We’ve all heard the “experts” warning for years about the potential dangers of extended exposure to the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can have damaging effects on the skin, speeding up the aging process and most important, increasing your risk for developing skin cancer. The pharmaceutical industry rushed to our rescue with the development of sunscreens. Now we could lather up and go out and enjoy the sun without fear. But just how protective are those common sunscreens?
The answer may not be as positive as you might think. In fact, in recent years studies have begun to show the major weaknesses in the argument for sunscreen use. Now, this doesn’t mean that sun tan products offer no protection at all, of course they do, but that protection may come at a high price. There are numerous drawbacks to regular sunscreen usage, but perhaps the two most troubling are 1) most don’t offer the UV ray protection they claim to and 2) they can inihibit your body’s production of important vitamin D, which can lead to a host of very serious health problems. Read on to find out more…
Higher SPF Products are Loaded With Chemicals
Just this year, the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, came out with a startling new group of findings from research conducted on common sunscreens. What they found is that consumers who rely on the SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, listed on most sunscreens are actually putting themselves at greater risk. That’s because, contrary to the popular belief that the higher the SPF, the great the protection, the reality is that in order to increase the SPF, manufacturers also have to increase the use of certain chemicals and those chemicals can actually be more harmful to your body than the sun itself.
Further, most higher SPF sunscreens offer increased protection against UVB rays and do little if anything to block UVA rays, which are far more harmful because they penetrate more deeply into the skin’s layers. It’s this confusion about UVA and UVB rays that is at the heart of the sunscreen myth. UVA rays are the rays that are likely to cause more damage to your skin and are responsible for most cases of skin cancer. UVB rays, on the other hand, can actually have some benefit as they are the primary source of Vitamin D in the human body. In fact, most sunscreens are directly responsible for increased instances of Vitamin D deficiency, as they reduce Vitamin D production by as much as 97 to 99 percent, which is startling.
Vitamin D deficiency is a major contributing factor in many illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of cancer. Without realizing it, while we were slathering on sunscreen to decrease our risk of skin cancer, we were actually increasing our risk of many more serious health issues. Unfortunately, as the EWG’s research has pointed out, a sunscreen’s SPF rating offers little indication of its actual ability to block more dangerous UVA rays. Therefore, reaching for the higher SPF sunscreen does not necessarily mean you are protecting yourself better.
More Transparency Is Needed
In fact the EWG is among several groups who have been actively pushing the Federal Drug Administration to improve its system of SPF labeling to provide better protection for consumers. Besides promoting Vitamin D deficiency and exposing the skin to UVA damage, most popular sunscreens also contain a mixture of chemicals such as octinoxate and oxybenzone which can themselves cause a host of problems in the human body. These and other chemicals found in sunscreen have been linked to severe hormone imbalances. This is why many doctors are now encouraging the use of all-natural sunscreen made without the use of synthetic chemicals.
So Should We Stop Using Sun Tan Products?
Of course, all of this does not mean that you should stop using sunscreen altogether, it merely suggests that using sunscreen alone as protection from sun related skin damage may not be the best option, nor is avoiding the sun entirely. In fact, we need some sun exposure regularly in order to promote the natural production of essential Vitamin D. What you need to do is limit your sun exposure and use protective clothing and natural sunscreen rather than relying on commercially produced, chemical based sunscreens.
With the mounting research pointing out the shortcomings of sun tan lotions, creams and sprays there are more and more safer, more natural products coming out that offer the same or better protection without the harmful chemical additives.
The sun is not our enemy. It actually provides many benefits even though it does come with some risks. The key to proper sun exposure is balancing out the two so that your body can get what it needs to be healthier naturally.