By protecting from sun radiation, we actually expose to a number of other risks with commercial sunscreens. The below sunscreen facts and sunscreen ingredients’ information will certainly convince you to switch to organic sunscreen, which is also called natural sunscreen or mineral sunscreen.
Why use sunscreen?
Sunscreen is intended to guard our skin against the ultraviolet (UV) sun-rays, which include UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA has the same strength year-round regardless of how close or far the sun is from the earth. They are more powerful than UVB rays and can affect you regardless how cloudy it is outside. They go through most clothes, windows and windshields. UVA rays are known as the “skin aging” sun-rays. They penetrate the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, and reach the dermis, the “true skin” where the collagen, elastin and blood vessels are. Thus, extended and unprotected exposure to sun causes age spots, wrinkles and leathery skin.
UVB rays are capable to penetrate only the epidermis and are known as “tanning rays”. They make the skin produce more melanin, the brown pigment that protects skin from UV radiation. Despite this, the side-effects stay – these rays are notorious to cause sun burns and skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
UVC are the most dangerous. Their radiation, however, is almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer.
The need of sun protection is more than obvious. But
How does sunscreen work?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recommended in 2001: “Sunscreens should not be the first choice for skin cancer prevention and should not be used as the sole agent for protection against the sun.” Sunscreens give us the false illusion of being protected and thus we tend to stay more hours exposed to sun. This illusion is even more reinforced by the high SPF numbers.
The SPF (sun protection factor) rates the degree of sunscreen’s effectiveness against the harmful sun-rays. The SPF numbers can range from 2 to 60 and even more. Their sun-rays’ block system works approximately like this:
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of the UV radiation
- SPF 20 blocks 95%
- SPF 30 stops 97%
- SPF 60 – 98%.
The difference between the SPFs is obviously very small. However, SPF that is higher than 8 makes generating vitamin D from UVB rays almost impossible. As more than half of the Americans have vitamin D deficiency, too much of a “good thing” can be actually bad.
On the other, the higher the SPF, the bigger the number of chemicals used.
Sunscreen is made of mineral or non-mineral ingredients, or may combine both.
Common mineral sunscreen’s ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Research shows that zinc oxide is natural and provides excellent sun protection. On the other, there are indications that titanium dioxide is harmful to humans. Mineral sunscreens usually provide better UVA protection.
Common non-mineral ingredients are oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and avobenzone.
There is no chemical ingredient without concern, but some are known to penetrate the skin, get in the blood circulation, mother’s milk and hormone receptors. They can cause allergies, hormone disruptions and DNA damages.
Common sunscreen ingredients that must be avoided especially by pregnant women and kids are:
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC)
- Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone)
- Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)
- 3-Benzylidene camphor
- Padimate O
How to avoid UV radiation and the chemical ingredients of sunscreens, stop vitamin D deficiency and enjoy safe sun protection?
Here are a few natural sunscreens that provide safe sun protection:
- olive oil, which was used by the Ancient Greeks;
- emu oil, which is still used by the Australian Aborigines. It is also applied for quite a few other purposes;
- sesame oil;
- coconut oil;
- shea butter.
You can also consider making your own natural sunscreen at home.
Other sun protection tips:
- try not to be outside between 11 am and 4 pm when sun radiation is at its peak;
- use umbrella or hat and wear light long-sleeved shirts or such with UV fabric protection, e.g.: an ordinary T-shirt has UPF7 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor provided by fabric);
- wear sunglasses – they protect the eyes from sun radiation, which causes cataracts.
Finally, there are a number of organic sunscreens on the market that give you a safe and toxic-free sun protection.