Is Your Sunscreen Safe? (and should you eat it?)
Vitamin D. My favourite vitamin to get in its natural form. I admit it. Sunbathing – safely – is one of my favourite feel-good hobbies. I needit to thrive. In actual fact, so do you.
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin needed for: the proper absorption of calcium; helping to maintain bone density therefore essential in helping to prevent increasing rates of osteoporosis; proper function of the nervous system – it is a key vitamin in helping to prevent depression; helps prevent flus, infections, hormonal imbalances (it is an essential vitamin for fertility) and reduces the risk of certain cancers by 50-80%.
So, where do we get this sunshine vitamin from?
Well, you guessed it, from the sun. However, this needs to be either direct sunlight on a substantial amount of exposed skin (the tip of your nose doesn’t count, you need a bigger surface to ensure sufficient absorption, the whole face and arms at the very least), through our eyesand through consumption of animal products from animals that have been pasture raised, in the sun and, of course, through taking supplements. About 70% of us lack vitamin D due mainly to a lack of sun exposure in lands where the winter months outweigh the summer months. Short summers do not allow sufficient uv rays to be absorbed and synthesised by the skin into vitamin D. Our bodies can actually store vitamin D to use throughout the winter months if enough is synthesised. The amount of exposure required depends according to the individual, but general guidelines say approximately 20 minutes per day for fair skinned people. Deficiency is even more pronounced in societies where it is customary to cover up therefore not exposing any skin to the sun and also in people who have darker skin.
What’s wrong with regular sunscreen?
Those of us that were brought up in the 80s/90s had it drummed into us that we mustn’t go outside without our sunscreen so as to prevent cancer. What if I was to tell you that most commercial sunscreens actually contain cancer causing chemicals? Well, I just did. Crazy isn’t it? As well as containing nasty chemicals such as parabens, alcohols, solvents, petroleum oils, sunscreen does not allow your skin to absorb uv rays in order to synthesis vitamin D. This doesn’t mean that it’s safer to just plop your porcelain white skin on the sand to soak up those rays. Do that and you’ll burn. Burning definitely isn’t a safe option (and it’ll make you age quicker).
Natural options for healthy tanning
There are alternatives to harmful commercial sunscreens. Buy a truly natural alternative. Do not trust supermarket/high street shop brands that claim they are natural or organic. There is no check on this and they only need to contain the minutest (is that a word?) amount of anything natural or organic to be able to use this label. Some of the nasty ingredients to look out for are oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor), Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate – may sound healthy but it actually speeds up the development of skin tumours), fragrance or perfume and those ending in chemical sounding names such as methyl…propyl…butyl… ethyl…trieth…dieth. The EWG publish a safe sunscreen guide each year. Have a look to see how your favourite brand rates. If it has a rating over 2 or 3 find another brand that is safer for your and your family. You’ll also find lots of further reading on their website if you want to look further into this topic.
Eat your sunscreen
What you want is to get your vitamin D from the sun, and eat your sunscreen too. A cornerstone for safe sun-soaking is to build up resistance from the inside-out by eating a diet rich in antioxidants throughout the year. Since living off a healthy diet which includes antioxidant foods on a daily basis, omega 3 oils high in EPA, DHA and superfoods, I have personally not burnt once, even when in the tropics using only coconut oil as my sunscreen (this isn’t as crazy as it sounds, it actually contains a certain amount of natural sunscreen). I’m not advising that you go and do this, I’m using this point to illustrate that boosting internal protection is an essential element of safe tanning. Enjoy safe sun with a truly natural sunscreen, sun protection boosting diet and these tips below…
More safe tanning tips
- build up your tan gradually
- avoid sitting out in the midday sun, between 11am – 2pm (4pm if the sun is very strong)
- wear a sunhat
- wear light clothing if you do need to be exposed during peak hours
Natural sunburn relief
If you do happen to catch a sunburn, avoid chemical creams and try these two natural options instead: – This post explains how to cut a branch of aloe vera to use directly on sunburnt skin. Reapply until it does not soak in as quickly then reapply every couple/few hours. – Apple Cider Vinegar. Either apply it directly with cotton wool or a cotton face cloth, or put it in a spray bottle and spray the affected area. Reapply every couple/few hours.
Nourish your skin and maintain your tan with natural after-sun
Now that you’ve switched to safer sun tanning habits and a truly natural sunscreen, the last thing you want is to rub a chemical-laden after sun into your skin. Coconut oil. That’s all you need to hydrate your skin at the end of a beautiful day in the sun.
Share the goodies: tell us what your favourite brand of (safe) sunscreen is below. What’s the most effective form of natural sunburn relief you’ve used?