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Do You Know What’s In Your Sunscreen?

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Do You Know What’s In Your Sunscreen?

By Anna Soref, Natural Solutions

OK, so the days of carelessly sunbathing on the beach for nine hours are gone. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide in the shadows, either. Sunscreens with new formulations and antioxidant ingredients are making it easier than ever to enjoy time outside, safe from the sun’s harmful rays. Fortunately, these new formulations mean that you no longer have to look like a lifeguard circa 1970—with a white nose plastered in zinc oxide—to have the ultimate sun protection. Researchers have discovered how to pulverize sun-blocking minerals so they are colorless and glide on.

Many experts consider these blocking compounds to be safer than sunscreen chemicals. The blocks, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, work by reflecting the sun’s rays away from the skin; while sunscreens, such as benzophenones and cinnamates, work by absorbing the sun’s rays before they enter the skin. The problem with sunscreens is that they contain chemical particles small enough to enter the bloodstream. “Sunblocks like zinc have molecules that are too large to pass through the dermis; their reflecting action is like putting tinfoil on your skin,” says Terry Grossman, MD, author of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (Rodale, 2004).

The sun emits three types of ultraviolet (UV) rays, all of which have the potential to damage skin. UVA rays, the most prevalent, penetrate skin the deepest and can cause skin cancer and aging. UVB rays are the most potent and cause sunburn. The sun protection factor (SPF) listed on sunscreen products relates to UVB only. There is no currently regulated SPF for UVA rays. (SPF works on a factor of 30 minutes. For instance, if you typically burn in 30 minutes, an SPF of 15 will protect you for about 450 minutes.) The third type of rays are UVC, which are absorbed completely by the atmosphere—although thinning of the ozone is raising speculation that they may ultimately reach the planet. Most experts recommend a full-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Natural product manufacturers who make sunscreens face a difficult problem. Sunblocks are the only natural alternative, but both zinc and titanium are so thick that a lotion with these as the only ingredients would be too thick to be practical. Enter in sunscreens that include synthetic chemicals. The advantage of sunscreens sold under a “natural” label is that they use fewer chemicals and usually don’t contain artificial fragrances, petroleum products or, the worst offender, para-hydroxybenzoic acids (parabens)—which can mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to cancer. In an effort to be practical and effective yet as natural as possible, most natural product manufacturers use a cocktail approach, combining sunblocks for safer protection with sunscreen for easy application.

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Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.


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5:24PM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

I've decided to just wear a wetsuit and sunblock on my neck and hands, less harmful over all.

8:20AM PDT on Aug 13, 2009

I am happy to say that I use a sunscreen that is non-toxic to humans and the planet! I have also found a skin care line the is scientifically proven to block ALL free radicals!

1:33PM PDT on Jul 22, 2009

Most of the sunscreens available on the market block damaging radiation through a concoction of different chemical ingredients. These products are normally in the forms of creams or sprays. Once sunscreen is applied onto the skin, the chemicals work to both reflect and scatter the radiation, or absorb it. In recent years, there have been many questions raised about the safety and effectiveness of these chemicals. Some scientists claim these chemicals produce free radicals, which actually increase skin damage and the risk of skin cancer, rather than lowering it. Another concern is that these synthetic chemicals may accumulate in the human body, and can actually reach the blood stream by being absorbed through the skin. Since the goal of using a sunscreen is to protect the body, and not harm it, many consumers have turned to using organic sunscreen to protect their families.

2:11PM PDT on Jul 18, 2009

Sun protection AND exposure is much easier than we think; research, phobias, etc...over the last few decades have confused the topic.
Common sense sun awareness, the way our grandparents and people all over the world cope with sun exposure in the absence of readily available sunscreen, remains the most practical approach. As for sunscreen, conventional zinc oxide is still the safest sunscreen even though it is not currently marketed as a sunscreen. You do not even need a thick white coat to be protected. Even a thin layer will offer some degree of protection. Plain zinc oxide ointments are also much cheaper than any zinc oxide sunscreen product on the market. If you don't like the whitish tint, you can also make your own zinc oxide sunscreen and tint it with iron oxides and mica (same concepts as diy mineral makeup). It is also unclear which came first: consumer demand or the availability and marketing of the cheaper clear sunscreens.

8:29AM PDT on Jul 12, 2009

I appreciate the differences mentioned between sun screens and sun blocks. However, it is not true that UV rays are causing cancer. Rather, the chemicals absorbed into the skin actually encourages cancer mutations.

Another point is, the human body NEEDS some daily sunshine (up to 7 to 15 mins a day is sufficient). Lack of sunshine means the body does not create its own natural Vitamin D. Vitamin D works in synergy with calcium, magnesium and other enzymes; without these absorption of vitamins and nutrients are interfered. An interference with body's metabolism will affect/compromise the body's immunity.

People who do not visit beaches, tanning salons etc and who use sun screens or sun blocks are not protected more from Cancer, in fact the opposite is true.

As for freckles or age spots, they're caused by Omega 6 oils (cooking oils) and iron reacting to free radicals. They are not caused by exposure to sunlight either.

More info, please google for: K "V" Van Cleef , Dr. Raymond Peat and Dr. Kradjian

5:30PM PDT on Jul 7, 2009

Great topic---something we want to start researching!!!

12:18PM PDT on Jul 5, 2009

I'm boycotting these click-through-multiple-page articles.
SO unnecessary.

8:21PM PDT on Jul 2, 2009

I use a sunscreen that is nontoxic to humans and the environment and it is very effective!

1:27PM PDT on Jul 2, 2009

Our phobia of the sun is crazy. Our ancestors did NOT have the cancer rates we have nowadays, and by screening our body against the sun, we are blocking our own access to a very important vitamin, Vitamin D3! Studies are being done currently about the importance of this vitamin.

1:20PM PDT on Jul 2, 2009

Again with multiple pages. And the entire article is not even on the last page. (I tried the "click on the left arrow" trick. It didn't work.) Why do you keep doing this?

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