As we have now been experiencing the shift toward warmer weather, many of us will be spending a lot more time outside in the sun. Along with sun exposure comes sunscreen. It’s commonly thought that sunscreen prevents us from being harmed by the sun’s rays, and is even thought to prevent skin cancer to some degree. Sunscreen may, however, accelerate skin cancer.
Upon taking a look at the back of a sunscreen bottle, how many of the ingredients can you pronounce, and do you know what most of these ingredients are? Specifically, the ingredient oxybenzone has been shown in a 2010 study to penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream, and disrupt hormones. At the very least, sunscreen is a mixture of chemicals applied to the skin. When is that ever healthy?
Along with the chemicals, many sunscreens contain an additive of vitamin A that is supposed to slow skin aging. Researchers in that same study found this additive to cause tumors and lesions to develop 21% faster in animals treated with a vitamin A-laced cream than those treated with a vitamin-free cream.
So, what are the alternatives? There are a number of health food stores that carry sunscreens that are much safer to use than the typical kind, as they don’t contain a majority of harmful chemicals. Badger is one brand that comes to mind. Wearing a hat and clothing is another obvious alternative to prevent harmful results of extended sun exposure. Perhaps the most logical prevention of harmful sun effects is common sense. Spending very long periods in the sun is simply not a good idea. Rather than trying to find an SPF 100 sunscreen that will last several hours, why not just spend a few hours in the sun, and then move to shade?
Ryne Gioviano, M.S.Ed., NSCA-CPT
Owner of Welligee Personal Training & Lifestyle