Unfortunately, despite its many benefits, we are a culture that has been taught to fear the sun. Medical professionals and skin care companies alike have advised to either stay inside or dubiously lather up in sunscreen to prevent the damage of UV radiation from the sun. This theory has left us with an expensive and finicky solution when it comes to sun safety, all-too-often leaving us with fingers crossed, hoping that we have adequately covered all the tricky spots like the backs of the knees and around bathing suit lines with sunblock. It is quite simply an inadequate approach, and there are also some very clear concerns with using sunscreen that often go unrecognized.

The first issue is that sunscreens rarely work as promised. SPF is the rating system used to designate how much UV radiation is blocked upon application. With the wide variety of products out there boasting these numbers, one would logically conclude that 30 SPF is twice as protective as 15 SPF, and so on…yet this isn’t necessarily the case. Generally speaking, SPF 15 is thought to block 94% of UV radiation, SPF 30 only 97% and SPF 45 98%. Complicating this issue further is the fact that these numbers are all highly variable based on the skin type of the user, how liberally the sunscreen is rubbed on, what kinds of activity one is engaged in, frequency of reapplication and what time of day you are spending in the sun. Therefore as companies continue to design evermore expensive, high SPF, “waterproof” sunscreens- there is little actual improvement on protective value. The Food and Drug Administration even recently proposed an upward limit of SPF 50 on labels in order to limit unrealistic claims about the efficacy of certain “ultra,” “mega,” “superstar” sunscreens.

The next problem is the sheer chemical load pumped into these products. Many contain fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemical solvents and petroleum oils that are both unstable and harmful- especially when applied with frequency to porous skin. Titanium dioxide, one of the most popular sunscreen compounds, is a “potential occupational carcinogen” according to the government, and octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), found in 90% of conventional sunscreens, has been shown to cause damage to living tissue if it penetrates too deeply. Sadly it turns out that being a judicious consumer and reading labels isn’t very helpful either. One study found that after testing 8 different sunscreen brands, each one contained chemicals that were not accounted for on the ingredients listing. And while creating your own products at home is generally beneficial, many DIY sunblocks contain zinc oxide, which has been shown to potentially generate free radicals upon sun exposure.

What does our office recommend? Besides taking the usual precautions–limit sun exposure during peak hours (10am to 4pm), wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses, use shade wisely, and avoid sunlamps and tanning booths, we recommend a combination of beta-carotene and Vitamin E, supplements that can naturally help you avoid sunburn.

And don’t ditch the sunblock quite yet. International natural health expert Dr. Mercola advises using a lotion or cream with zinc oxide, which is stable in sunlight and provides the best protection from UVA rays. Make sure the product does not contain nano-sized particles, and protects against UVA and UVB rays, Mercola cautions.

For more information:

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/news/20000302/beta-carotene-vitamin-e-help-prevent-sunburn#1

From:  http://blog.radiantlifecatalog.com/bid/65952/5-natural-ways-to-prevent-sunburns-healthy-living-tips

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/04/26/hazardous-chemicals-in-sunscreens.aspx