Updated: Sep 7
Most people reach for sunscreen, sunblock or another product loaded with toxic chemicals to prevent burns. The fear of skin cancer is a motivating factor to use sunscreens and companies advertise and play on this fear. However, the majority of sun care products contain carcinogenic chemicals that promote DNA damage. Wasn’t the point of these products to prevent DNA damage?
Ultra Violet (UV) radiation is a form of energy from the sun. When addressing sun exposure, we need to protect ourselves from UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can penetrate the middle layer of our skin and UVB rays reach the outer layer of the skin. UVA and UVB rays can cause DNA damage in excess. The majority of sunscreens only block one of the above-mentioned rays. Make sure your product offers broad spectrum protection against both. Listed below are some chemicals to avoid and some non-toxic sunscreen solutions to enjoy your summer in the sun without sunburns.
Sunscreen Compounds to Avoid
There are a few compounds you want to avoid when purchasing these types of products. Carcinogenic ingredients, like the vitamin A derivatives retinol and retinyl palmitate, become toxic when exposed to the sun. This can be very confusing because we often think of Vitamin A as being healthy for our skin. However, these derivatives of vitamin A are very different from the vitamin A found in foods, which is essential for health and a potent anti-oxidant.
Other compounds you want to avoid are oxybenzone and dioxybenzone, chemicals known to disrupt hormonal levels. When purchasing a product that helps prevent damage to skin, it should be able to do so without disrupting the hormone balance in the body.
Para-aminobenzoic acid, aka PABA, is thought to be a natural B vitamin that can help block UVB rays. This is true but does not block UVA rays. PABA has shown to have estrogenic activity and promote DNA damage as well.
Removing the above-mentioned toxins from your sun care product is a great start and finding an alternative is the next step. I recommend checking the environmental working group website every summer for an updated list on the best sun care products available. They currently rate over 1,000 different sunscreen products. See their list of best sunscreens to use here: http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/
Natural Care Products
Before revealing our favorite natural products, we would like to discuss different botanicals and phytonutrients that promote healthy skin. When choosing the best non-toxic sunscreen for you and your family, look for these natural solutions that support healthy skin.
Zinc Oxide: By far the best for preventing sunburn. It’s the only known ingredient that completely blocks both UVA and UVB rays. This is because zinc oxide provides a film on top of the skin that reflects UV light.
Neem Oil: Acts as a natural moisturizer for the skin.
Aloe Vera: Contains phytonutrients for healthy skin regeneration and helps soothe burns.
Green Tea Leaf: Helps hydrates the skin and is a potent anti-oxidant.
Lavender: Botanical that supports skin regeneration.
Shea Butter: Helps moisturize the skin.
Coconut Oil: Blocks UV rays and helps promote skin regeneration.
Chamomile: Contains phytonutrients to help promote healthy skin.
Our favorite products are Wotnot 30+ SPF sunscreen and Soleo Organics sunscreen, both of which use Zinc Oxide as its main ingredient.
How to Prevent Sunburn
Infants younger than 6 months don’t have melanin, a pigment which helps protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. For this reason, infants need to be kept out of direct sunlight as often as possible. Of course this doesn’t mean avoiding the outdoors completely — just take a few precautions. First, always cover up infants with protective clothing and a sun hat. When at an event or at the beach, always use the strollers’ cover to shield the infant from direct sunlight. If you don’t have the stroller with you, try to find a shaded area. Most products warn against sunscreens on infants less than 6 months because of the toxic chemicals, so avoiding the sun is the best way to protect infants from sunburns.
When it comes to applying sun care products on your kids, please remember to test the product the day before applying to your child’s entire body. Test sunscreen by applying a small amount on your child’s wrist the day before you plan to use it. Kids’ skin is very sensitive to chemical products and you want to watch for an irritation or a rash. If this occurs, please try another product.
Advice for everyone over 6 months old. Sunscreen should not be the first choice for skin cancer prevention and other measures are necessary. The most important measure you can take to help prevent sunburn is to wear clothing and hats to cover your skin. This is the best way to prevent exposure to UV radiation. Areas of skin exposed to the sun should have some sort of protection from UV radiation and choosing the right non-toxic sunscreen can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. Apply your sun protective product when you first plan on being exposed to the sun and reapply it often, especially if you are sweating a lot, swim/play in the water or spend long periods outdoors.
Remember to stay hydrated. Eliminate all sodas, juice, energy drinks and other high fructose/sugary beverages and replace them with water. Water stimulates cell growth and regeneration, eliminates toxins, and helps improve skin tone. Have fun in the sun this summer!