Summer 2013/14 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French
QUESTION: I remember reading an article a while back in your magazine about the pros and cons of sunscreen as well as a brand that is the least harmful. I’m quite dubious about sunscreens, but live in Alice Springs and my four-year-old daughter attends a pre-school which strongly encourages outdoor play. I would like to obtain for her an alternative to that used by the school. Would you please forward me the details from the article as well as where to obtain the safe sunscreen.
The issue that covered vitamin D, skin cancer and sunscreens was the Summer 2009/10 issue of Natural Health and Vegetarian Life. This information is so valuable, that I will repeat the key points re sunscreens here.
Sunscreens can do us a disservice in three ways: they prevent vitamin D production; many still allow sun damage; and most of them contain toxic chemicals.
Because most sunscreens block out UVB, they effectively block the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin and contribute to the widespread vitamin D deficiency in Australia. Those with sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or greater will block the UV rays that produce vitamin D.
When sunscreens mislead us. To make matters worse, many sunscreens allow UVA through and so don’t stop sun damage from occurring. All they stop is the burning. Worse still, a person wearing sunscreen and believing they are protected, is likely to stay out in the sun longer. If the sunscreen does not provide adequate UVA protection, this can further increase the risks of wrinkles and melanoma – without the warning of sunburn to tell the person to get out of the sun. Fortunately, more brands are now including UVA protection, although often at low levels.
To obtain vitamin D from the sun, we need to have some direct exposure, although not for very long. Sunburn must be avoided, as it really is dangerous for the skin. If a person must be out in the sun long enough to burn – as in the case of your child as school – then sunscreen use is appropriate, but it is necessary to use a product that protects against both UVA and UVB. Sunscreens based on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect both types of rays, and have been used worldwide for over 75 years with relative safety.
The Environmental Working Group, a not-for-profit Washington DC-based organisation that researches skincare health hazards, reported in its 2009 Sunscreen Guide that three out of five brand-name sunscreens are ineffective or contain hazardous chemicals or both. (See the report at www.ewg.org/whichsunscreensarebest/2009report).
Hazardous ingredients. The Environmental Working Group – after investigating almost 1,000 sunscreens – found that most contain toxic chemicals that are absorbed through the skin and add to the body’s load of toxic chemicals. Some are powerful generators of free-radicals with the potential to damage health in many ways, including increasing the risk of cancer.
By following the standard recommendations to apply generous amounts of sunscreen every few hours, a person is likely to be absorbing a significant quantity of such chemicals.
In contrast, a safer brand of sunscreen, that was tracked down by the Natural Health Society, contains no nasty chemicals. It is UV Natural, which was rated by the EWG as being among the top ten most effective sunscreens. It contains most or all of the following ingredients: zinc oxide; oils of grape seed, safflower, macadamia nut and sesame; white beeswax; Candelilla wax; Carnauba wax; colloidal silica; extracts of green tea; grape seed extract; vitamin E; zinc stearate and iron oxides. UV Natural is cruelty-free, vegan and Australian made and owned.
To obtain UV Natural, inquire at your local health food store. Otherwise email the manufacturer, [email protected], or go to their website, www.uvnatural.com.