By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Light spring weather sends us to the back of the closet where we’ve stashed shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits. (In Atlanta, where the weather seems to snap back and forth between glorious spring and frigid winter until the end of April, switching closets now may be premature.) But no matter how unending the cold weather may seem, summer is on its way.
The most important accessory for summer, beating out flip-flops and a new swimsuit, is protection from the summer sun. Worldwide, one in three diagnosed cancers is skin cancer. The majority of malignant melanomas (cancerous tumors) are caused by excessive sun damage. One of the best defenses against skin cancer is sunscreen. But for the last few years, consumer anxiety about sunscreen safety has grown. Is it warranted?
Alternative “health” sites like Mercola argue that sunscreen is toxic. (It’s prudent to note that Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website is not a trustworthy resource; I mention it, however, because it is well known. Its eponymous founder has been sent multiple warning letters from the FDA for making false claims.) Certainly, there is debate about certain ingredients in sunscreen, but there is little scientific data supporting the claim that sunscreen use can lead to health problems. To date, there are no recorded health concerns linked to the proper use of sunscreen.
Another complaint lodged against chemical sunscreen is its interference with our body’s natural ability to make vitamin D from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is vital and many of us don’t get enough of it. But we can get it from food and supplements, which is fortunate since the sun isn’t a reliable source of vitamin D for everyone. Our skin’s ability to produce vitamin D is affected by season, cloud cover, the time of day, the latitude where we live, and which body parts we expose, as well as our age and the color of our skin.
Really, there’s not much cause to be skittish about sunscreen. Especially when you consider the risks of skin cancer.
- The average person’s risk of melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns.
- Melanoma accounts for six percent of all cancer cases for teens 15 to 19. It is the most common form of cancer for 25 to 29 year olds.
- The incidence of melanoma increased 1.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2009. Of the seven most common cancers in the United States, melanoma is the only one whose occurrence is increasing.
Which Sunscreens Are Safest?
If you’re still not convinced, I have great news! There is effective sunscreen that contains none of the chemicals some consumers are worried about. You can use a resource like Good Guide (a company that is dedicated to evaluating the health, societal, and environmental impacts of products.) If you click the link, you’ll find a list sunscreens ranked by their health impact. Many brands, like Badger, KINesSYS and even the more mainstream L’oreal, score a perfect 10 on the health scale. This means they contain no ingredients that raise a health concern. All are available for purchase through Amazon, as is Bare Belly Organics (via third-party link), which was created by an Atlanta pediatric ICU nurse who was shocked by the number of childhood cancers she was seeing!
How Can You Protect Yourself Without Sunscreen?
- Cover up. Find a stylish, broad brim hat or two and wear them to protect your face. Invest in lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants for yard work and a day on on the beach. You’ll avoid harsh rays and save your skin.
- Try to avoid direct sunlight when UV rays are the strongest, between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Bring back the parasol. In other countries, many people (mostly women), still carry a summer parasol. There’s no better way to get out of the sun than by creating and carrying around your own shade