Horseman’s Health: Summer Health & Sunscreens

By guest contributor Barb Swanson
(author of Beyond Foods: The Handbook of Functional Nutrition)

It’s the time to enjoy the outdoors! In the last several years, common health knowledge says to always use sunscreens when outdoors.

There are two types of sunscreens:
Physical sunscreens are made from the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by completely blocking all UV rays. Other than nano-sized options–which have the potential to travel down through the outer protective layer of your epidermis–these are safe and inert.

Filter sunscreens contain chemicals that ‘filter’ out (actually, they absorb) different bands of UV rays. The chemicals that absorb UV rays are extremely irritating. As they absorb UV rays, they are degraded into toxic by-products which must then be removed by your skin. This leads to free radical production–which is one of the major root causes of many diseases and disorders.

Typically, mineral-only sunscreens are more expensive. IMO, it is worth the money to use a mineral-only product. You will still need to decide how much sun to get but at least your sunscreen will not be promoting diseases based on free radical damage!

If sunscreen is so bad for humans, why do so many doctors recommend using it?
Sunscreen prevents sunburn. And sunburn is a major cause of skin cancers. We know that increased exposure to radiation can lead to increased cancers. However, using sunscreens any time you are outside also leads to vitamin D deficiency.

It is very important to realize that the real cause of sunburn is not merely in UV exposure; it is also a lack of antioxidant nutrition. Sunburn is the direct result of acute free radical damage. Adding antioxidants provides more ammunition for your body to neutralize them before they lead to other issues.

Important questions about sunscreen
Before deciding when and what type of sunscreen you wish to use, ask yourself these commonsense questions:
1) How much sun exposure is really dangerous?
There is no doubt that sunshine, and its UV rays, offer some health benefits. Understanding how to be in the sun responsibly is important.

2) Are the chemicals used in filter sunscreen products safe?
The evidence says, ‘NO!” In fact, outside of the US, only one chemical sunscreen is common, and most are not even legal, due to potential health problems they cause, including interference with the body’s hormonal systems.

3) If any sunshine exposure is always dangerous, then why would humans evolve a mechanism for generating a vitamin from sunlight?
This is an important question to consider. We are created to maintain health via our body’s amazing processes.

Summer Sun Solutions
The sun provides the nourishment to generate a crucial vitamin that supports human health in a multitude of ways. Humans make their own vitamin D3 when they are exposed to sunlight. However, there is no doubt too much sun is dangerous.

Action items

  • Buy natural, mineral based sunscreen products containing no petrochemicals
  • Remember, you need some sunlight. We have developed over millennia to use the sun’s light. Pick times early in the morning or late in the afternoon to be in the sun and absorb life-giving light.
  • Use an antioxidant-based lotion. This way, you can get the benefits of UV rays and still have free-radical fighting benefits too.
  • The best sunscreen is an internal sunscreen built with nutrition. Start eating lots of berries and other antioxidant foods, and you’ll build up an internal sunscreen that will protect your skin from sunburn from the inside out.