Currently viewing the tag: "sunscreen"


The-Bright-Sun-Blue-Sky-Clouds (Copy)I am one lucky mother…I love the sun, and I live in Southern California. But like many people, believe it or not, I sometimes neglect my sun needs. Nothing is crazier, I know, when so many regions are sun-deprived for much of the year. It’s the equivalent of “starving children…” in the guilt-trip-you-for-not-doing-something-you’re-supposed-to-category. But, believe me, we pay the price for our negligence.

I had been feeling not so great recently, and frankly I was perplexed. I had been working out regularly; in fact, it was first time in long time I have been completely injury-free. Shoulders felt good. Low back good…I was eating well. Lots of vegetables; good portions. Juicing. Quit coffee, so sleeping much better than…ugh months. On purpose professionally and within my dharma…but somehow, I was not feeling “myself”. I was starting to wonder if this aging thing really has something to it. I have never been an ageist. I just believe that you can be in the best shape of your life at any age. I really do. But I was tired, a little blue, and skin as white as some new veneers. I said to myself, “This year, I am going to channel Apollo.” I will commit to daily sun for the entire summer—beach, canyons, festivals, everything, bikes, stilts, pogo sticks, you name it. No more Mr. Pasty guy. Not this year.

Before

So I started last week at the local swimming pool with my kids. I actually wore sunscreen, cos my white-a** skin was extremely vulnerable. I felt immediately different. That night I had that good ol’ familiar sun-glow; you know the one, that buzz around your entire sun-exposed body. And I had a sort of refreshing tiredness, if you know what I mean. Then Sunday, Fathers Day, I took my girls to the beach. It was overcast, but hot and humid. I used sunscreen again. We sat in the sun for about two hours, which was perfect. While I got a teeny bit red (I’m not worried about it) that night, I felt really good—that, “I just did something real nice for my body,” good.

Then this week, I hit the hiking trail — evening hikes, diminishing sun, cooler temps — and really got my coconut stick legs some exposure. In exactly one week that saw me in the sun five of seven days, I already notice the difference. My energy levels have been boosted significantly, so both for physical exertion, and for mental work that comprises the bulk of what I do. Both are different in need and stamina; in other words, just because you have energy to go to the gym, doesn’t mean you have it to sit down and do your taxes for five hours, and vice versa, of course. My sleep has been deep and satisfying, which has me the most grateful because that area has been real wacky for some time. My mood is uplifted, light and enthusiastic, and I look ten years younger (no seriously…stop).

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And none of this is surprising to me. Like everybody, I sometimes forget how vital sufficient sun exposure is to health and well being, and thus how vital to the way I feel. It’s so easy to forget, especially since I take 5000 IU vitamin D every day. Supplementing is not the same as the real thing. Supplementing is only to fill in the gaps—the bulk of any nutrient must come from its source (write that down). Vitamin D, as we have seen over the last decade and more, is involved in so many processes that it truly is the wonder vitamin. Being sufficient in vitamin D is as empowering as being deficient is debilitating. From increased cancer risk, to immune dysfunction, to increased blood pressure, a lack of sufficient quantities of vitamin D3 in your blood leaves you susceptible to disease, while optimal levels can make you feel and operate at you highest.

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Duh to me…but I am happy to remember the basics when I stop feeling quite right (we all oscillate through high and low health constantly, within our own unique yet variable physiological range). That’s all it takes. Nobody has to feel the need for perfection—it’s up-and-down over and over again—just remain mindful. I challenge any fellow well-meaning hermits to get in the sun daily this summer, even if just for a walk on your lunch break. Eat lunch outside, do your paperwork in the park, drop beats in the heat—whatever you have to do to get your sun in this year. Me…I’ll be at the beach.


Last post I discussed vitamin D insufficiency resulting from too little sun, and I’m not holding back knocking dermatologic scare tactics keeping people out of the sun. The addition of sunscreen lotions to our moisturizing products and makeup has become pervasive. Aside from keeping us from getting our necessary vitamin D, sunscreens have a direct effect on our health.

As a recap, we need sun exposure; sunlight causes the production of vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D is necessary for many functions, and being low in vitamin D can cause a bevy of problems. I’m not going over all of them here. I’ve written plenty of posts on vitamin D insufficiency; they are all here (here, here, and here). I also recommend reading my article on vitamin D–it’ll direct you on how to get tested and find out your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D insufficiency is epidemic today, and people are developing chronic illness as a result. Educate yourself on the dangers, get tested, take supplements and get sun, that simple.

What I want to discuss is the direct danger of using sunscreen. This product has been so ingrained into our lifestyle that people accept it’s safety as if it were soap. I encourage you to think twice. Let’s look:

Melanin, the brown pigment that is released when skin is exposed to sunlight, absorbs UV radiation and dissipates the energy as harmless heat, blocking the UV rays from damaging skin tissue. It is nature’s amazing photoprotectant–more than 99.9% of these molecules repel photon energy. Compare this to some ingredients in popular sunscreens–the most effective only repelling 81% photon energy, and some as low as 10%.

Because of its poor dissipation of photon energy, sunscreens actually allow more free radical formation. My regular readers know what these damaging chemicals are, but for those of you who don’t, free radicals oxidize molecules and tissue potentially leading to cancer and other degenerative diseases including premature aging.

Not only are sunscreens poor photoprotectants, but some of their ingredients have been implicated as increasing the concentration of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can also cause oxidative damage to DNA, cells and tissues leading to inflammatory diseases and premature aging. In one study, the sunscreen acted as a protector for the first twenty minutes; after 60 minutes, however, it increased the number of ROS in the skin.

Some studies (also here and here) have even implicated sunscreen as increasing the risk of developing malignant melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers. However, two meta-analyses (and here) failed to show a causal effect of sunscreen use on melanoma development, despite the correlation found in the other studies. So the jury is still out on whether sunscreen increases the skin cancer risk.

What is pretty clear, though, is the health risk posed by some of the synthetic compounds found in sunscreens. From Wikipedia:

In 2007 two studies by the CDC highlighted concerns about the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone (benzophenone-3). The first detected the chemicals in greater than 95% of 2000 Americans tested, while the second found that mothers with high levels of oxybenzone in their bodies were more likely to give birth to underweight baby girls.

Finally, there has been some concern over nanoparticles used in many sunscreens. Nanoparticles could increase rates of certain cancers or diseases similar to those caused by asbestos.

With all the potential dangers linked to using sunscreens, along with their blocking our vitamin D producing capacity (as well as studies showing sun exposure lowering death rates of cancer patients), why the heck would anybody continue using them regularly? Like I said last post–I’m done. I’m getting my daily sun sans sunscreen. If I go to the beach, I’ll put some on after about twenty minutes, then I’ll get under my umbrella. Short bouts of sun, that’s it. That’s how I’m doing it. How ’bout you?

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