Monday, April 14, 2014

The ultimate guide to natural skin protection

I think it's a huge shame that so many people covet tanned skin. Baking in the sun might temporarily make you feel pretty but long term it can be a harmful, possibly even deadly choice. Goodness knows I am completely guilty of major overexposure during my ignorant younger years when I would spend hours on end working on my tan in the summer. I'm also ashamed to say I visited a tanning booth or two back in the day and still remember the rancid smell of fried flesh. Listen up young ladies: the tan you think looks so good today will down the road turn into ugly sun and age spots all over your d├ęcolletage - I promise you'll regret it (wrinkles aren't pretty either). Wish I would have watched and listened to this video, "Dear 16-year-old me".
Sorry Snooki...
Overexposure to the sun can have far worse consequences than wrinkles and sun spots. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and more than ONE MILLION Americans develop it every year. Both my sister and father have had to have the Moh's procedure done more than once where they remove your skin one layer at a time until all skin cancer is completely removed - leaves horrible scars and is very painful. My childhood friend Jessica Hodgkins Dovi died of melanoma at the age of 30. She was pregnant and was diagnosed with melanoma after doctors discovered a suspicious spot on her scalp. Her baby was delivered very early at 26 weeks so she could start aggressive treatment and improve their chances of survival. Her son was born weighing only 1 lb 12 oz and Jessica tragically died a couple months later after the cancer spread to her liver. Her family started a non-profit called Purple Promise Foundation to End Melanoma with the goal of raising awareness and fund top researcher working on a cure. Their website is is full of valuable information and I hope you'll pay it a visit. Bottom line, SKIN CANCER IS NO JOKE and you're literally playing with fire when you spend too much time in the sun.

Prevention is key and you can lower your skin cancer risk by staying out of the sun between 10:00 and 4:00. The amount of sunshine required for maximum Vitamin D exposure is only 15 minutes on your forearms only (elbow to wrist) 3 times a week - anything beyond this requires sunscreen application. This is especially critical if you have a family history of melanoma, more than 25 moles, fair skin or light eyes. Lucky me, I have ALL of these risk factors... I visit my dermatologist annually for my skin check and track all of my moles to make sure nothing looks suspicious. Sunscreen is just part of the equation for protecting yourself and you cannot rely on it as your only defense - it just isn't enough. There are many protective clothing options with tight weaved fabrics that give more protection from the sun. Cover up and a hat is a must!


Nicole Kidman protecting her porcelain skin at a beach in Sydney
Choosing an effective and safe broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) product is key to protecting your skin. Conventional sunscreens (Neutrogena, Coppertone, Banana Boat, Aveeno, typical drug store brands) are LOADED with dangerous chemicals - serious carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that you want to stay far, far away from. 80% of chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone (a type of benzophenone), which is a photocarcinogen and has shown an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells. Because of this profile it has been linked to the increase in melanoma in sunscreen users - sunscreen causing melanoma?! Oxybenzone is also a hormone disruptor and can mimic estrogen in the body, which is linked to breast cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group nearly half of the 500 most popular sunscreens contain Vitamin A and its derivatives retinol and retinyl palmitate. Vitamin A sounds like it would be good for you, but it's not and may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread cancer. Sunscreen isn't regulated by the FDA, so any ingredients are free game (not that it really matters since the FDA approves thousands of dangerous chemicals and consistently falls in line with protecting big business at the expense of public safety - rant over, I feel better). Read this study that shows that many sunscreens are accelerating and not preventing cancer. This letter to the New York Times from Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, stresses the dangers of conventional sunscreen and its cancer risks.

So that's just GREAT. The sunscreens that I have been using to try to prevent cancer could have been giving it to me instead. In the past Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch was my go-to favorite and I loved how it felt just like my regular lotion. I threw it away when I referenced the EWG site - HORRIBLE safety profile and it is jam packed with some of the worst ingredients out there. The spray version that we that thought was so convenient is even worse because you directly inhale the toxins. I was just at the grocery store and saw that Neutrogena has a "Pure and Free" mineral based sunscreen for $11.99/ 3 ounces - look at the ingredients before you fall for this greenwashing marketing gimmick. Retinyl palmitate, BHT, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl Alcohol are hardly pure and free.


