If you're anything like me, the start of summer also brings on the enjoyment of sunshine both for my wellbeing and for health reasons. Like some of you, my family has a history of skin and other cancers - meaning that too much fun in the sun could increase my chances of developing skin cancers, or could it actually reduce my risk? Sun exposure appears to be a double-edged sword - with a positive correlation of increased sunburns and risk of skin cancer development, while lack of sun exposure has shown to lead to an increased risk of other diseases. Both natural and conventional-based sunscreens contain either a chemical and or physical sun filter. The natural sunscreens use more of a physical filter as oppose to the chemical-based filters (ex. oxybenzone).
SIDE 1 (PRO-Conventional Sunscreen)
The Melanoma Research foundation claims that nearly 90% of melanomas are caused by overexposure to UV radiation (both natural and artificial) (2). Some misconceptions stated by them that are said to not be true are that sunscreen use increases the risk of melanoma, is unsafe, and that regular sunscreen use prevents vitamin D absorption. A study done by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre states that topical sunscreen use protects against squamous cell carcinoma, does not cause vitamin D deficiency and does not have any adverse effects on human health (3).
SIDE 2 (PRO-Natural Sunscreen)
Sunscreen use does show to lower the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, reduce actinic keratosis and melanoma however study results are mixed. For example, outdoor workers report lower rates of melanoma than indoor workers - this is thought to be due to vitamin D's role in melanoma development. The EWG "strongly disagrees with the FDA's decision to allow sunscreen makers to claim that their products prevent cancer. The concern is that people will rely on sunscreen use alone, instead of using hats clothing and shade to shield themselves from the sun. Physical filters such as zinc oxide are shown to be safer than chemical, according to the EWG, and have not been shown to disrupt hormone levels like oxybenzone (4).
Two brands that I have tried are: Green Beaver and Badger. Both contain broad spectrum protection against both types of sun rays (UVA and UVB) with the key medicinal ingredient being zinc oxide. I preferred Green Beaver (SPF 27, liquid spray) over Badger as it went on thinner than Badger and did not leave a thick white layer on my skin, like the Badger brand did. I am in the process of attempting to make a natural sunscreen, so stay posted for this! If any of you have ever made one I would love to try it out- comment below.
Both sides claim that sunscreen is only one way to protect your skin from UV exposure.
- Use a comprehensive approach, including avoidance of sun between 10 am and 4pm, seeking shade when possible, wearing protective clothing (long sleeves, pants, wide brimmed hats/sunglasses)
- Regular sunscreen use when used in combination with other methods (other sun practices) reduces the risk of early skin aging and skin cancer (melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
- Sun exposure reduces the risks of several diseases and has been shown to benefit overall well-being
FOOD-BASED METHODS TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Did you know that what you eat can also help in sun protection? Both coconut oil and foods such as berries, fruits/vegetables, and tea consist of antioxidants that offer natural sun protection. When UVA and UVB rays create free radicals on your skin, the antioxidants work to mop up the free radicals, helping to prevent sun damage and cancer development.
I hope you have enjoyed this Summer Wellness Blog Series, we have gone over the following: Natural Bug repellent, Anti-allergy strategies, the Healing effects of Nature and lastly, Fun or (too much) Fun in the sun. Looking to see how you can improve your summer wellness arsenal? Subscribe to my mailing list above, and feel free to drop me a message via here. Also, comment below on what your favourite natural sunscreen brands are and/or what your thoughts are on this topic!
1) Oxybenzone (2005). National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/oxybenzone#section=Top
2) Melanoma Research Foundation (2007). Retrieved from: https://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/preventing-melanoma/facts-about-sunscreen
3) Burnett & Wang (2011). Current sunscreen controversies: a critical review. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0781.2011.00557.x/full
4) The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens (2017). EWG's Guide to Sunscreens. Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/