As temperatures get warmer and summer edges closer and closer, now is a perfect time to start thinking about natural ways to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Keep reading for our commonsense tips on natural sun care.
The Facts on Sun Exposure
Sunburns aren’t the only issue — although anyone who has logged a few skin-peeling nightmares in their lifetime will attest that they’re reason enough to protect your skin. Overexposure to the sun can cause other issues too, including wrinkles, skin cancer, cataracts, and even immune system suppression.
And just in case you need any more convincing to use natural sun care, the EPA states that what many of us see as natural signs of aging are, in fact, a result of UV radiation. They explain, “Chronic exposure to the sun also causes premature aging, which over time can make the skin become thick, wrinkled, and leathery. Since it occurs gradually, often manifesting itself many years after the majority of a person’s sun exposure, premature aging is often regarded as an unavoidable, normal part of growing older. However, up to 90 percent of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun. With proper protection from UV radiation, most premature aging of the skin can be avoided.”
The Truth behind Sunscreen
Awareness of the dangers of excessive UV exposure has greatly increased since the days when our grandparents would sit outside slathered in baby oil with a sunlight reflector held under their faces. But the way we go about protecting ourselves may be just as dated.
Store-bought sunscreen tends to be the first option for those who want to protect their skin. While this a good option, it’s not the only option — and it might not even be the safest.
You see, somewhat paradoxically, some of the ingredients found in common sunscreens may actually harm you. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has diligently researched and recorded the active ingredients in many popular sunscreens. They conclude, “Lab studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones or cause skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended effects on human health from frequent sunscreen application. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, added to nearly 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens in EWG’s 2016 sunscreen database. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of the American population, based on a representative sampling of children and adults.”
Even more disturbingly, many sunscreens contain Vitamin A, which can actually cause malignant cells to grow faster and speed up the onset of skin cancer.
When one of the most common ingredients in sunscreens is also a known hormone disruptor and applying it might be doing more to cause skin cancer than prevent it, well, that’s just a little worrisome.
So, what’s the solution? Natural sun care!
5 Natural Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun
- First, don’t rely completely on sunscreens to protect you. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing to block up to 30 percent of harmful rays and protect skin without needing to apply a cream or spray. You’ll also have the marked advantage of looking slightly bohemian, which is always a plus in my book.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and/or sunglasses to protect your face and your eyes on those sweet sunny days.
- Avoid the sun during peak hours. You know how hot countries have siestas? This is why! Plan to work indoors, take a long lunch, or find shade from around 11 am to 2 pm.
- Choose a mineral sunscreen rather than a chemical sunscreen. It may take you a little longer to rub in, but mineral sunscreens typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and allow you to avoid the harmful additives in chemical sunscreens.
- Alternately, you could get crafty and make your own sunscreen. DIY sunscreens typically combine a mineral sunblock like zinc oxide with skin-soothing essential oils to create a rich, protecting cream.
Making it yourself allows full control over what’s in your cream, while also avoiding the waste of plastic sunscreen bottles. This recipe from Dr. Axe is a great place to start, full of nourishing oils and protecting zinc oxide. This recipe from Pronounce Skincare is loaded with great-smelling coconut oil and beeswax.
However you choose to protect your skin this summer, just remember to keep some natural aloe vera on hand too … you know, just in case.
Madeleine Somerville is a writer, author, and blogger. Her first book All You Need Is Less was published in April 2014. Her writing has appeared in both print and online outlets, including The Guardian, Earth911, Yahoo!Shine, TreeHugger, and Alternet. She lives in Calgary, Canada with her four-year-old daughter and writes at SweetMadeleine.ca.
Do you use natural sun care? Are you going to make your own sunscreen now? Let us know below or on Facebook and Twitter.