by Mila McManus, MD
As the warmer months approach, make sure you are ready to properly protect your family’s and your skin from the sun. Sunscreens can be some of the most toxic substances to put on your skin. Remember that your skin is your largest organ. It covers your entire body and is filled with capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that feed into your larger blood vessels which circulate throughout the body. Your skin is HIGHLY absorptive. Because of the need to re-apply, it is easy in one day to get a big dose of toxic substances onto and into your body in short order. As a result, the sunscreen you choose really matters.
Sunscreens are a well-known source of toxic chemicals, including hormone disrupters, carcinogens, and others. While there are many, the most concerning seem to be oxybenzone (hormone disruptor), methylisothiazolinone (allergenic, skin sensitivity), and retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A believed to speed the development of skin tumors and lesions).
We highly recommend that you use the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) consumer guides. They have an updated Sunscreen guide for adults, children, and babies. They write very insightful and helpful summaries of their findings and evaluate the ingredients of hundreds of products to protect you. There are many price ranges, choices, and sources. Here is the link:
Perhaps even more important is to take other simple, non-toxic precautions first such as:
- During the heat of the midday sun, wear protective sunglasses, hats, and t-shirts and stay in the shade.
- There really is no such thing as perfect sunscreen. It really should be used as a last resort as a protective measure. But if you must, choose the best.
- We DO need some sun exposure for good health. Just 15 minutes of time in the sun every day, without sunscreen, helps the body to create about 10,000 units of natural vitamin D. Choose late morning to late afternoon hours and limit the time to 15 minutes to avoid skin damage.
So before you head out to the garden, or over to the lake, beach or hiking path, be sure you have everything on hand to protect your family and yourself from damaging your skin.
Happy Spring and Summer! Be well! Stay well!