Is Sunscreen Your Best Protection?
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on July 6, 2013 by Paulina Nelega, RH
The hot, sunny days of summer are upon us, and that often means slathering on the sunscreen before we hit the beach or go about our day. But wait! Did you know that chemicals in many commercial sunscreens may actually end up contributing to the very thing we are trying to protect against—skin cancer?
Upon exposure to UV, some of the chemicals in common sunscreens can produce highly damaging free radicals which damage DNA in the skin cells, making them more susceptible to mutation (and possibly leading to melanoma or other skin cancers). As well, once the chemicals in sunscreen are absorbed into our system they put an additional, cumulative burden of toxins upon our liver.
You can protect yourself from the inside-out with antioxidants from colored fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices including rosemary, thyme, ginger and turmeric, green tea, and red wine (in moderation). Astaxanthin, a unique, pinkish colored fat-soluble carotenoid, is a superb antioxidant that can be taken as a supplement. Because it is fat-soluble, it enters the lipid (fatty) bilayer of cell membranes, including skin cells, where it provides antioxidant protection from damaging UV rays.
20-30 minutes of sun exposure before 10 a.m. will benefit your body by promoting vitamin D synthesis; after that time, cover up exposed areas with light-colored cotton, linen or other natural fibers that breathe, and don a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp and hair.
Get outside and enjoy the sun – safely!
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan