Summer is upon us (at least here in sunny Florida) and I am pretty sure we all love that beautiful sunshine! Here is an interesting article we read today about sunscreen, written by Dr. Phil Maffetone. If you have not heard of him, check out his site if you care to – he has some interesting information about health and related stuff! I have pasted his exact article below if you want to read it here, or you can click on the title to be directed to the actual website. Sunscreen is a big topic lately – with continued growth. I have noticed that as the years go on, the SPF or UVA or whatever else gets higher, I saw “95” in the store the other day or maybe higher, I feel like 45 used to be the high then it moved to 60, then 80… Not only is the SPF/UVA protection increasing but so is the price – good golly! I don’t feel like I have strong opinions about sunscreen but honestly, I don’t really like it and I know I don’t really want to buy and it slather it all over myself. I can never put it on even because I don’t want to take the time to do it when the beautiful beach is calling or that hike ahead, it is a pain to even put on… how am I supposed to cover all my body in that goo and no I don’t want to breathe it either out of a spray can….it is itchy, smelly, it washes off when you swim, gets in my eyes and they get red, watery, itchy and irritated… and that is just the start! If I use it I like to use something like the “15” and then on top of that the non oily, hypoallergenic stuff – goodness, high maintenance sunscreen girl! But back on track, he does make some interesting points that I feel are worth considering and looking into further. As a dietitian I know the importance of Vitamin D and getting it in the form of a pill is not ideal. Many times people don’t eat a proper diet and then it is compounded with staying indoors most of the day and when sun exposure is upon them they slather or lather up with sunscreen… I have seen and heard about this with moms who don’t let their kids outside or even let them look out the window without sunscreen… I know that is a very extreme statement, but honestly, I heard of someone putting sunscreen on their kid when they played by the window inside at home….
Here is the article finally!
Sunscreen: Natural vs. Artificial
By Dr. Phil Maffetone
The use of sunscreen dates back at least to the ancient Greeks who used olive oil on their skin
(which is still used today by many people). Christopher Columbus observed
natives in the New World painting their skin to protect it from the sun. In the
1930s, after getting sunburned, chemist Franz Greiter was inspired to develop
one of the first commercial sunscreens. By 1962, Greiter created the “sun
protection factor”—SPF—a rating of a sunscreen’s ability to block the sun, which
would become a worldwide standard in skin care and sunscreen
Studies of the relationship between cancer and the sun, and the
importance of vitamin D, first occurred in 1941, in relation to death rates from
breast and colon cancer. But by the post-World War II era, the sunscreen
industry was about to explode, and talk about the good aspects of the sun and
the importance of vitamin D to prevent cancer, would be almost lost.
Many people have used sunscreen with the notion that it will prevent cancer. And
while many studies have attempted to show a relationship between reduced cancer
rates and the use of sunscreen, it’s not clear that’s always the case. On the
contrary, the use of sunscreen may increase your risk of cancer in three ways.
First, using sunscreen gives many people the false sense that it’s perfectly
okay to stay in the sun for longer periods of time. Sunscreen won’t block all
the sun’s rays, it’s often used incorrectly, and, despite what the label says,
washes off easily with water and sweat. As a result, increased exposure
increases your risk of sun damage raising cancer risks.
According to a 2011 published study of 292 national sunscreen brands and 1,700 products by the
nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), based in Washington, D.C., it found
that over fifty percent of the sunscreens on the market do not provide adequate
UVA protection. Many of them actually contained potentially harmful ingredients.
Second, there may be a relationship between the chemicals used in
sunscreen and cancer development. Early formulations of sunscreens contained
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) to absorb sunlight, but these sunscreens quietly
disappeared from the market when it was learned that this substance causes DNA
damage (which can trigger cancer). Subsequent products were found to promote
free radicals, which also can contribute to cancer. The latest sunscreens
contain elements such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to scatter or reflect
sunlight, but unfortunately these chemicals can also form free radicals on the
skin; titanium dioxide has been linked to DNA damage as well.
The most popular chemical used in the majority of sunscreens since the early 1980s is
oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3). Absorption of this chemical occurs
quickly through the skin, and its accumulation in the liver, heart, muscle,
adrenal and intestine has caused significant health concerns that range from
allergy to hormone disturbances, and breast cancer risk.
The EWG also urged sun-loving consumers to avoid retinyl palmitate, a form of synthetic
vitamin A that is used in 30 percent of the sunscreens that were analyzed. In
studies, this ingredient has shown higher rates of skin tumors.
Third, the proper use of sunscreen can reduce vitamin D production in the skin, and as
discussed in my other articles, reduced levels of vitamin D can increase the
risk of most cancers.
In June 2011, the FDA released their long awaited
new rules about sunscreen products—it’s taken 33 years. Reynold Tan, a scientist
in FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, says the FDA has
been developing, testing and labeling requirements for sunscreen products for
decades. It will still be one to two years before new labeling rules are
implemented, so manufacturers can use their old inventories and create new
Under the new rules, sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” must
protect equally against UVA and UVB rays, and display the SPF on the front
label. Those with a SPF of 15 or higher can state that they help prevent sunburn
and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. The FDA is still
considering whether to allow SPF numbers above 50 since they don’t offer
additional protection. Higher SPF ingredients are the most irritating to the
skin, and are more easily absorbed into the body.
Products with SPF values under 15 will now require a warning that reads, “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging
Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early
skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin
cancer or early skin aging.”
Manufacturers will no longer be able to claim that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof, and will require to state
on the label how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of
protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two times will
be permitted based on the manufacturer’s tests: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
In addition, manufacturers won’t be allowed to identify their products
as “sunblocks.” Also, sunscreens won’t be able to claim protection immediately
on application—so-called “instant protection”—or claim protection for more than
two hours without reapplication.
Some of these changes are healthy, and prevent companies from making false or exaggerated claims like they’ve been
doing for many years. But it won’t prevent people from midday summer sunbathing,
grabbing as much “holiday” sun, or feeling a false sense of protection just
because they slopped on some sunscreen.
The real sun protection for the skin comes from our diet—groups of natural compounds such as antioxidants,
carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients, and essential fatty acids, to
name some. It’s how human skin has been protected for millions of years.
My recommendation about sunscreen, like all other products used on your
body, is this: Don’t put anything on your skin you’re not willing to eat (since
it usually absorbs quickly into the body).
For most people with light and medium skin, reducing the risks of sunburn will significantly lower the risk of
sun-related cancers. This can easily be accomplished by slowly developing and
maintaining a good tan, avoiding midday sun, especially in the summer months,
and wearing protective clothing as needed, including a hat. In addition,
maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D is key.