Hopefully, many of you have already heard about why putting sunscreen on your skin – or children’s skin – is actually damaging it.
Sunscreen may reduce the outward appearance of damage (i.e. it takes longer for your kids skin to look and feel sunburned), but what you’re not taking into account is:
- what’s happening underneath the top, visible layer of skin.
- the damage that’s being done, not only to the layers of skin, but also systemically, by the harmful chemicals in sunscreen.
The latest data on the damage done by sunscreens is provided by a massive study done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) where they tested nearly 1,000 sunscreen lotions.
There is also significant data from numerous countries showing that skin cancer rates have increased significantly as sunscreen use has become more widespread. Again, this is likely due to:
- the damage to the skin by UVA rays (which are not blocked by sunscreen).
- damage by the toxic and often carcinogenic chemicals used in the sunscreen lotion itself.
- the fact that sunscreens prevent the body from making vitamin D from sunshine – a crucial vitamin in cancer-defense.
So What Can We Do?
For myself and my kids, I have never used sunscreen on any of us. And we spend up to 2 months at a time in places like Hawaii and Mexico.
The first thing you need to do is stop thinking like a white person. Next time you’re in a hot country, look around you. Do you see any local people lying out in direct sunlight? Ethnic people sit and lie in the shade. They wear hats and long loose clothing if they’re going to be out in direct sunlight. Learn to think and act like a native.
When we go to the beach, we always spread our blanket under a palm tree or an umbrella. When the kids are actually swimming in the ocean is when they get the direct exposure, but that’s okay, because it’s not continual and it’s in balance.
Now, my kids are 1/4 Indian, so obviously they have a genetic advantage there that keeps them from burning as quickly as a white-skinned redhead, for example. But, you simply have to listen to your body. When your skin starts turning pink, that’s your body wisdom telling you that you’ve had enough sun for the day. LISTEN to it!
Lastly, eat as much fish oil, organic butter and omega-3 oils as you can. These natural fats are not only crucial for whole-body health, they greatly increase your body’s ability to prevent skin cancer. Getting enough antioxidants also helps your skin tolerate the sun better – vitamin E, C, grapeseed extract, pycnogenol, etc.
A scientific review done by researchers at Boston University Medical Center examined the basic mechanisms of how vitamin E works on the skin. They concluded that vitamin E used topically and consumed orally can help protect the skin from tumors and act as a barrier against sun damage. (Thiele JJ, Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage S. Mol Aspects Med. 2007 Oct-Dec;28(5-6):646-67.)
The second study, done at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, found that a high concentration of the non-esterified vitamin E inhibits UV damage, sunburn, tanning and the development of skin cancer. There is also evidence that topically applied vitamin E can help repair previous damage to the skin’s surface. (Burke KE. Dermatol Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;20(5):314-21.)
For actual stats and studies backing up all of the information above, here are some sources:
Personally, although I’ve never seen any research on this, my intuition tells me that exposing babies to as much sunshine as you can (in safe amounts) from newborn on up, will help their skin cells to “learn” how to deal with sun exposure and possibly even increase the amount of melanin in their skin. As I said, I haven’t seen any scientific data on this, it’s just my own body wisdom, and I’ve followed it with all 3 of my children.
However, we also eat the foods (and supplements) outlined above, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with their ability to handle sun exposure with no burning, tenderness, etc.