I'm a redhead and very fair-skinned. As you can imagine, the importance of wearing sunscreen was reiterated to me throughout my childhood. I was told that without tons of sunscreen I would surely damage my skin and get skin cancer later in life.
So, it shocks and concerns many people when I try to explain to them that my kids and I avoid sunscreen as much as possible and only use it when we absolutely need it. Why would anyone avoid sunscreen?
Sunscreen Could Cause Skin Cancer
Commercial sun screens are full of chemicals that could be a bigger risk for developing skin cancer than the actual sun itself. Recent studies even link the development of skin cancer to the chemicals and ingredients found in sunscreen.
Possible Cancer-causing Ingredients:
- Retinyl palminate
The Environmental Working Group warns particularly of the above ingredients. Oxybenzone is used in sunscreens to absorb UV rays, but this ingredient has also been linked to hormone disruption, skin cancer, and cell damage. Retinyl palminate has also been linked to adverse health effects.
Wearing sunscreen also blocks the main benefits of the sun. Studies have even shown that continuous use of sunscreen reduces the amount of vitamin D that a person is able to produce. This is concerning because of the number of people today who are vitamin D deficient.
Sunscreens may give the wearer a false sense of security, causing them to stay out in the sun longer than normal, actually increasing their exposure to sun past the point of protection. Our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount of sunlight, and you should listen to your body's wisdom whenever possible.
The “Damaging” sun rays that our parents warned about are only damaging when we fail to listen to our body's cues that we need to get some shade.
Sun in Moderation
Unfiltered sun light is actually good for you. We get wonderful amounts of Vitamin D from the sun, improving our health and our mood, and even helping to fight cancer. So don't be afraid of the sun!
The key to safe sun exposure is moderation. Sun lovers often ignore their body's cues that it's time to get out of the sun or cover up.
“I believe that Americans have gone overboard with their fear of the sun. I think that sensible exposure to sunlight is really important for your overall health and well-being” – Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University
These signs are your body's way of telling you to get out of the sun!
- Your skin gets slightly pink
- You start to feel the “heat” of the sun on your skin
- Being in the sun is making you tired
This is your body's way of telling you to find some shade and relax.
Natural Sun Protection
If you can't (or won't) get out of the sun right away, the next best thing is to wear clothing that covers your skin and shades you from direct sunlight. Hats, long sleeve shirts, and pants are a start.
There is a wide range of UV protective clothing on the market today that can offer extra protection, as much as a bottle of sunscreen would.
If you absolutely must be out in the sun for longer than your skin will allow, try searching for a good all-natural sunscreen that contains no cancer-causing ingredients! (we like this brand).
As a parent, you'll need to pay extra attention to the amount of sun that your little ones are getting. I promise it's not much harder than trying to slather them with sunscreen!
Keep kids well hydrated in the sun and keep an eye on the look of their skin. If it's looking even slightly pink it's time to cover up. Ask them how they are feeling. If they are feeling tired, encourage them to sit in the shade and rehydrate.
Keep hats, shirts, pants, and socks on them. If they are swimming or playing in water, there are lots of options for UV water wear available.
My challenge to you is to know the ingredients you are putting on your skin, and to know that there are safe alternatives available. You don't need to have a hostile relationship with the sun. You can learn to live in harmony with it, benefiting from it while still being mindful of it's power.