To help prevent skin cancer, it’s important to use sun screen regularly, particularly at the start of the “sunny season” when the desire to shake our winter “blahs” make us more likely to spend extended time outdoors, and our previously covered-up skin is more susceptible to the season’s first harsh rays.
But as public concerns grow over the use of chemicals in cosmetics, many people weigh the risks of lathering up with potentially toxic sunscreens against the dangers of too much sun and find it a tough call, especially when dealing with children.
There’s no question sunburning is concerning. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers with about 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer diagnosed in the US each year. The more dangerous melanoma skin cancer accounted for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015.
And because 5 or more severe sunburns before the age of 20 makes you 80% more likely to get skin cancer, protecting young sun worshipers is just as important as protecting older ones.
Experts recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher. Broad spectrum means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays and an SPF of 15 means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer than the normal time it takes for you to burn. However, many of the customary sunscreen formulations use a host of chemicals to accomplish this.
Fortunately, there are many organic and natural ways to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays that are better for your body and the environment.
Wearing hats, sunglasses and cover ups when possible are easy and obvious steps you can take, but what about those pool and beach days when excessive clothing just doesn’t make sense?
A number of natural oils, including wheat germ oil, red raspberry oil and carrot seed oil offering varying levels of sun screening protection without any chemicals added. While not intended for intense, long term exposure, they do a good job for reasonable outings and also nourish your skin, leaving it softer and smoother. In addition, unlike chemical laden sunscreens, these oils reflect most of the sun’s rays off of your skin while allowing some to get through letting you to soak up valuable vitamin D.
If you look online, there are a variety of easy homemade sunscreen potions you can whip up, most utilizing natural carrier oils like the ones mentioned above, as well as coconut, avocado and almond oils, to name a few. In addition to those, the recipes generally include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, all natural ingredients proven to block the sun’s rays, and essential oils like lavender, that allow you to choose the scent of your creamy creation.
If making your own doesn’t interest you, there is a growing market of commercially produced, certified organic sunscreen options. These formulations promise powerful sun protection without chemicals and usually are based around zinc oxide.
Whichever form of sunscreen you choose, remember to apply it properly and liberally, not forgetting the ears, scalp, backs of hands and tops of feet, and reapply often, especially if swimming or sweating a lot.
Another natural sun care tip includes eating a preventative diet full of anti-oxidants. Regularly consuming dark colored berries, fresh produce and other anti-oxidant rich foods can offer protection from the inside out as anti-oxidants can be used by your skin to protect it against UV rays. In addition, applying topical anti-oxidants like Vitamin C or E even when not in the sun may help reverse previous damage.