sunshine

By Marie Be

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

It has long been known that sunscreen products are detrimental to our health. But how bad? And what is worse: UV damage, chemical sunscreens or mineral sunscreens? Would there be any alternative ways to protect the skin against UV rays, without necessarily hiding behind an umbrella all day?

Safe sun protection seems like another topic overloaded with information, where nothing seems quite clear. This article makes sense of the whole issue by gathering independent scientific data from worldwide sources and linking it to how your body reacts to sunscreen ingredients and UV rays. While undertaking this research, we’ve even discovered alternative and natural ways to protect your skin against UV rays!

Over the past decade, dozens of studies from third-party scientific groups have examined the potential health hazards of sunscreen chemicals that permeate the skin. Sunscreen’s active ingredients are present in large concentrations in order to filter UVA and UVB rays, and their repeated application over large portions of the skin means that the body absorbs high concentrations of toxic chemicals. Sunscreen ingredients are well known to cause poisoning, hormone disruption, degenerative changes in cells of the skin, DNA damage, free-radical generation leading to premature ageing, a compromised immune system and increased risk of melanoma.

The Environmental Working Group writes:

“The ideal sunscreen would completely block UV rays that cause sunburn, immune suppression and damaging free radicals. It would remain effective on the skin for several hours. It would not form harmful ingredients when degraded by sunlight. It would smell and feel pleasant so that people would use more of it. No sunscreen meets these goals. Consumers must choose between “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone system, and “mineral” sunscreens, made with zinc and titanium, often “micronized” or containing nano-particles.”

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens deserve special awareness, as they are known to permeate the skin. Chemical sunscreens typically include a combination of three to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.

Laboratory studies indicate that these chemicals break down when exposed to sunlight, mimicking estrogen and disrupting the body’s hormone (endocrine) system.[1] Research suggests that oxybenzone, 4-MBC and octinoxate are also toxic to human reproductive systems and interfere with normal development.[2]

In North-America, oxybenzone is found in 80 percent of chemical sunscreens. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detected oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of the U.S. population, with higher concentrations found during the summer months.[3] Other studies have detected common sunscreen chemicals in breast milk, which affects the normal development of fetuses and newborns.[4]

Furthermore, a United States FDA report entitled ‘Medications that Increase Sensitivity to Light’ indicates that many agents commonly used in chemical sunscreens – including benzophenones, PABA, cinnamates, salicylates, anthranilates, PSBA, mexenone, and oxybenzone – increase photosensitivity or have photo-reactive agents in them. This means that applying these chemicals to your body during periods of sun exposure actually heightens the body’s reactivity to UV radiation and increases the risk of skin cancer.

Mineral Sunscreens

In the mainstream media, mineral sunscreens are portrayed as the safe alternative to chemical sunscreens. In fact, once exposed to sunlight, mineral filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been found to undergo a chemical reaction that releases free radicals in the body, damaging surrounding cells. Free radicals cause cell and DNA damage, premature ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer.

According to the environmental working group, “mineral sunscreen could pose a risk of skin damage if manufacturers do not select forms that are coated with inert chemicals to reduce photoactivity”. In other words, they use chemicals to alter the hazardous effects of mineral filters breaking down in sunlight. This is a problem: there is absolutely no research on chemicals used to reduce the photoreactivity of mineral sunscreens.

Additionally, mineral filters release carcinogenic nanoparticles one-twentieth the thickness of a human hair. Nanoparticles are not properly regulated, allowing manufacturers to cheap out on quality and safety[5].  These particles are volatile; they can lodge in the lungs, reach the bloodstream and extensively damage living cells and internal organs.[6] On top of it all, nanoparticles also react to UV rays faster, increasing the amount of free radicals produced and drastically increasing UV damage in the body.

Additionally, sunscreen nano-ingredients have been shown to damage ecosystems as they accumulate in the food chain, disrupting hormones of animals and humans.[7]  The environmental impact of nanoparticle pollution has not been sufficiently assessed, but experts suspect that nanoparticles are highly prone to bioaccumulation[8].

Beware of false claims. Mineral sunscreens are commonly advertised as the “safe” alternative to chemical sunscreens, but their chemical content is un-regulated and un-tested. Some other commonly misleading claims are products advertised as “non-nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide: all mineral sunscreens must be delivered in nanoparticle form to efficiently block UV rays.

Understanding the Health Effects of UV Rays

Wearing sunscreen and avoiding sunburns does not mean your skin is adequately protected.

UVA and UVB rays have very distinct properties when interacting with the skin. UVA rays damage skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. They penetrate deeper into skin tissue where they release free radicals, damaging DNA and skin cells, promoting skin aging and causing skin cancer.

