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Natural Sun Protection

Filed Under: Personal Care at 11:27 am | By: Dr. Jeremy Wolf, ND & Lead Wellness Advisor
sunscreenSpring is here and summer is fast approaching. Do you know what’s in your sunscreen? According to a 2012 study by the Environmental Working Group, it’s considered that 75% of sunscreens contain harmful ingredients, and only 25% are effectively protecting your skin. Here’s how they work. Sunscreens combine organic and inorganic chemicals to filter the light from the sun so less of it reaches the deeper layers of your skin. Sunblock, on the other hand, reflects or scatters the light away so that it doesn’t reach the skin at all. All sunblocks have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating. The SPF rating indicates how long a sunscreen remains effective on the skin. For instance, if you normally develop a sunburn in 10 minutes without wearing a sunscreen, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will protect you for 150 minutes (10 minutes multiplied by the SPF of 15).

According to the Environmental Working Group, 56% of beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, some research shows oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin. The Environmental Working Group and other toxicology experts claim that oxybenzone is linked to hormone disruption, and potentially to cell damage which may lead to skin cancer.

Another common chemical found in sunscreen is retinyl palminate. While the number of sunscreens that contain retinyl palminate have gone down, the Environmental Working Group warns consumers to avoid it entirely as it hasn’t been proven to make sunscreen more effective. Government-funded studies have found that this particular type of vitamin A may increase risk of skin cancer when used on sun-exposed skin. These reports have been in mice and evidence has been inconclusive for humans.

Anther fact to consider when purchasing your sunscreen is that higher SPF isn’t necessarily better. The Environmental Working Group stated “Studies show that high-SPF users are exposed to as many or more ultraviolet rays as those who use lower-SPF  products, probably because consumers get a false sense of security from those big numbers and don’t apply as often.”  Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 93% of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%, which isn’t a whole lot more.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused when thinking about what type of sunblock you should buy. Keep in mind to read the ingredients, avoid oxybenzone and retinyl palminate, and that higher SPF isn’t necessarily better. This summer, shop all your natural sun protection needs at

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