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 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. Research suggests that oxybenzone, 4-MBC and octinoxate are also toxic to human reproductive systems and interfere with normal development.
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. Other studies have detected common sunscreen chemicals in breast milk, which affects the normal development of fetuses and newborns.
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.
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. These particles are volatile; they can lodge in the lungs, reach the bloodstream and extensively damage living cells and internal organs. 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. The environmental impact of nanoparticle pollution has not been sufficiently assessed, but experts suspect that nanoparticles are highly prone to bioaccumulation.
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. 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, 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.
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.”
“Experts caution that the unintentional exposure to and toxicity of active ingredients erodes the benefits of sunscreens.”
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.