UVB rays stimulate the production of new melanin and a thicker epidermis, which are your body’s natural defense against UVA damage. They also cause sunburns, which are the body’s natural warning and protection system against UVA damage.

UVB rays are necessary to build the precursors to vitamin D in the skin[10]. Vitamin D is a hormone essential to calcium absorption, promoting bone health. It is also essential to a strong immune system and helps protect against breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancer. About one-fourth of North-Americans have low levels of vitamin D[11], which has been associated with increased cardiovascular mortality, colon cancer mortality, breast cancer, skin cancer, metabolic disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, upper respiratory tract infections and other microbe-caused infections[12].

Basically, for a sun protection lotion to be effective, it should block cancer-causing UVAs while allowing healing UVBs to interact with the skin.

Ironically, sunscreens create the opposite effect of what they are designed for. They block UVBs and allow harmful UVAs to penetrate deeper into the skin.

By focusing both their products and advertising campaigns on UVB protection, sunscreen companies are, at best, selling their consumers a false sense of safety. Remarkably, regulators like the FDA continue to allow these chemicals to be sold as ‘sun protection’, despite the known risks associated with both chemical and mineral sunscreens.

Blocking UVB absorption neutralizes the body’s natural UVA defense mechanisms and impedes vitamin D to naturally build in the body. Most sunscreens further enhance the damage produced by UVA rays by separating it from its ultraviolet particle UVB, allowing UVA rays to penetrate deeper into the skin, reaching connective tissues and blood vessels. It is also common for sunscreens to contain anti-inflammatory chemicals that can prevent the skin from burning, creating a false sense of security where users wrongly assume they are being adequately protected from the harmful effects of UV rays (which include free radical release and DNA damage).

“One study of three common sunscreen ingredients found that after one hour of UV-exposure, the number of free radicals on sunscreen-treated skin was actually higher than on untreated skin.”[13]

“Experts caution that the unintentional exposure to and toxicity of active ingredients erodes the benefits of sunscreens.”[14]

Quite simply, sunscreens inhibit the innate intelligence of our skin cells. On one hand, they neutralize UVB rays, which are the body’s natural defense system against UVA damage. On the other hand, they enable harmful UVA rays to penetrate deeper into the body. With so much misinformation in the public sphere, it is no wonder skin cancer rates are sky-rocketing!

The Sun and its Healing Powers

The sun, a dynamic source of life-sustaining energy, is truly one of the most powerful healing therapies in the world. And it is free, which is probably why nobody is promoting it! Here are some of the healing benefits of the sun:

  • Helps fight cancer in conjunction with whole foods
  • Heals skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and fungal infections of the skin
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Cleanses the blood and increases oxygen content as it penetrates deep into the skin
  • Builds a strong the immune system as white blood cells increase with sun exposure
  • Body’s primary source of vitamin D
  • Treats depression

Natural Ways to Avoid Sun Damage

There are many ways to avoid skin damage and burning without the damaging affects of sunscreen:

1. Stay hydrated. Your skin is more likely to burn if you are dehydrated, so drink lots of water..

2. Naturally increase your skin’s resistance to UV rays by gradually exposing it to the morning sun for short periods of time. You will be less likely to burn, and you will reap the health benefits of increased Vitamin D. Avoid prolonged mid-day exposures.

3. Avoid sunglasses. The optical nerve in the eyes sends signals to the hypothalamus. The gland has the ability to adjust the skin’s resistance to UV rays on the basis of how much light your eyes receive.

4. Sunburn is caused by oxidation of the skin cells. Eat colorful foods – they are high in antioxidants and you will support the body to counteract the effects of sunburn.

5. Cleanse your liver of toxins and heavy metals as they play a major role in UV protection. Adding zeolite to your diet is a safe and powerful way to detox the body.

6. Apply micronized zeolite to your skin. Easily absorbed, it assists the skin to build and strengthen its own natural UV and UVA defense, healing and processing mechanisms. Zeolite does not deter beneficial UV rays from entering the skin, it protects against DNA damage, protecting your skin and cell membranes at the cellular level. Try out SunSheer from EarthSun, an organic zeolite cream with a protection level comparable to a sunscreen SPF 50.

As you can see, independent scientific data shows that sunscreens are actually counter-productive to their purpose, inhibiting the innate intelligence of our skin cells, neutralizing beneficial UVB rays and increasing the harmful effects of UVA radiation. Thankfully nature has provided some simple and natural ways to protect our skin from UV rays without the damaging affects of conventional sunscreens. For more information, please visit me at Earth for the Sun.

