The Good, Green Scoop (Goop?) About Sunscreens

See entire July 20, 2011 newsletter

As promised and as reminded by so many of you, here is the information about what to look for in a GOOD sunscreen and just some general tips for minimizing your exposure to the sun. I honestly cannot thank all of you enough for your thoughtful comments and feedback.

Here’s one suggestion from my friend Pamela Portwood who REALLY knows her stuff about what’s good and what’s not for your home, your health, and your body. She writes: “I suggest that you do the flip side of what to avoid and address what to look for in a sunscreen to find a non-toxic and effective product. Sunscreens are so difficult. I used to wear my sunscreen every single day everywhere because I had a melanoma almost 15 years ago. (People who have had melanomas are five times more likely to have another one than the population at large.) Last year I had a vitamin D deficiency, so I’ve started wearing sunscreen less rigorously to get some sunlight. It can be a catch-22, and a very important issue in the desert.”

What is the BEST sunscreen? Honestly? Wearing a hat and a shirt! It’s avoiding the sun. No chemicals to absorb through the skin, no questions about whether they work. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to do that. But when you can’t get away from exposing your skin to the sun or you are just one of those sun worshippers – at least you can educate yourself and find some sunscreens that are not filled with harmful chemicals! A couple of easy things to remember – ALL top rated sunscreens contain either zinc or titanium minerals to help cut the UVA exposure and NONE of them contain oxybenzone or Vitamin A. Those are actually easy to remember and if you don’t think you can, I invite you to take a look at Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Sunscreen Guide to read all about what’s good for your health and what’s not! Aubrey Organics; Eco Skin Care; and Loving Naturals are just a few that rank very high on the “safe” scale but EWG’s extensive list is very thorough and there are many other safe products. It’s all about being an informed consumer! Please remember to avoid sun screens that contain hazardous chemicals, which MANY of them do.

Now about some common sense sun protection measures – they are so simple and yet so important to your health!

Don’t get burned. Red, sore, blistered (then peeling) skin is a clear sign you’ve gotten far too much sun. Sunburn increases skin cancer risk – keep your guard up! I so wish I had known this during those years oh-so-long ago as a sun worshipping teenager at the Jersey shore. But alas – I did not and I am just keeping my fingers crossed. I do know my risk is high from damage long ago so I am very vigilant about monitoring any suspicious spots.

Wear clothes. Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays – and don’t coat your skin with goop. A long-sleeved surf shirt is a good start. Throwing a towel over your legs at the pool, lake or beach is another good thing to do.

Find shade – or make it. Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella, take a canopy to the beach. I can’t imagine that I have to say this but keep your babies and grandbabies in the shade – They are so much more vulnerable because they literally don’t have tanning pigments (melanin) to protect their skin. It’s our job!

If you really want to get into the whole prevention thing: plan around the sun. If your schedule is flexible, go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. UV radiation peaks at midday, when the sun is directly overhead. Nothing ages your skin faster than sun exposure. Just think about how much money you might save on plastic surgery down the road if you take some measures from this point on.

And just another little tidbit that I learned the hard way! Wear sunglasses! Sunglasses are essential. They are not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation, a cause of cataracts. Make sure your sunglasses have UV protection! You never think it’s going to happen to you but your chances of getting cataracts are more likely if you don’t protect your eyes from the sun! Read between the lines…