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Summer! Yay! Beaches! Yay! Swimming! Camping! Hiking! Gardening! Hurray!!

We are all overdue for some outdoor fun.

Sun is so important for mood, growth and vitamin D!  But what is safe sun?

In order to get adequate vitamin D from the sun, you have to expose 30% of your body to peak sun for 20-30 minutes. You want slight shift in color without burning. If you are paler skin, you need less time than you do if you are darker skin. Dark skin takes longer to make vitamin D. You do not want to use sun block during this time. It is best if you do not shower afterwards for several hours.

But excessive or intense sun exposure can impact the health of the skin and increase the risk for skin cancer. And many sunscreens contain chemicals that can disrupt hormone production and cause serious health issues, especially in our children. They can also impact the environment. Hawaii and Key West has banned some types of sunscreen because they bleach the coral reefs.

The sunscreen industry lacks adequate regulations and many sunscreens on the market do not even offer the level of protection that they claim by their SPF. Sun Protective Factor or SPF is the ability of a product to protect us against UVA radiation. But nearly 50% of the sunscreens on the market fail to live up to their SPF rating. According to environmental working group, using sunscreen with an SPF over 50 is not likely to offer any better protection to the skin and gives the user a sense of false security.

Currently the FDA is only recognizing 2 ingredients in sun screen as safe for human use – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These offer good protection against UV light, don’t readily break down and are not easily absorbed into our blood.  However, it is best to avoid sprays and powders because these can be inhaled or ingested during use.

Many ingredients in sunscreen have not been tested adequately for safety. Of particular concern is the common ingredient oxybenzone which is readily absorbed through the skin and disrupts hormones affecting fertility, potentially increasing risks for breast and thyroid cancer and endometriosis. It also toxic to coral beds and acts as a bleaching agent.

Sunscreens alone do not protect against skin cancer. If you are going out into the sun, it is good to bring other protective measures like an umbrella, hat, long sleeved shirt or t-shirt, sunglasses.

So, with summer right around the corner and a long year of being stuck inside, its time to get outside!!

But pack along your hat, an umbrella, some sunglasses and perhaps some sunscreen with zinc oxide.

For more information on the best brands of sunscreen to use, check out environmental working group’s website:


By Jennifer Means, ND, LAc

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