Spring is in full swing, and this time of year is brutal for sunburns, because the UV index is very high. There’s no doubt that today’s sunscreens are completely different from those of the 30’s, when the very first sunscreen products hit the market. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Coppertone invented the first UVA/UVB sunscreen, and wearing sunscreen became super popular and highly marketable.
This is probably where things started to go awry.
Malignant melanoma (skin cancer) is the main reason why people slather themselves with the white stuff. Since the 1980’s, rates of skin cancer have risen dramatically. Some blame it on global warming, and the fact that our atmosphere’s air is not nearly as pure as it once was.
Others blame it on sunscreen.
Suncreens have never been proven to prevent melanoma, yet we dutufully slap it on ourselves before we head outside. It’s good for preventing a burn, but so is a hat and some shade. Besides depriving our bodies from the most natural and efficent form of vitamin D, we are not absorbing what else the natural sunlight might have to offer.
The main active ingredients in sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Actually, to be more specific, there is both sunscreen and sunblock. Let’s distinguish them a bit.
Sunblock sits on the skin and provides a barrier between the harmful rays of the sun and your skin. In the 1950’s, people who wore sunblock (though it was not as widely used as now) got noticed, because they had an obvious white cream sitting pretty atop their noses and shoulders. Today’s suncreens don’t look like that. Why? Because we think it looks silly, and so scientists have figured out a way to have sunscreens blend in better.
Sunscreens get absorbed into the skin and filter UVA rays. Essentially, the zinc component of the sunscreen has been broken down into miniscule components that allow for it to stay virtually invisible on our skin. However, these components are so incredibly tiny, that they breach cell membranes and break the blood-brain barrier. This action has actually been hypothesized to exacerbate cancer growth and other abnormal cell divisions. The worse offenders are the spray/clear sunscreens, with the “best” ones being thick, white creams.
“Researchers at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit, released their annual report claiming nearly half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate. Furthermore, the FDA has known about the dangers of vitamin A in sunscreens since ordering a study 10 years ago, but has done nothing to alert the public of the dangers.”
Sooo…do we use this stuff or not? Here’s my personal opinion (it doesn’t have to be yours): let yourself get some sun. Vitamin D is crazy important, because it is actually a hormone that, among others things, increases immune function significantly. It also plays a key role in the absorption of calcium, and aids in the production of seretonin, which is the “happy hormone.”
After 30 minutes or so in the sun, then apply a good-quality sunscreen to yourself if you think you will burn without it. It’s up to you. I find that the more you familiarize your skin with the sun, the less the need for sunscreen or sunblock in the first place. Burns aren’t cool– so don’t get one of those. But please, please allow your body to reap the rewards the sunshine has to give. 🙂