Neutrogena's "Pure and Free" Sunscreen ingredients - greenwashing at its worst!
Last year I spent several of Olivia's nap-times researching sunscreens and I discovered a safe solution that works - ZINC OXIDE!!! Zinc oxide based sunscreens offer a healthier alternative and block both UVA and UVB radiation. It is known as "physical sunscreens" by skincare professionals because they are not absorbed into your skin, but simply sit on top and act as a barrier, reflecting the sun's rays away from the skin. It also doesn't irritate skin like oxybenzone tend to do. Just a little heads up…sunscreens powered by this mineral have the tendency to make you look like a washed out geisha. Remember Zinka colored sunscreen back in the 80's that was really thick and impossible to rub in completely? Same thing. At first this really annoyed me but now I appreciate it because you know for sure where you've applied so you don't miss any spots. I'm cool with it now because I know it's safe and not exposing me to dangerous chemicals.

These products work great on the majority of the population, but unfortunately people that suffer from photosensitivity (abnormally sensitive to light, like lupus) require a chemical sunscreen because mineral blockers are not as photostable, especially with UVA protection. It is also very important to stay on top of reapplications.


also available in a sport stick and unscented…
At the end of the summer after trying out several different natural sunscreens, I found a product that offers the best of both worlds - Babo Botanicals! It is zinc oxide based and goes on white but rubs in clear - no more geisha! Strong enough for adults but formulated to be gentle enough for children. Waterproof and sweat resistant. It rubs in easily, isn't greasy and it even worked great on my face since it won't clog pores. This Parent's Magazine "Top Safest Sunscreen" is also non-nano, which is important because a "nano" particle will enter your bloodstream but "non-nano" will not. It smells just like green apple Jolly Ranchers (naturally scented), which many people in online reviews love but is a bit too much for me. When I went to order some a few days ago I was thrilled that they came out with a unscented version - it's my perfect product now! The price is very reasonable at $11.19 on Amazon for 3 ounces - that's less than the Neutrogena!! Plus I love that is it made on a certified organic farm in upstate New York with the highest quality botanical ingredients available and started by a mom turned entrepreneur (she taught bee-keeping while in the Peace Corps which is why she's passionate about sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture = AWESOMENESS)! Side note: Babo also has a great lice repelling hair treatment - haven't had to use it yet, but I know the day is coming…

I haven't tried these products, but they are recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and all have high ratings on Amazon - sunscreen for different occasions and ages:

Best All-Purpose Sunscreen: Jersey Kid's Organic Sunscreen, SPF 30. $14.99/ 2 oz
Best Sport Sunscreen: Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+. $15.99/ 3 oz.
Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen: Sunology Natural Sunscreen Lotion for Body, SPF 50. $14.99/3 oz
Best Kid's Sunscreen:Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30. $15.99/ 2.9 oz
Best Kid's Sport Sunscreen: BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30. $17.99/ 3.4 oz
Best Baby Sunscreen: ECO logical all natural baby sunscreen, SPF 30+. $24.99/ 5.3 oz
Best Sunscreen Deal: Butterbean Sunscreen, SPF 20, $16/ 7 oz

A few sunscreen rules you don't wanna forget:
  • All SPFs have to be reapplied RELIGIOUSLY every 2 hours as they lose effectiveness after that.
  • For an adult you should be able to fill a shot glass full of sunscreen and lather yourself. For your little one filling the palm of your hand should be sufficient.
  • Apply 15 minutes before entering water so it attaches to the epidermis. Reapply after drying off with a towel.
  • If you have "Irish" skin (red/blonde hair, freckles, burn and not tan, blue/green eyes), you must reapply more often because the chances of skin cancer are highest in this skin type.
  • Keep babies under six months old out of the sun completely as their skin is especially sensitive.
  • Try to avoid sun completely between 11-2 when the sun is harshest. It only takes one childhood sunburn to double your melanoma risk later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • WEAR A WIDE BRIMMED HAT!!
I hope this year you'll earn the rights to wear this t-shirt :)

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