Resources:

[1]

  • Kortenkamp A. Low dose mixture effects of endocrine disrupters: implications for risk assessment and epidemiology. Int J Androl. 2008;31(2):233-240. Epub 2008 Jan 29.
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  • Schlumpf M, Durrer S, Faass O, et al. Developmental toxicity of UV filters and environmental exposure: a review. Int J Androl. 2008;31(2):144-151. Epub 2008 Jan 10.
  • Schlumpf M, Cotton B, Conscience M, Haller V, Steinmann B, Lichtensteiger W. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(3):239–244.
  • Schlumpf M, Kypke K, Wittassek M, et. al. Exposure patterns of UV filters, fragrances, parabens, phthalates, organochlor pesticides, PBDEs, and PCBs in human milk: Correlation of UV filters with use of cosmetics. Chemosphere. 2010;81(10):1171–1183. Epub 2010 Oct 27
  • Schlumpf M, Durrer S, Faass O, et al. Developmental toxicity of UV filters and environmental exposure: a review. Int J Androl. 2008;31(2):144-151. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

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  • Axelstad M, Boberg J, Hougaard KS, et al. Effects of pre-and postnatal exposure to the UV-filter Octyl Methoxycinnamate (OMC) on the reproductive, auditory and neurological development of rat offspring. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2010. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2010.10.031
  • Fent K, Kunz PY, Gomez E. UV filters in the aquatic environment induce hormonal effects and affect fertility and reproduction in fish. Endocrine disruptors: natural waters and fishes. Chimia. 2008;62(5):368-375.
  • Schlumpf M, Schmid P, Durrer S, et. al. Endocrine activity and developmental toxicity of cosmetic UV filters–an update. Toxicology. 2004;205:113–122.
  • Weisbrod CJ, Kunz PY, Zenker AK, Fent K. Effects of the UV filter benzophenone-2 on reproduction in fish. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007;225(3):255-266. Epub 2007 Aug 17.

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  • Calafat. Endocrine disruptors: natural waters and fishes. Chimia. 2008;62(5):368-375.

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  • Nishikawa M, Iwano H, Yanagisawa R, Koike N, Inoue H, Yokota H. Placental transfer of conjugated bisphenol A and subsequent reactivation in the rat fetus. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118(9):1196-1203. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

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  • ANTARIA An Advanced Material Rowld. Review of ZinClear-IM™product range in line with the European Union Cosmetic Products Regulation (EC 1223/2009). Dec. 2012.
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  • Trouiller B, Reliene R, Westbrook A, Solaimani P, Schiestl RH. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles induce DNA damage and genetic instability in vivo in mice. Cancer Res. 2009;69(22):8784–8789. Epub 2009 Nov 3.
  • Wu J, Liu W, Xue C, et al. Toxicity and penetration of TiO2 nanoparticles in hairless mice and porcine skin after subchronic dermal exposure. Toxicol Lett. 2009;191(1):1-8. Epub 2009 Jan 6.
  • Liu S, Xu L, Zhang T, Ren G, Yang Z. Oxidative stress and apoptosis induced by nanosized titanium dioxide in PC12 cells. Toxicology. 2010;267(1-3):172-177. Epub 2009 Nov 14.

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  • Nowack B, Bucheli TD. Occurrence, behavior and effects of nanoparticles in the environment. Environ Pollut. 2007;150(1):5-22.
  • Miao AJ, Zhang XY, Luo Z, et al. Zinc oxide-engineered nanoparticles: dissolution and toxicity to marine phytoplankton. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2010;29(12):2814-22. Epub 2010 Oct 7.
  • Kahru A, Dubourguier HC. From ecotoxicology to nanoecotoxicology. Toxicology. 2010;269(2-3):105-119. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
  • Chen J, Dong X, Xin Y, Zhao M. Effects of titanium dioxide nano-particles on growth and some histological parameters of zebrafish (Danio rerio) after a long-term exposure. Aquat Toxicol. 2011;101(3-4):493-499. Epub 2010 Dec 24.
  • Shaw BJ, Handy RD. Physiological effects of nanoparticles on fish: a comparison of nanometals versus metal ions. Environ Int. 2011;37(6):1083-1097. Epub 2011 Apr 6.

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  • Nowack B, Bucheli TD. Occurrence, behavior and effects of nanoparticles in the environment. Environ Pollut. 2007;150(1):5-22.

