Friday, April 2, 2010

Natural Sunscreen

The sun and I have a “love/hate” relationship.  I recognize that spending too much time basking in its glory can be detrimental to my health. After the long, sunless winter, though, I know that I need to see it for my sanity!  I’m sure everyone is aware of the need for sunscreen. However, there is a huge debate as to which type is the best.

There are two major “rays” we need to avoid. UVA rays constitute 90-95% of the ultraviolet light reaching the earth. UVA light penetrates the furthest into the skin and is involved in the initial stages of suntanning. UVA tends to suppress the immune function and is implicated in premature aging of the skin. UVB rays do not penetrate the skin as far as the UVA rays do and are the primary cause of sunburn. They are also responsible for most of the tissue damage which results in wrinkles and aging of the skin and are implicated in cataract formation

Besides staying in a cave, there are two major types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays that hit them and therefore absorbing the radiation. Examples of this type include: Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, & PABA. None of these block both UVA and UVB rays.
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by reflecting and/or scattering UV rays and radiation, these include Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both of these block both UVA and UVB rays.

There is frightening evidence that the chemical sunscreens, as well as being less effective than their physical counterparts, are in fact somewhat harmful to us, and have even been argued to be the cause of interference with normal sexual development as well as other potential health problems. Researchers from the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland have found that five out of six commonly used chemical sunscreens dose the body with synthetic estrogens. The 5 chemicals, benzophenone-3 homosalate, 4-MBC, octyl-methoxycinnamate and octyl-dimethyl PABA , were found to increase cancer cell division. Other harmful chemical sunscreens include cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamatae, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate), silicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homoslate, octyl salicylate), digalloyl trioleate, and menthyl anthranilate. All of these chemicals are banned in Europe. While these sunscreens protect against sunburn, there is no scientific research that sunscreen protects the individual against melanoma or basal cell carcinoma. In a 2006 research study at the University of California-Riverside, researchers report that three UV filters(octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3 and octocrylene) can react with cellular components like cell walls, lipid membranes, mitochondria and DNA, leading to skin damage and increasing the visible signs of aging.

What about SPF? According to Stanley B Levy, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of North Carolina, a SPF 15 product filters out more than 93% of UV-B radiation, and a SPF 30 product filters out less than 97%. The most important factor is applying enough and frequently.

I’ve been using physical blockers over the past few years on my family. A few of my favorites include Badgers, Burt’s Bees & Jason's. Join me in enjoying the sun; just do it naturally!

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