We slather our children and ourselves in sunscreen everyday. Is it safe? Is it helping or hurting? As a culture we have vilified the sun. Have we chosen the right enemy?
Sun Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure
How do you choose the right sunscreen for you? Let's think this through. In the 1950's if you got pink skin you put on a hat or covered up with you shirt. SPF indicates the time you can stay out in the sun without burning. But, and this is a BIG BUT, are the chemical sunscreens actually stopping our bodies own natural indicator of too much sun.
Stay with me here. A sun tan is a wound. Yes the melanocytes (pigmentation skin cells that cause us to turn brown) are rushing to the surface of the skin to protect it from over abundance sun. The red flag of this wounding process is red or pink of a sun burn.
The chemicals in sun screen can draw the sun into the skin and cause us to miss our skin's natural signals of browning and burning but also react with the radiation of the sun. Or worse!
Chemicals In Sunscreens can cause Carcinogenic Reactions
These chemical cocktails are shown to cause hormone disruption in children. Instead of reflecting the sun like zinc oxide the chemicals actually draws the sun into to create long term aging damage.
Are Sunscreens Causing Cancer?
A crazy thing happened on my way to the bathroom last week. I glanced in the mirror and a huge eruption had happened on my face. It was glacial!
More Acne After 40?
I have battled acne all of my life which lead me to become a licensed esthetician. Another life, another story!
After I used all my trade secrets to reduce the size of this enormous blemish I realized I was out gunned by this massive spot on my face.
Getting the earliest appointment I could with dermatologist, I walked around with the massive lump on my face for a week. Truly without make up this pink hard crusty lump of skin next to my nose was impossible to miss.
Like being back in junior high I just want to hide out at home. Even with all my training the only thing I could do was disguise it so it looked mole like with make up.
My sweet husband even found it hard to have serious conversations with me while this second head was sprouting out of my face.
Finally, appointment day came. After all my searching on the web I was pretty sure what the monstrous nodule on my face meant.
The dermatologist PA confirmed my suspicions. Skin cancer!
For the last 15 years I spent hours warning others about the danger of the sun. Especially at altitude.
It is easy to get sunburned at higher altitudes, because there is less of the earth's atmosphere to block the sunlight. UV exposure increases about 4% for every 1000 ft (305 m) gain in elevation. According to WEBMD
I live at 8,000 ft. Even if you give me a grace of 2,000 feet my sun exposure is 24% more than the average. I wear hats, I buy awesome sunscreen, I reapply regularly! While I am better at this than 99% of the people I meet this was not always thew case.
Most of our serious sun damage happened long ago before the age of 18. Who used sunscreen on a daily bases 25 years ago?
Or is the Sunscreen the Problem?
Can sun damage done years ago can lie in wait for us like a sleeping lion only blasting onto our radars in the late 30 and 40s. Or be volcanic and fast moving like the one I experienced this week.
Either way, a yearly check for cancer causing sun damage and quick action if one is suspected can save lives. This fall be sure to check you self and family carefully.
Here is the key know the signs.
Sun Care For the Whole Family
There is a lot of controversy around chemical sunscreens and reduction of vitamin D plus increase of poor food choices in the American diet all converging to create more skin cancer.
Wellness Mama starts a great discussion on this in several articles on her blog. She also has a homemade sun screen recipe.
Hats, Hats, Hats! Everyone needs an awesome hat with a large brim.
Clothing and swimsuits with sun guard. I start your kids with swim shirts and they will come to expect them. Get yourself one too!
Reapply, Reapply, Reapply. One thing that makes the sun screen clothing so much easier is not have to reapply over the whole body. Face, neck, ears, hands and feet are a must for reapplication if they are exposed.
Sprays seem easy but as mentioned in the video they contain a lot, I mean a lot of chemicals and most of the spray disappears into the air. My kids did not like the sunscreen sticks because they feel it takes “too long”.
A nice even application of lotion 20 minutes before sun exposure is the best bet.
Make sure to drink lots of water.
Take frequent breaks. Last beach trip we choose to go to the water early. We returned to the house for lunch and went back to the beach after 4pm.
Waiting for a Biopsy
Research, choices and more research. As I sit waiting for the biopsy of the monster lesion that the PA is 99% sure is cancer I am pondering my choices.
I plan at present to continue with “safe sunscreen”, always always wear a brimmed hat and look into the vitamin D situation.
What choices are you making for your family about sun exposure and sun screen?