Since summer is in full force here in Baltimore, it's time to talk sunscreen. The safety of sunscreen has been swirling in the news lately. There is definitely a delicate balance between getting your daily dose of vitamin D, not getting burned and avoiding unnecessary chemicals. This is where I insert my disclaimer--I'm not a doctor, I just play one on TV. Please take my advice with a grain of salt. I will say that I have had my fair share of sun over the years, if that counts for anything. I have vivid memories of Coppertone oil and sun lamps. I even started my own bath & beauty company to help ward off future wrinkles.
So, here are some don'ts & dos when it comes to the sun:
- (don't) Use the spray sunscreens. I know, they're so convenient, but so is lung cancer. The nano-aerosols in these sunscreens are nasty for your lungs and could cause cancer.
- (don't) Use sunscreen with a synthetic vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. New government data shows that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with this type of vitamin A.
- (don't) Use sunscreens with the chemical oxybenzone. It is a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body.
- (don't) Use a bug spray/sunscreen combo. If you need bug spray, apply it first.
- (don't) Use sunscreen higher than 50. In a recent NY Times article, Dr. Warwick L. Morison, a professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the photobiology committee for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said "he was disappointed that the F.D.A. failed to ban SPF numbers higher than 50 because such products expose people to more irritating sunscreen ingredients without meaningful added protection."
- Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. These substances protect skin from harmful UVA radiation and remain on the skin, with little, if any, penetrating into the body.
- Get a little sun. It's recommended that you get at least 15 minutes of unprotected sun a day on your skin and eyes--yes, eyes. Sunlight helps prevent many eye diseases. Most people have low vitamin D levels that can affect immune function. In the winter, I take 2000 mg of vitamin D a day to compensate for my lack of sun. That's what my doc recommends.
- Check the EWG Sunscreen Report to see how your sunscreen ranks. I love Alba Botanica. It was ranked one of the least toxic and it's quite easy to find at Whole Foods or Wegman's.
- Check out EWG's Hall of Shame and make sure your sunscreen isn't listed.