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  • Kligman LH. Intensification of ultraviolet-induced dermal damage by infrared radiation. Arch Dermatol Res. 1982;272(3-4):229-238.
  • Kligman LH. Full spectrum solar radiation as a cause of dermal photodamage: UVB to infrared. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh). 1987;134:53-61.
  • Kim MS, Kim YK, Cho KH, Chung JH. Regulation of type I procollagen and MMP-1 expression after single or repeated exposure to infrared radiation in human skin. Mech Ageing Dev. 2006;127(12):875-882. Epub 2006 Oct 25.
  • Kim HH, Lee MJ, Lee SR, et al. Augmentation of UV-induced skin wrinkling by infrared irradiation in hairless mice. Mech Ageing Dev. 2005;126(11):1170-1177.
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  • Endocrine Web. Parathyroid Function: Normal and Abnormal. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/4zj7vju.
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  • Kivity S, Agmon-Levin N, Zisappl M, et al. Vitamin D and autoimmune thyroid diseases. Cell Mol Immunol. 2011;8(3):243-247. Epub 2011 Jan 31.
  • Wang Y, Deluca HF. Is the vitamin d receptor found in muscle? Endocrinology. 2011;152(2):354-363. Epub 2010 Dec 29.
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[11]

  • Halliday TM, Peterson NJ, Thomas JJ, Kleppinger K, Hollis BW, Larson-Meyer DE. Vitamin D status relative to diet, lifestyle, injury, and illness in college athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(2):335-343.

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  • Ozfirat Z, Chowdhury T. Vitamin D deficiency and type 2 diabetes. Postgrad Med J. 2010; 86:18-25. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2009.078626.
  • Mohr SB, Garland CF, Gorham ED, Garland FC. The association between ultraviolet B irradiance, vitamin D status and incidence rates of type 1 diabetes in 51 regions worldwide. Diabetologia. 2008;51(8):1391-1398. Epub 2008 Jun 12.
  • Hyppönen E, Laara E, Reunanen A, Jarvelin M-R, Virtanen SM. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet. 2001;358(9292):1500-1503.
  • Hewison M. Vitamin D and immune function: an overview. Proc Nutr Soc. 2011;18:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Jørgensen SP, Agnholt J, Glerup H, et al. Clinical trial: vitamin D3 treatment in Crohn’s disease – a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010;32(3):377-383. Epub 2010 May 11.
  • Medscape Today Website. Barclay L. Higher Vitamin D Levels Linked to Lower Risk for Female Pelvic Floor Disorders? Available at: https://login.medscape.com/login/sso/getlogin?urlCache=aHR0cDovL3d3dy5tZWRzY2FwZS5jb20vdmlld2FydGljbGUvNzE5NTky&ac=401&cc=aHR0cDovL2xvZ2luLm1lZHNjYXBlLmNvbS9sb2dpbi9zc28vZ2V0bG9naW4/dXJsQ2FjaGU9YUhSMGNEb3ZMM2QzZHk1dFpXUnpZMkZ3WlM1amIyMHZkbWxsZDJGeWRHbGpiR1V2TnpFNU5Ua3kmYWM9NDAx&cookieCheck=1.
  • Medscape Today Website. Barclay L. Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Greater Risk for Primary Cesarean Delivery. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/86hpcvd.
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  • Hanson, M. K. et al. Sunscreen enhancement of UV-induced reactive oxygen species in the skin. Science Direct, Free Radical Biology & Medicine 41 (2006) 1205–1212.

[14] 

  • Krause, M. et al. Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV-filters. Int J Androl. 2012 Jun;35(3):424-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2012.01280.x.
  • Kobo Products Inc. Website. Nguyen U, Scholossman D. Stability Study of Avobenzone with Inorganic Sunscreens. Available at: http://www.koboproductsinc.com/Downloads/NYSCC-Avobenzone.pdf. Schlumpf M, Schmid P, Durrer S, et. al. Endocrine activity and developmental toxicity of cosmetic UV filters–an update. Toxicology. 2004;205:113–122.
  • Schlumpf M, Durrer S, Faass O, et al. Developmental toxicity of UV filters and environmental exposure: a review. Int J Androl. 2008;31(2):144-151. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

Previous article by Marie:

About the author:

Marie BeMarie Be’s inspiration comes from her mom who always challenged common assumptions and sought to understand for herself the major issues concerning her family and the choices she made on their behalf. She raised Marie and her brother in a rural environment, feeding them the best organic foods, and focused on building strong immune systems in her children through the use of natural plants, herbs and minerals.

As a fiery teenager, Marie travelled the world in search of purpose and dreamed of positively influencing our society. While earning her first two degrees, in architecture and sustainable development, she worked for Greenpeace and many other organizations of change. Her experience taught her that change cannot be imposed; she now aims at inspiring individuals through education and awareness.

Marie moved to Vancouver to undertake a Masters in Regenerative Sustainability under the supervision of a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Teaching workshops on well-being, she started observing a widespread desire in our society for both physical and environmental health and sustainability. Feeling the winds of change, Marie founded Earth for the Sun.

Earth for the Sun was inspired by nature, the source of life. By tuning in that source, by acquiring knowledge on ancient herbal traditions as well as new technologies, Marie believes it is possible to use nature’s intelligence and deliver simple and effective health products. Check out Earth for the Sun for more information.

 

   

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