Is Your Sunscreen Making You Sick?
Face it! You really can’t avoid the sun especially with summer fast approaching and hitting the beach is on the top of everyone’s list. What better way to protect yourself than with a good sunscreen?
The Environmental Working Group did a study on sunscreens and found most to be either very ineffective or loaded with carcinogens (yes, that means that your actual sunscreen could cause you cancer!) Even titanium dioxide, which was previously thought to be safe, has recently been proven to cause cancer, especially when used in sprays or in nanoparticles. In fact, with nanoparticle technology becoming super common in sunscreens, these carcinogens can easily get into your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your cells, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re wearing a non-toxic sunscreen.
Fortunately, it’s simple to remember what’s safe; the only ingredient that is truly nontoxic and works as a sunscreen is zinc oxide. It’s relatively expensive as an ingredient and looks white until you rub it in, which is why many companies don’t use it, or only use it in low quantities mixed with chemical sunscreens that are cheaper or easily absorb into your skin. The problem with chemical sunscreens is that they aren’t effective and they are often carcinogenic.
Our favorite safe, zinc-oxide-based sunscreen is Badger’s SPF30 lavender-scented sunscreen, which is organic and has 100% healthy, pretty much edible ingredients. It absorbs without a lot of effort and smells great. Also, not only does lavender have a lovely scent, but has been found in studies to inhibit the generation of the type of free radical that causes much of the damage from UVA/UVB radiation. It also helps protect against cancerous changes—in one study, applying lavender oil reduced skin tumor incidence by 33 percent.
Also, when looking for sunscreen, make sure to read the label carefully. You should recognize the majority (or, better yet, all) of the ingredients in your sunscreen. As with all skin care, if you can’t read it, or you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t wear it. Period.
Here are some more tips:
The body’s first line of defense against the harmful elements of the environment is the skin. We often downplay the value of skin care as purely aesthetic, but we must understand that the failure to take proper care of our skin will not only make us look old, it can also make us sick. In fact, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer at some point in their life and 1 in 55 will be melanoma — the deadliest cancer.
According to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma is the most common cancer for the age bracket of 25 to 29 years old. In fact, melanoma increases faster on 15 to 29 year old women than men. The study also showed that 40 percent, especially those under 30 years old, get their tans mostly from using tanning beds and frequent time in the sun.
“Ultimately, seeking to change the color of your skin is self-defeating because exposure to ultraviolet radiation – either through tanning beds or by seeking the sun – can lead to wrinkles, prematurely aging skin and even a diagnosis of skin cancer,” says board-certified dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD.
Urbanette held a brief interview with Dr Marina Peredo, founder of the Marina Peredo, MD, PC Dermatology and Spatique Medical Spa in Smithtown, New York. Marina, who has an incredibly impressive resume, told us about skin cancer, common skincare problems and how to protect ourselves.
Urbanette Magazine: What are the most common skin problems that often lead to skin cancer? What are the easiest and most basic ways to prevent these problems?
Dr. Marina Peredo: Actinic Keratosis is a rough dry scaly patch or growth that forms on the skin. These usually form when the skin is badly damaged from ultra violet rays (UV rays). AK’s may turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, or they can run the risk of getting other types of skin cancer. This condition can be prevented by wearing a sunscreen daily and being seen by a board-certified dermatologist on a regular basis.
Patients who have multiple moles, (dysplastic nevus syndrome), patients with type-one skin type (never tans, always burns), patients who use tanning salons and patients who had several blistering sunburns before age 18 are all at much higher risk for skin cancer.
“Ways to prevent aging and skin cancer include use sunblock, avoid tanning beds and have your skin checked by a dermatologist.”
Urbanette: How do you know you already have early stages of skin cancer; how do you detect it?
Marina: Recognition of changes in the skin is the best way to detect early melanoma. Follow the ABCDE rule (Asymmetry of a mole, Border irregularity of a mole, Color is not uniform, Diameter or change in size, Evolving of a mole that looks different from the rest). If patient sees any of the above, have it checked right away.
Urbanette: How often do I have to apply sunblock? What SPF should I use?
Marina: Make sure to use the right amount of sunblock , a shot glass full for each application. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors every day. When outdoors, re-apply every 30 min and using an SPF of 30-always reapply after swimming or sweating. The sun emits harmful UV rays year round, plus youi have to look out for secondary sun exposure, so sunscreen needs to be applied even when it snows or when it’s cloudy. Wearing protective clothing (like Coolibar) helps and always avoid the sun between the hours of 11am to 3 pm.
Urbanette: What is secondary sun exposure, and can it really hurt me?
Marina: Secondary sun exposure is the UV rays your skin is exposed to when sitting near a window on the sunny day, in a car, from a reflection on water, and even on a cloudy day. And yes, while you may not get burned, it’s still rays hitting your skin, so you still need to wear sunscreen even when you’re not directly exposed.
Urbanette: How do you teach your patients about sun protection and what advice do you give them?
Marina: Pictures tell a thousand words and are a useful tool when trying to show my patients what can happen if they do not take precautions when out in the sun. I always encourage all of my patients, teens included, to wear a sunscreen every day (SPF 30), wear sun protective clothing, avoid tanning beds and get a spray tan or use self-tanner if you really want color.
Really, the best and simplest advice I could give you is simply to avoid the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.