Trash Your Sunscreen and Other Summer Sun Tips

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May 26, 2004 | 38,858 views

ByDr. Joseph Mercola with Rachael Droege

It may seem like second nature to you to apply sunscreen beforegoing out in the sun, as the media has been bombarding Americanswith reports of the dangers of the sun for some time now, but usingsunscreen is not a good way to limit your sun exposure.

Having concerns about skin cancer is valid, however, as its incidencein the United States has tripled in recent years to 54,000 casesannually, but sunscreen is one of the LAST things you want to puton your body, and sunblockdoes not stop skin cancer. Sunscreen is a toxic chemical thatcan cause problems in your system and increase your risk of disease.

The FDA regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug becauseit contains "active" ingredients. Following is a listof active ingredients in sunscreen that the FDA classified as GRASE(generally regarded as safe and effective):

Para Amino benzoic acid (PABA) Octyl salicylate
Avobenzone Oxybenzone
Cinoxate Padimate O
Dioxybenzone Phenylbenzimidazole
Homosalate Sulisobenzone
Menthyl anthranilate Titanium dioxide
Octocrylene Trolamine salicylate
Octo methoxycinnamate Zinc oxide


Potential Toxicity

Whether some of these ingredients are toxic is controversial andthere are studies on eitherside of the issue. But recently, a study in the April2004 Journal of Chromatography found that there is significantpenetration of all sunscreen agents they studied into the skin,and oxybenzone and metabolites across the skin.

So at best when you use sunscreen your body is absorbing syntheticchemicals, and with experts' recommendations to apply generousamounts of the product every few hours, you will likely be absorbinga fair amount. It is hard to believe that all of these chemicalswill not have any effect on your system. Titanium dioxide and zincoxide, which act as physical barriers that reflect UV rays, maybe less problematic in terms of absorption.

Even though up until now studies on the potential toxicity of sunscreensare sparse and not definitive, I believe it is wise to reduce yourexposure to synthetic chemicals as much as possible and I don'trecommend using sunscreens at all.

Sunscreen and Vitamin D

There is another major problem with sunscreen aside from the potentialchemical toxicity and that is it blocks your skin's abilityto make vitamin D by more than 95 percent. If you've been readingthe site then you are familiar with the importance of having optimalvitamin D levelsand know that regular sun exposure is the best way to achieve this.

Rather than burying your skin in sunscreen, it is clearly importantto get regular sun exposure in order to have optimum health.

Sun Safety Without Sunscreen

This does not mean that we should all go out and get as much sunas we want--you must exercise caution and avoiding a burn is key.

At the beginning of the season, go out gradually and limit yourexposure to perhaps as little as 10 minutes a day. Progressivelyincrease your time in the sun so that in a few weeks you will beable to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.You can further avoid the damage from the sun by staying out ofthe sun during the harmful times from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You canstay in the shade during this time or wear lightweight long sleeveshirts, long pants and a wide-brim hat.

If you are looking to give yourself further protection againstskin cancer, along with not getting sunburned diet is undoubtedlyimportant.

In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensivereview showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventingskin cancer development. I believe that it is the worsening omega-3:6ratios that are at least partly responsible for the rise in skincancer rates.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both essential for human health, howeverthe typical American consumes far too many omega-6 fats in theirdiet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. While the idealratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1, our ratio of omega-6 toomega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1!

The primary sources of omega-6 are corn, soy, safflower and sunfloweroil; these oils are overabundant in the typical diet, which explainsour excess omega-6 levels. Avoid or limit these oils.

Meanwhile, omega-3 fats, found in fishoil and cod liver oil, need to be increased.

A major part of the problem is that at the beginning of 1900 wehad very little processed vegetableoils, which are virtually 100 percent omega-6 fat, in our diet.In the last 100 years the U.S. population has gone from consumingvirtually no vegetable fats to consuming more than 70 pounds peryear. It is likely this unnaturally high consumption of omega-6fats that is totally distorting the important omega 6:3 ratio.

So as I mentioned above, it is vital to reduce the omega-6 vegetableoils in your diet as much as possible while increasing the amountof beneficial omega-3 fats. This is an incredibly important wayto prevent skin cancer and it is spelled out quite clearly in a2000Cancer Research study that says:

"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicateomega-6 fat as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 fats as inhibitorsof development and progression of a range of human cancers, includingmelanoma."

Additionally, consuming many whole vegetables will increase antioxidantlevels in the body, which will provide protection against any sun-inducedradiation damage. Eating the right vegetables for your metabolictype will give you the best results, of course.

So if you want to benefit from the sun this summer, and I sincerelyhope you do, throw away your sunscreen and use practical methodslike clothing and shade to protect your skin from the sun when necessary.Always avoid getting burned, but be sure to get some sun on yourskin. Complete avoidance of the sun is a surefire way to cause someproblems for yourself down the road.