When I was an exchange student in Mexico, I spent a lot of weekends at the beach. I remember going to buy some sunscreen my first day there, when a fellow exchange student stopped me abruptly. "You'll never get a tan if you use that! You need tanning oil." People didn't take sun protection as seriously back then as they do now. And at age 19, the last thing I thought about was wrinkles and age spots. So, I put the sunscreen back on the shelf and purchased a tan accelerator made with carrot oil instead. I got the tan of my life that year, but I also damaged my skin and surely increased my risk of skin cancer.
I've since learned just how important sun protection is for healthy skin--but the type of sunscreen is equally, if not more, critical than whether you use it. As BNs beauty editor Sherrie Strausfogel points out, conventional sunscreens contain harmful chemicals--most notably, oxybenzone and octinoxate. According to the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), "Laboratory studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones, and physicians report sunscreen-related skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended human health consequences from frequent sunscreen application."
The two chemicals mentioned above can hurt the environment too. In May, Hawaii passed a bill banning the sale of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate. The toxins are thought to destroy coral reefs, leading to coral bleaching when washed off in the ocean. Once signed by Hawaii's governor, the bill will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
Fortunately, there are many natural choices when it comes to sun protection. Tinted and nontinted sunscreens made with zinc oxide (the most natural sunscreen available) and titanium dioxide work as well as conventional products. And they actually help improve your skin, especially when combined with certain antioxidants and herbs, some of which can help trigger your body's built-in UV mechanism. Read about five of our favorite ones on p. 26.
We have more sun safety advice in this issue: Learn how to protect against skin cancer through diet and supplements on p. 10 in "Holistic Therapies for Skin Cancer," and get the latest information on vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, in "Go Natural in 90" on p. 28.