The Pros and Cons of Sunscreen

Here we are in the middle of another beautiful summer.  Fortunately, we haven’t been plagued with much rain this season and even just experienced a fairly intense heatwave.  No doubt, when we people of the north get summers like this, we take advantage of them, spending as much time outside in the sun as possible.  However, with the hot sun does come some necessities, especially sunscreen.  Due to its popularity in the media, most people are aware of UV rays and their association with skin cancer.  But, is there any danger to using sunscreen?

There actually have been studies conducted to investigate certain chemicals found in sunscreen.  Interested in the findings?  The very chemicals designed to protect you from developing skin cancer are carcinogenic themselves!  There are a number of chemicals that are found in various sunscreens: Benzophenones, PABA esters, Cinnamates, Salicylates, Digalloyl trioleate, Menthly anthranilate, and Avobenzone.  These chemicals have been found to have some alarming effects within the body that go far beyond blocking you from UV rays.  For one, they are found to be powerful free radical generators.  Free radicals are reactive compounds that damage fats, proteins, and DNA, leading to cancer.  The chemicals found in sunscreen also have estrogenic activity, meaning they will mimic the hormone estrogen and alter the hormones activity.  Just as an additional note, breast cancer is related to estrogen hyperactivity.  Finally, these chemicals are stored in fat within your body, allowing for toxins to easily accumulate over time.  An recently read an article about some research conducted that found traces of these chemicals in human urine.  Even though your are only putting sunscreen on your skin, it absolutely will still absorb into your body.

Outside of the chemical compounds that directly damage the body, sunscreen also blocks your ability to get vitamin D.  The UV rays in sunlight that are blocked by sunscreen are the very rays necessary for your body to synthesize vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D that your body needs.  If you read some recent research about vitamin D deficiency, you will learn about the link between low vitamin D levels and chronic disease such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

With this information, I have two recommendations.  One, if you do decide to use sunscreen, you should really consider taking a vitamin D supplement.  The benefits found in taking in sunlight are immediately negated by putting on the lotion.  Secondly, look for natural forms of sunscreen.  Using lotions that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are options that will both block the UV rays without the carcinogenic effects.  In the end, it’s great if you make the effort to protect yourself from the dangers of skin damage.  However, being informed of hidden dangers is just as important.  We are often told that sunscreen is the way to protect ourselves from the sun.  Unfortunately, we are never taught how to protect ourselves from sunscreen.


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