Should you be screening your sunscreen?

What is up with all the opposing information on sunscreen?

One day we are being told to use it, the next we are told it causes cancer.

We get bombarded with differing information from the internet, magazines, news shows and even from our doctors and dermatologist. So what is the right answer?

Perhaps the question should be 'Is there ONE right answer?'  Below I'm sharing insight on what I've read and what works for me. This doesn't mean it's automatically right for you, but perhaps it will help clear a few things up for and help you make your own decision. I also encourage you to take this knowledge and dig a little deeper to help you create your own routine.

Let's start with the basics:
  • We need exposure to the sun, it gives us energy and critical vitamin D
  • Too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer
  • Our skin is our largest organ; what we put on it will effect the body
  • High sun, or prime time sun when the UV light is the strongest is 10am-3pm standard time, 11am-4pm daylight savings time

Ok, but we've been told to use sunscreen for as long as I can remember and the FDA has 'approved' a number of ingredients them, so what is the problem. The FDA simply grandfathered in ingredients used in the late 1970's when it began to consider sunscreen safety. Plus there is very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer. 

As more research is being done on ingredients we are beginning to understand their potential harmful effects on our internal systems better. 

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), here are key the ingredients we really should be avoiding:
  • Avobenzone: has the ability to block ultraviolet light, but when exposed to moisture (sweating/swimming) it breaks down into various chemical compounds that can cause harmful effects to the kidneys, liver and nervous system. Avoid this in all your skincare products.
  • Oxybenzone: disrupts hormones and causes skin allergies.
  • Retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A): has been linked to an increase risk of skin cancer when exposed to the sun.
  • Lotions are recommended over sprays due to their inhalation risk and lack of consistent, thick coating.

Research has found, though, that certain key nutrients from your diet can actually boost your skin’s natural sun protection and protect your skin from sun damage, including leafy greens, turmeric, carrots, strawberries, green tea, almonds, red grapes, citrus fruits, walnuts, cucumber and flax seeds (among others). That all said, we still need to be thoughtful about how we approach our sun exposure.

Here is my personal approach:
  • I try to get at least 10 minutes of EARLY morning or LATE day sun every day without sunscreen on
  • I have a long sleeve sunscreen top that I try to wear if I'm going to be in prime-time sun 
  • I tend towards shade as much as possible in high sun times
  • I take a Vitamin D supplement (mostly in the late fall, winter and early spring)
  • I choose foods that boost my uv-fighting odds (see list above)
  • I wear sunscreen sometimes; when I do I use the EWG's guide to Sunscreen 101 Guide to help me choose the right product for my needs

I'm pretty fair skinned, have a history of one skin cancer along with a history of relatives with skin cancer as well, so I might be more or less conservative in my approach than you need to be. Do a little research and talk to your doctor to find your best plan. 

Your Health Coach and Chef