Most people that know me know that I used to be a self-proclaimed tannorexic & sun goddess. Tanning was not just a thing that I did casually at the cottage on weekends it was an actual, legitimate lifestyle that I overindulged in. I was never tan enough and no amount of minutes purchased at a tanning salon (yes I know) or hours spent in the sun would ever satisfy me. And was it worth it? No, looking back I looked like an orange oompa loompa in a poofy gold prom dress and my dermatologist now says I have enough radiation in my skin to last an entire lifetime. However an event in my life completely changed my perspective about tanning & learning when to put the oil down… which I now know is ALWAYS. I’ve therefore put together a bit of a laundry list of safe sunning information so that you can still enjoy the outdoors (I’m personally a cottage girl at heart) while protecting yourself from harmful rays.
The Sunshine Vitamin
First off let me start by stating that despite the bad rap the sun gets, it is a very important source of vitamin D which is essential for bone development and prevention of osteoporosis (it increases the absorption of calcium). Vitamin D is very difficult to get in our diets, particularly for vegetarians and vegans because it’s most high in dairy products, tuna and salmon. So the sun IS a great option to get our vitamin D – talk to your doctor about exposure to sun & vitamin D. Aside from this, safe sun practices should always be used.
Toxins, Chemicals, & Parabens… OH MY!
So lets talk sunscreen. Today most of the beauty products we buy at the store come with built-in SPF (which is GREAT – aside from the fact that they typically contain tons of chemicals, preservatives, and irritants). It’s important to know what to look for in order to get the most effective and safe products out there on the market in terms of sun, environmental & general overall safety. Here is a list of chemicals common in sunscreens that are particularly concerning:
Oxybenzone: weak hormone disrupter
Methylbenzylidene Camphor: hormone disruptor & thyroid suppressor
Homosalate: weak hormone disrupter
Butylparaben: preservative, now banned in Denmark.
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A): may cause accelerated skin damage and tumour growth when exposed to UV sunlight. If you have moisturizers that contain retinyl palmitate simply use them before bed or when you will not be exposed to the sunlight.
Parabens: preservative, hormone disrupter, possible carcinogen
The Organic Good Guys
Right about now you’re probably thinking that I’m a bit mad trying to sift through sunscreens to avoid these chemicals, and it is a bit intimidating and unrealistic to carry around a list as long as the above. However there are some useful hints to keep in mind when sunscreen shopping. When looking for the right sunscreen you’ll want to make sure they’re either stamped with the Ecocert, USDA Organic, COSMOS, or BDIH logos along with the words “Broad Spectrum Protection” (UVA & UVB). My absolute favourite sunscreen happens to be the Canadian grown & Ecocert approved, Green Beaver (you can find it at most health food stores).
The “C” Word
Now we have to talk a little bit about the scary C word.. cancer.
I think it’s especially important to note here that sunscreen companies are NOT allowed to make anti-cancer claims on their sunscreen if it’s lower than SPF15; this means that sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 do not protect you against skin cancer. Keep this in mind when purchasing products and go with a higher SPF.
Now if you’re like me and practically lived at a tanning salon for most of your youth (thank GOODNESS they’re now banned to kids under 18), then submit yourself to a full body check with your dermatologist, chances are they’ll likely find nothing but it will be great for education and awareness. You’ll be well informed about the ABCDE’s of mole checks and they will encourage you to do a monthly self-check. And never ever ever ever ever EVER step foot into a tanning salon again… EVER. Promise yourself that and do it for your loved ones, future spouse, children, & family. The short term glow is not going to be worth the long term pain & heartache that cancer will inevitably cause, trust me. If you’re desperate for a tan pick up a self-tanner that is organic certified with one of the above logos.
Well that’s my spiel on sun safety. If you follow these guidelines you’ll be able to lead a healthier life and still enjoy the outdoors. There are so many beautiful adventures out there in the world that should be enjoyed to the fullest… just make sure you do it safely 🙂
EWG sunscreens: http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
“Ecoholic Body” Adria Vasil