supplements have a product called Cataplex F Perles that if taken internally will protect your skin from sun damage. I used these while I was in San Diego in January and didn't get burned at all! And my Michigan skin hadn't seen the sun in a LONG time. Mix them into your kid's applesauce, give it a try!

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