I’m a little late to the summer game…
Updated: Jul 5
but here’s what you need to know about sun protection and making sure you don’t get burned.
Fact: Sun Exposure and skin cancer are linked. While we’ve all heard that using sunscreen = skin cancer protection, that may not be the case. The evidence on the link between sunSCREEN use and skin cancer is not actually that obvious from the data. Read on to find out why the link between sunSCREEN and cancer protection isn’t compelling, the best ways to protect yourself from sun damage, a few of my favorite products for the entire family, and what to do if you do get burned.
Before you toss all of your sun blocking products, know that there are benefits to protecting your skin from broad – spectrum UV rays. We’ve got to understand the risks of exposure.
Broad – spectrum means both UVA and UVB rays. UVA are particularly harmful; they cause premature ageing and cancer-causing damage to the skin. UVB rays are what most sunSCREEN products protect against and the usual cause of sunburns. While UVBs can be damaging with heavy exposure, they are only 5% of the sun’s total UV ray output. UVAs account for 95% of the sun’s total UV ray output, they penetrate deeper in the skin where they can cause damage to our DNA, and are the biggest cause for concern.
Here’s the bombshell about UVAs: Most sunSCREEN products do not protect us against the most harmful UV rays!! If they are labeled as “broad-spectrum,” their UVA protection is very limited.
There are 2 categories of sun protection.
SunSCREEN - chemical protectant that dissolves directly into our skin. As we learned above, it is limited in the type of protection it offers. AND, there is growing evidence that the chemicals cause endocrine disruption, skin irritation and skin allergies. SunSCREEN needs to be reapplied often, offers little protection over SPF 50, and are one of the leading contributors to coral reef degradation. The tradeoff for the convenience of a coconut-y scented spray is HUGE.
SunBLOCK - the physical or mineral protectant applied to the surface of the skin. While mineral sunblock can be a little annoying to apply because of it’s chalky consistency, it protects against both UVB AND UVA, causing the rays to bounce off the skin. It is non-toxic to the environment, does not need to be reapplied as frequently and IS CHEMICAL-FREE, so you don’t have to worry about hormonal disruption with use. And, of course, protecting your skin with hats and sleeves is an easy way to ensure skin safety.
How to choose a sunBLOCK
Covering exposed skin with hats or sleeves is always a great option to avoid burns, but when you need to get noses, ears, and larger body parts covered… I got you. There are 2 active ingredients common to mineral sunBLOCKs: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or a combination of the 2. Zinc Oxide works better at protecting against UVA rays than titanium dioxide. You’ll want to check the label to make sure it has zinc oxide or a combo of the two, rather than just titanium dioxide. Try to avoid sprays, even for the convenience factor. Sprays of mineral sunblock can be irritating to the lungs and may have toxic emulsifiers to ensure consistency. And finally, as true of any product that will be put on your skin, avoid ingredients ending in -paraben or -glycol, fragranced products, or ones with phthalate on the label.
If you are going with a physical sunBLOCK consider looking for non-nanoparticle on the label. More research is needed, but initial findings are that nanoparticles can enter your bloodstream and cause damage at a cellular level. There is some evidence that coral reefs are susceptible to nano-particle damage as well.
My favorite products:
What to do if you do get burned:
Hydrate!! If you can add minerals like sodium and potassium and magnesium to your water – even better! Hint: No sugar added Coconut Water is great for this.
This kind of Dr. Teal's epsom salt bath can help reduce the pain.
Drink Carrot Juice with turmeric for a soothing anti-inflammatory response. (You can even make a paste with turmeric and apply to skin. Watch out, though… turmeric stains clothes.)
Alcohol-free aloe vera gel. It might have a weird consistency, but alcohol dries out your skin, making already irritated and dehydrated skin angrier.
Sesame seed oil. If you don’t mind smelling like ramen, consider putting sesame seed oil on your burn. This is my favorite product for skin burns or any kind, for hemorrhoids, and bug bites: Ching Wan Hung