For decades, our doctors advised us to put on sunscreen when planning for outdoor activities. And Yes! The American Academy of Dermatology believes that everyone needs to protect their skin from sun UV rays with sunscreen. Yet many of us feel lethargic when we don’t get enough sun. So what exactly does our skin need? Do sunscreens help or do us more harm?
When the skin is the largest organ of the body; it has big responsibility. It functions as a barrier to protect the body from various diseases. In doing so, it also needs the exposure of the sun to activate the body to produce vitamin D. This sun exposure helps to stimulate the production of white blood cells and increase the body temperature to relax muscles and stiff joints. If this is all good for our health; why is sun exposure considered as evil?
There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays identified as UVA and UVB. The UVB is believed to be more hostile than UVA because of the effect it has on the skin with sunburn and its development into skin cancers. However the danger of UVA is that, it is always constant in our atmosphere despite of the weather condition. This type of ray can deeply penetrate our skin even through clothing and glass. It is responsible for sun spot, premature aging, and thick dry skin. Therefore both of these rays are classified as a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. This is where the sun protection is considered.
So what about sun tanning and tanning bed? Well it’s definitely gotten more attention in the last few decades. These activities also increase the risks for the skin to absorb both UVA and UVB rays to develop into sun poisoning also known as sun allergy or photodermatitis. A condition which often mistaken for eczema because of its many symptoms of which resembled eczema such as itchy bumps, red rashes, raised area, blisters, outbreaks in areas of skin exposed to light, swelling, dark patches on the skin, and more. Sometime these symptoms can prolong for months depending on the seriousness of the conditions. Note: This condition is not the same as sunburn.
Traditionally people had turned to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to help protect their skin from sunburn. When Coppertone began to introduce a clear sunscreen that was less chalky than zinc in 1944; the use of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide began to fade away. Sunscreens were designed to block the UVB rays. In order for it to become effective; it has to rub into the skin 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every hour. However the amount of product continuously applied onto the skin also increases the amount of toxic chemicals preventing the body to produce the vitamin D. Two of the most common chemicals used widely in all of the sunscreens are called oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemical blockers are also an endocrine disruptor that may mimic hormones and contributed to sun allergy condition. Studies have found traces of these chemicals detected in the blood stream, urine, and breast milk that can last up to 2 days after each application. By now you have already figured this out. The higher, the SPF in the sunscreen; the more chemicals it goes into the product. Now what?
Contrary to sunscreens, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safer because the particles are too large to be absorbed by the body. These ingredients are also known as natural sun blocker for both UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide is actually more effective than zinc to block both UVA & UVB. These are sometime referred to as “physical sun blocker” because it reflects light similar to a mirror and act as a barrier to the skin. These are the broad spectrum of sun protection for various outdoor activities with any sun exposure. However, the best protection is to cover up and get some early morning sun before 10am. Happy Solstice!