First of all, why do we need sunscreen? We all know that the UV rays from the sun can be harmful but why? Free radicals –these are generated as a byproduct of UV exposure and different environmental toxins. OK OK –what does that mean?
Let me explain a Free Radical (an unpaired electron) in terms that might actually make sense. In a nutshell, let’s say you and your spouse decide to go to a dinner party with several other couples. Because you are empathetic and loving, you decide to bring recently divorced cousin Joe to cheer him up. Unfortunately, cousin Joe is slightly depressed, drinks a few too many Sun King’s, and hits on everyone’s wife! EEK! CHAOS ensues and healthy paired couples are broken up! Cousin Joe is a free radical! He is a toxic cell that breaks apart healthy paired cells and reproduces with them chaotically to cause disease.
So the free radicals caused by UV light and environmental things like pollution will break down collagen and elastin in healthy skin which provide structural support –this triggers premature aging and even skin cancer.
So sunscreen blocks about half of the free radicals in the skin that can be generated from the sun. However many of them contain chemicals that can cause other issues and actually do nothing to protect us from other environmental toxins.
Not only do many of the sunscreens on the market contain chemicals like Oxybenzone (EEK) but many of their advertised SPF levels have been debunked —Most SPF levels max out at about 50.
So what is bad about oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone— is from a class of ketones called benzophenones. It is used to absorb UV light in plastics, nail polishes, cosmetics and hairsprays. This is how it protects from UVA and UVB in sunscreen.
Here is the real problem with oxybenzone—it is an endocrine disruptor! Remember that nasty BPA that you find in plastic bottles and on receipts: that is one of those bad guys too. It acts like estrogen in the body. And you know how important hormonal control is for overall health –you need all those hormones just at the right levels. I don’t know about you, but I already wig out when I have PMS–I really don’t need anything else jacking with my hormones.
Retinol Palmitate — is a form of vitamin A. It is used in many products to slow signs of aging. However, when it is exposed to sunlight, it can cause harmful effects (liver damage, thinning of the bones etc).
The EWG (environmental working group) has a great website called SKIN DEEP —you can search for a product on there and actually get a rating on how toxic it is.
Unfortunately, many of the top brands are on their NOOOOOO list including: Coppertone, Banana Boat and even Neutrogena!
There are a few brands that come out on top—you can find a full list on their site but here are some names that I recognize:
Arbonne, Bull Frog, Burt’s Bees, Earth’s Best, Jan Marini, MD Skincare, The Honest Company
What else can I do to protect my skin?
Well, can you guess it involves eating some healthy food!
Certain antioxidants in some foods not only offer a level of natural sunscreen, they also have the ability to grab up those free radicals and protect the cells from oxidative damage which can lead to cancer.
The following foods will help protect your skin from sun damage
Green and White Tea—these have polyphenols that can slow inflammation
Blueberries– one cup contains tens of thousands of antioxidants
Black Plums –almost 5k antioxidants in these
Dark Veggies —– radishes, tomatoes, kale, parsley, yellow peppers, squash, yams, purple cabbage
Walnuts –are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation