I can’t tell you what year it was or how old I was — I was young, probably around five or six…
But the pain… Oh the pain!
It was summer and my family was vacationing in Biarritz in the south of France. My siblings and I spent the day playing at the water’s edge, splashing in the waves, building sand castles, digging trenches… Having the time of our life without a care in the world.
I’m sure mom had lathered us with sunscreen and reminded us to keep our T-shirts and hats on… But somehow, by the end of the day, we were practically naked, completely oblivious to the scorching sun baking our skin.
It wasn’t until we got home and took our showers that we felt the intense and unforgettable pain… All four of us had suffered second degree burns and had giant, fluid filled blisters on our backs! Let me tell you neither one of us, nor my poor mom got much sleep the following nights.
We certainly learned our lesson that day and never found ourselves in such a dangerous situation again.
Is Your Sunscreen Safe?
Sun damage is not only extremely painful, it is one of the leading contributors to basal and squamous cell carcinomas, two of the rarest and most fatal forms of skin cancers. And according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), more than two million Americans develop skin cancer each year.
So what do we do? We slather on copious amounts of high level SPF sunscreens. I remember the days when you could not find sunscreens with a higher SPF than 10 or 15 yet now it’s common to find SPF 50 or even 100 offered in a many different ways. These sunscreens come in a variety of presentation including lotions and sprays.
With the rise of the SPF and the almost automatic use of sunscreen, however, a new problem has come to the attention of health professionals: alarming rates of dangerously low levels of vitamin D! Our bodies need sunlight to produce this unique vitamin that we cannot obtain from our food. Vitamin D is key for optimum health, and ironically provides a natural defense against skin cancer.
Even more alarming is the discovery that the vast majority of sunscreens available today contain harmful chemicals that have been shown by some studies to contribute to some of the most devastating forms of skin cancer, as well as lead to allergic reactions, hormone disruption and accelerated aging.
So what is a caring mom to do?
First and foremost learn which ingredients are the most harmful (parabens, oxybenzone, retynil palmitate) and what products to avoid. The EWG has compiled a “Hall of Shame” exposing the most dangerous sunscreens available today. Make sure to check out that list and if you find that you are using a product on the list, throw it out and replace it with an organic sunscreen that is either unscented or scented with essential oils. With the heightened awareness about the devastating consequences of harmful chemicals a variety of safe products are available either online or at your local health food store. Make sure to read labels and properly vet these products before purchasing them.
How To Choose a Safe Sunscreen
Look for sunscreens that:
- are made from mineral based ingredients that do not penetrate the skin (zinc oxide for example)
- have an SPF range of 10 to 30, 50 at most.
- contain no parabens
- are broad spectrum (UVA and UVB)
- are unscented or scented with essential oils
- are lotion based (sorry spray are a big no-no)
- are non-nano
For years now, I’ve mostly gone without sunscreen because I am one of those lucky ladies with dangerously low levels of vitamin D, thanks in part to my lovely olive skin. Instead I control the amount of time I spend in the sun. When I know I’ll be out for an extended period of time, I allow myself some unprotected time (about half an hour or so) then put on a fabulous and stylish large brimmed hat!
Sun safety can be fun! To encourage you to enjoy your time outdoors in a safe and healthy way, I’ve partnered with my friends at United Healthcare to bring you a fun set of summer dares.
Snap a selfie or two and upload your photo at WeDareYouToShare.com and you could be the lucky winner of a gorgeous canopy. You can enter once a day so go ahead and get snap crazy!
And while you are on the website, check out the other fun dares for a chance to win one of two $400 Gift Card or one of the many weekly $25 Gift cards.