When spending time in the shade or covering up from the sun are just not options, be sure to apply sunscreen to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure. Building on this recommendation from a naturopathic point of view, it is important to choose a sunscreen that will protect you while not causing absorption of unnecessary chemicals - ironically, often carcinogenic chemicals - into your skin.
In time for the season, Environmental Working Group has put together a comprehensive 2012 Sunscreen Report, which evaluates over 1,800 sunscreens for their efficacy, ingredients, and any health concerns associated with them. There is an easy search to learn more about your favourite brands, or you can view the list of Top Sunscreens, which outlines the cleanest products available.
- Oxybenzone (may be listed as methanone, 2-hydroxy 4 methyoxydenxophenone, or benzophenone-3): These compounds are potential hormone disruptors and contributors to cell damage, which can lead to cancer.
- Retinyl palmitate (vitamin A): May increase the risk of skin cancer when used on sun-exposed skin.
- Parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben): Parabens are ubiquitous in cosmetic products, being used a synthetic preservatives. Unfortunately, they also have undesirable effects such as hormone disruption, which is linked to cancer.
With all this in mind, it is important to remember that there are benefits to sun exposure as well. Our skin synthesizes natural vitamin D when exposed to the sun, a process which is completely blocked by sunscreen. Interestingly, vitamin D has an important role in cancer prevention, as well as bone health and proper immune system function. Therefore, moderate amounts of time in the sun can be healthy, while ensuring to be mindful about preventing excessive exposure.