Dr. Bell's Blog

Sunscreen or Sunburn...Which is Worse?

For decades now, "experts" have been toting the benefits of slathering on the sunscreen before going outside.  Some have even gone so far as to say it is necessary to have on every day throughout the year to minimize exposure to the sun's radiation.   If you believe the myriad of claims you hear on TV about the dangers of the sun then you may never leave your house.  

Let's take a look at a few of the claims, and see what is true and what is not. 

First off, the sun was not placed up in the sky to harm us.  Yes, excessive exposure can be harmful for sure, no one thinks getting a sunburn regularly is a smart idea.  The sun can however, provide us with necessary Vitamin D for our health.  Safe sun exposure is the key.  As I wrote in my previous blog on Vitamin D, all that is necessary for adequate vitamin D production is 20 minutes of mid-day sun exposure with 40% of your body exposed.  If you are going to be outside for an extended period of sun, it is definitely wise to protect yourself.  Clothing, hats, and shade offer the best options. When those are not possible then it is time for the sunscreen.

Sunscreen:  The Good and The Bad

The Bad:  

The vast majority of sunscreen on the market may actually cause more damage to your skin, and increase your chances of skin cancer, than the sun itself.  The chemicals in these products can quite frankly be terrifying to say the least.  Oxybenzone, Retinyl Palmitate, Homosalate, Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA), Benzophenones, Octyl-methoxycinnamate, and fragrance are a short list of some to look out for.  Many of these chemicals absorb into your skin in as little as 26 seconds.  Research has shown that trace amounts of these chemicals can be found in various organs throughout your body.  The higher the SPF, generally the higher the chemical content as well.  

The Good:  

The safest versions of sunscreen contain zinc oxide as the primary ingredient.  This type of sunscreen will create a thin layer of protection on top of your skin and not absorb into it.  Be sure however that the product doesn't contain nano zinc oxide.  Some companies are now using them instead of plain zinc oxide.  They can be just as dangerous as regular sunscreen because the tiny particles are readily absorbed into your skin. Unfortunately it can be very difficult to find good sunscreen without these toxic ingredients.  Start in the organic aisle of the grocery store.  This doesn't always mean they are healthy, but it is a good place to begin.  Be sure to read the labels and avoid any of those toxic chemicals I mentioned above. 

In closing, as always, take a full body approach to your health.  

Creating a healthy body on the inside will equate to a healthy expression on the outside.  This includes your body's ability to adapt to an ever changing environment, including exposure to the sun.  Eat a healthy diet with minimal processed food, get plenty of exercise, and get your spine and nervous system checked on a regular basis.  This will help your body deal best with detoxifying any harmful ingredients we come in contact with.  We are exposed to plenty in everyday life, just don't purposely slather it on your skin.

LIVE well.  BE well.