Be Sun Savvy… What You Don’t Know About Sunscreen

You’ve wished for it all winter long and it is finally here; spring! The sun starts warming the Treasure Valley and soon enough it will be summer time in Idaho! With the tank tops and shorts also comes your mother’s voice in your head saying, “don’t forget your sunscreen!” Ever since we were little, our parents have warned us about getting sunburned and the horrible consequences we can have from it, such as a variety of skin cancers. From the day that we learned about radiation and the effects it can have on humans, such as UV exposure from the sun, we have feared getting these cancers; this is when the sunscreen industry began. This is also when we started to notice the rise in skin cancers, so this begs the question, “why?”

First things first, the sun is here for a reason. It gives energy to everything in this world and without it, we would not exist. It is essential to life and our health, yet we have been told the only thing it is good for is skin cancer. The sun interacts with our skin when we go outside (without sunscreen) and when it does, something wonderful happens within our skin—Vitamin D production! Vitamin D is not actually a Vitamin…it is in fact a hormone. This hormone is the precursor to every other hormone made in the human body.  Without vitamin D, we would all suffer from many health problems, such as high blood pressure, weak bones and muscles and depression. According to a recent study done in 2014 by the Journal of Neurology; vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of Alzheimer ’s disease. There are also many other studies that show vitamin D deficiency can increase our risk for schizophrenia, erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, and heart disease.  So again, why are we as a nation still lathering on the sunscreen if the lack of vitamin D can cause so many health problems?

According to the CDC, more than 60% of the American population uses sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. However, what most people don’t know is that there are many studies that do not support that sunscreen actually reduces the risk of skin cancer.  If sunscreen prevented cancer, we would assume that the rates of skin cancer would decrease over the years of increased sunscreen promotion. In fact the opposite has actually happened. Skin rates have not decreased at all. One explanation is that this is because of HOW MUCH sunscreen we are using, and WHAT KIND of sunscreen we put on our skin. Now we are not saying that we should never use sunscreen, but we need to be sun savvy and be aware of how much exposure time we are getting and what kind of sunscreen we are putting on our body.

Brands of sunscreen that we are used to include Banana Boat, Coppertone, Equate, and Neutrogena. Unfortunately, many of these brands contain hormones such as oxybenzone. Oxybenzone has been linked to health disorders like endometriosis and low testosterone in men because it mimics estrogen in the body. It can also cause allergy-like symptoms like itchy skin in some people. Another ingredient found in popular sunscreens is Retinyl Palmitate, which is a form of vitamin A. Studies have shown that this ingredient actually increases the rate of which a skin tumor or cancer grows. WHAT?? An ingredient in sunscreen, which is SUPPOSED to protect us from skin cancer, actually CAUSES cancer to grow FASTER?! This is why choosing a healthy sunscreen void of these ingredients is essential to being healthy.

The Environmental Working Group has done all the research in finding the best sunscreens to use, whether it’s for yourself or for your kids. Visit for many lists on which sunscreens to choose from. It is so very important to be out in the sun without sunscreen for a little while, so that we are able to produce the Vitamin D we need to function and stay healthy, but we also need to be sun savvy and know when we have had enough sun exposure. The best times to go out into the sun without sunscreen is early mornings and late afternoon, while avoiding mid day when the sun is at its highest.

So quick recap: 1-UV exposure is essential to vitamin D production. 2-It is OKAY to be in the sun without sunscreen for an appropriate time frame 3-when it is time to use sunscreen, do not use popular sunblock, but instead look for healthy brands that are mineral based and do not contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.


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