What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it!
If you are reading this blog post, I assume you are someone who is already eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and looking to overcome your health issues naturally.
Are you putting in the same amount of effort in avoiding environmental toxins and chemical-laden skin care products?
If not, you seriously need to start. Especially if you are dealing with symptoms of a hormonal imbalance.
One of the worst offenders when it comes to toxic personal care products is sunscreen.
It has been ingrained into our minds since childhood that we absolutely must be wearing sunscreen, if we are planning on spending more than 10 minutes outside in the sun.
I bet you all have memories of your parents slathering you from head to toe in thick white lotion whilst on the beach on holiday. All you wanted to do was build a sandcastle or play in the sea, but instead you had to wait and deal with lots of stinging when the sunscreen got too near your eyes.
Our parents were obviously trying to protect us and were 'following the rules' by doing this, however it is now understood that they may have been causing more harm than good.
Think about it...skin cancer rates are rising (especially melanoma), despite more sunscreen use and reduced sun exposure in recent decades. There are obviously other factors involved.
We all agree that burning our skin is bad for our health and increases our risk of skin cancer, however the link with vitamin D and our overall risk for developing disease is often overlooked.
Vitamin D & Cancer
Last week, I shared a whole article on the benefits of vitamin D, specifically for PCOS and hormones. You can check it out here!
As an overview, vitamin D (which is actually a hormone in itself) is produced by our skin when we are exposed to sunlight.
When we wear sunscreen, the SPF (sun protection factor) works by absorbing or reflecting some of the sun's ultraviolet radiation and thus helps protect against sunburn.
Another important factor to remember is that a lot of products only protect against UVB rays, which are the rays needed by your body in order to produce vitamin D in your skin. However the most dangerous rays, which contribute to skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays.
The majority of us are deficient in this nutrient. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to higher risk of cancer and heart disease, which actually kills more people than skin cancer each year!
Vitamin D is also needed for the proper functioning of our immune system. Weakened immunity allows for the development of cancer cells and a decreased rate of autophagy (programmed cell death).
Dangers of Conventional Sunscreen
Sunscreen comes in two basic types: physical or chemical. Physical sunscreen contains minerals such as zinc and titanium dioxide. They tend to be the thick, white varieties often seen on lifeguards and athletes . Chemical sunscreens are made from a variety of different compounds, often oxybenzone and other similar compounds.
Oxybenzone has been linked to allergic skin reactions and hormone disruption. Studies have shown it to have weak oestrogenic and potent anti-androgenic effects.
Sunscreens that contain vitamin A and its derivatives (retinol and retinyl palmitate), and other hazardous ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate have been shown to increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer in studies! (...So much for skin cancer prevention.)
'Penetration enhancing' chemicals are often added to products to help the sunscreen adhere to skin. As a result, the chemicals can be absorbed into the body and can actually be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples.
Of the 1,400+ sunscreens tested by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), only 5% met their safety standards and over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer!
What to Look For and Avoid When Buying Sunscreen?
Taking just 30 seconds to look at the ingredients list on any product you buy (food included) is one habit that should adopt if you are serious about your health.
I love to recommend the free Think Dirty app from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to my clients, as you are able to scan the barcodes of products using your smartphone and are given a rating as to whether they are safe to use or if they contain chemicals known to harm human health and cause cancer (carcinogens).
In fact, a 2017 report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that nearly 75 percent of sunscreens didn’t work. That is to say these sunscreens provide inadequate sun protection and/or they contained harmful ingredients.
It is important to note that there is no perfect sunscreen.
Many contain harmful chemicals, and even the 'non-toxic' mineral-based ones can contain nanoparticles which are minute ingredients that can cross the blood-brain barrier and also harm aquatic life. This is why it is important to look for the safer sunscreens if you use them, whilst also practicing safe sun exposure, spending time in the shade and eating a skin protective diet (see below)
Brands I Trust
A lot of these brands are UK based and offer safer sun protection products...many are organic too!
Green People SPF 30 Scent Free Lotion
JASON Mineral Natural Sunscreen SPF 30
Organii Sun Milk SPF 50
Tropic Sun Care Discovery Kit
Odylique Natural Sunscreen SPF 30
You can find them in health food shops and online.
(Please note I have no affiliation with any of these brands, I am just sharing the products I have used personally or have researched)
- Get 10-30 minutes (depending on skin type) of sunlight exposure on unprotected skin, before applying your non toxic sunscreen.
- Cover Up! When you have had enough sun exposure, pop on a hat, some long sleeves and shelter under an umbrella.
- Build up your exposure slowly. If you are currently living in the dreary Scottish Highlands and you are off to Mexico in the middle of summer, be sensible and gradually work up your minutes in the sun each day, or you are probably going to experience some nasty burns.
- Ditch the conventional products and swap them for safer brands
- DO NOT BURN! When your skin starts to feel hot or turn pink/red, it's time to find some shade or apply your sunscreen.
- Eat your sunscreen! Make sure your diet is filled with lots of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant rich foods which help to repair free radical damage and protect your skin. These include berries, dark chocolate, astaxanthin (found in wild salmon and other seafood), lycopene (found in cooked tomatoes), pomegranates and citrus fruits.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. Consuming excess omega 6 fatty acids such as seed oils, factory farmed dairy and meat products, trans fats, processed foods, refined sugar and individual food intolerances all lead to a pro-inflammatory state.
- Maintain your Vitamin D levels year round. Genetic variations, ethnicity and geographical location can all affect our vitamin D levels, therefore I recommend bi-annual blood testing to determine the need for supplementation and the appropriate dosage.
Have you ditched the conventional sunscreen products? What non-toxic sunscreen brands do you love? What is your biggest concern with sun exposure?
Book your free 30 minute PCOS Troubleshooting phone call with me today by clicking here! My mission in life is to help women overcome their symptoms naturally by addressing the root causes of their hormone imbalances.