Although it's steadily approaching winter and most people are waving good bye to the sun and preparing themselves for hibernation, let's reminisce back to a better time where your only concern was finding a happy medium between a healthy tan and a dangerous burn. I like to give both ends of the spectrum celebrity names like LeBronze James and Burnt Reynolds. The beach and outdoor activities are both playgrounds for melanoma. As many people begin to day dream about January vacation in paradise or visualizing happier times in the sun, it's probably a healthy stepping stone to start planning by reading up on sunscreen. More than $550 million worth of sunscreen is sold in the U.S. alone each year, illustrating the fact that generally, people care about their skin, health, and safety. But are they making the right decisions?
There are a few points that need to be addressed about sunscreen regarding sunscreens damage to our bodies, reefs, and marine life, and why a healthy diet and preventative measures might be the safer option.
Many health authorities and the mainstream media will gladly tell you to lather up on sunscreen. But as 11x ASP world champ Kelly Slater put it via Twitter, "sunscreen is for suckers." No, he's not a doctor. But he is a health enthusiast and has spent enough time in the sun to make his opinion worthwhile. Well, is sunscreen for "suckers?"
Many tend to believe layering on the sunscreen actually causes more cancer than it prevents. That's up for dispute. Technically, the only two ingredients necessary to be labeled as "sunscreen" are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. This means that organic sun care products aren't qualified as "sun screen." There's also an entire list of chemicals on sunscreen labels that can be correlated with cancer such as parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemical solvents and petroleum oils. Remember, this is a correlation not causation. Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A) may cause tumors and lesions to develop more quickly when skin is exposed to the sun. Oxybenzone is linked to hormone disruption and can cause allergic reactions. Spray sunscreen can fill the air with tiny particles that are dangerous to inhale because they can cause lung inflammation and may possibly be carcinogenic. This is an alarming notion to come to terms with because everything we put onto our skin, our largest organ, gets absorbed into our blood stream.
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These same chemicals are also responsible for coral bleaching according to Roberto Danovaro and his colleagues at Marche Polytechnic University in Ancona, Italy. In their study, they found that between 4,000 and 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers and snorkelers into coral reef environments each year potentially bleaching up to 10% of the world's coral reefs.
The simplest way to decrease your chances of sun burn, or cancer for that matter, is to follow a healthy diet and to limit raw exposure to the sun, e.g. wearing hats and finding shade. Antioxidants and super foods also boost your skin's natural resistance to sunburn. UV exposure alone doesn't cause skin cancer. Only when UV exposure and poor dieting are working together will you create an environment for skin cancer. Slater's basic rule of thumb is that if he can't pronounce any ingredients'"if there's any propyl-anything, or whatever"'then he won't eat it or put it on his body.
Having a good diet and living a healthy lifestyle will prevent you from generating many diseases; not just melanoma. But is avoiding skin protection ointment, for lack of using the misunderstood word "sunscreen," a safe idea? I wouldn't necessarily believe it's a good idea for someone who has spent the entire winter out of the sun hibernating to drink an acai smoothie for antioxidants instead of applying sunscreen.
The Skin Cancer Foundation released a statement on their website addressing their concern for the "anti-sunscreen" movement stating that "recent attacks on sunscreens in the media point to imperfections and potential risks, but miss the point that sunscreen continues to be one of the safest and most effective sun protection methods available."
Basically what one should take away from the tug-o-war on sunscreen use should be to fall somewhere in the middle. Don't be a sucker. Take preventative measures. Regulate your diet, avoid sun in excess if possible, and if you're going to be in the water or outdoors for an extended period of time, look into using spending a little more money for higher quality sunscreen. And remember higher quality doesn't mean higher SPF. Anything more than 35 doesn't make a big difference.
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to get you started.