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Is Your Sunscreen Really Protecting Your Health?

The summer season tends to be a favorite time of the year for many because it signifies outdoor living whether it is a day at the beach or outdoor grilling. It is also the time of the year in which we are most exposed to the sun and its ultraviolet rays, making the use of sunscreen a common practice in protection against ultraviolet rays that can also be a cause of skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. Extended exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light, excessive sun exposure during childhood, and having more than 50 atypical/large moles are risk factors for developing skin cancer.

For this reason, associations such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Association recommend and insist on the use of sunscreen for protection against sun damage.

However, in the last few months, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put sunscreen ingredients in question as data retrieved from studies shows that four of the active ingredients in sunscreen are not only easily absorbed into the bloodstream at levels that can cause serious health problems but can also cause toxicity. The active ingredients in question include avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. These ingredients have been linked to health issues such as DNA damage, skin-related allergies, hormone disruption (sex and thyroid hormones), and yes, ironically, cancer.

At the moment, only two ingredients found in sunscreen, titanium oxide and zinc oxide, have been proposed to be safe and effective. Unfortunately, there are still 12 additional ingredients to be investigated and determined safe for use.

While the ingredient safety is determined, it is advised that you continue to use sunscreen but opt for the options that are known to have the safer ingredients--titanium oxide and zinc oxide. Lotion or cream sunscreen is considered to be more stable in sunlight as it remains on the surface of the skin (does not penetrate) and will protect better from the ultraviolet rays. Some of the top brands considered to be safer options include Alba Botanica Sun’s Fragrance-Free Mineral Sunscreen, Avalon Baby’s Sunscreen SPF 18, Badger’s SPF 30 Sunscreen, Burt’s Bees’ Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 15, California Baby’s SPF 30, Juice Beauty’s Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer, and Kabana’s Green Screen SPF 15.

Additional tips for protecting your skin from excess sun exposure include:

-use hats and garments that can protect your skin from direct sunlight

-make sure to thoroughly apply sunscreen to the areas that clothing won’t cover

-limit sun exposure during the peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and seek shade as much as possible

-eat a healthy, nutrient dense diet that is high in antioxidants


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