Pretty much every dermatologist in the world will tell you that sunscreen is necessary to combat premature aging and skin cancer. But did you know that your sunscreen may be doing more harm than good?
There are two types of sunscreen: Mineral (aka. physical sunscreen) and chemical.
Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both and act as a barrier between your skin and the sun. Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreens are not absorbed by your skin, so as a result can leave a whitish residue behind.
It's worth nothing that zinc oxide is slightly better at blocking out UVA rays than titanium oxide. One thing to look for when buying a mineral sunscreen are 'non-nano' formulations. Nanoparticles help mineral sunscreens apply better (with less of a film), however it was discovered that these tiny particles can cause permanent lung damage when inhaled.
Chemical sunscreens are made with chemicals like:
Oxybenzone- Mimics estrogen in the body, linked to lowered sperm count and endometriosis, high rates of skin allergy
Octylmethoxycinnamate (octinoxate)- Linked to hormone disruption, reproductive & thyroid issues, moderate rates of allergy
Homosalate- Hormone disruptor (estrogen, androgen, progesterone)
Octisalate- Skin allergen
Octocrylene- Skin allergen
Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin, which means they find their way into your bloodstream. So while you're protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays, you're exposing yourself to chemicals linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems and allergies. The potential chemical burden might not be worth the risk.
Some other things to consider about sun protection:
Make sure whichever sunscreen you choose offers broad spectrum protection, with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Try using an antioxidant-rich body lotion prior to applying your sunscreen. Antioxidants (with the exception of Vitamin A) give added protection from the sun as well as prevent the formation of free radicals.
Avoid using any products that include Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate or retinol before you spend time in the sun, as these may promote the growth of tumors and lesions.
And lastly, don't forget that some sun is good for you! Most people are Vitamin D deficient. 10-20 minutes of direct sunlight per day is enough to produce 10,000 IU of Vitamin D, which can protect you against osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. If you're not getting enough Vitamin D, consider taking a supplement.
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