Safe sunscreen can be insanely expensive, which brings up the issue of which is worse, chemical exposure or unprotected sun exposure.
So – which is worse?
Too much unprotected sun exposure can result in skin cancer – and not just a few cases either. Each year more skin cancers occur than all the other cancers smashed together, and sun exposure is considered the leading reason why. Other bad stuff can happen if you get too much unprotected sun exposure though too, like prematurely aged skin and wrinkles, age spots, scaly and rough skin patches, cataracts and blindness, suppressed immune system and more.
So yeah, unprotected sun exposure is a big bad. But is chemical exposure just as bad?
Chemical exposure is no picnic. That’s why Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their annual Safe Sunscreen Guides in the first place. EWG notes that…
Sunscreens ingredients can release free radicals onto your skin and into your body. The most common harmful sunscreen ingredients, according to EWG, can cause hormone disruption, altered body organs, skin and other allergies, DNA damage, skin irritation and more.
SafeMama only approves sunscreens free of, “Parabens, Phthalates, PEG’s (polyethylene glycols), Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, SLS/SLES, and a bevy of other chemicals” and for good reason. Chemicals like these can cause…
Cancer, developmental problems, hormone disruption, reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy, eye irritation, skin irritation and more. Not to mention that sunscreens are a little bitty piece of the puzzle. We’re exposed to massive amounts of other chemicals and like-minded toxins daily due to toxic cleaners, environmental pollution, other body care products, plastics and the food we eat.
All of this stuff adds up to one big ol’ problem. Our bodies are full of junk – and we can’t be sure what all these chemicals and icky ingredients are doing to us. We do know that chemicals and pesticides can fester in our bodies for decades or longer and that babies are now being born already chock full of potentially harmful chemicals.
Things get more confusing when experts, semi-experts and even your neighbors start debating stuff like…
- Hey, maybe sunscreen doesn’t even prevent skin cancer – in fact, maybe sunscreen even cause cancer.
- Wait, flip-side that last remark, because plenty of others say that sunscreen does help prevent skin cancer.
- Sunscreen doesn’t block out our vitamin D requirements – or wait, maybe it does.
- Perhaps sunscreen lulls us into a fake sense of sun security.
- PLUS – now we’ve got the new FDA sunscreen rules to contend with too.
I could go on and on. Researchers and everyone else just cannot seem to make up their minds about sun exposure vs. chemical exposure vs. vitamin D needs.
What non-medical me thinks:
- I don’t like skin cancer or chemicals (go figure).
- I think that a little sunshine is ok because yes, vitamin D is a good thing. However, the majority of research I read agrees that we need very little unprotected sun exposure to gain the amount of vitamin D our bodies need (20-30 minutes of sun, twice a week). Also, the vitamin D argument is almost moot, because in this country, research also shows that almost no one wears the proper amount of sunscreen.
- I think we need to use a mix of sun protection tactics such as seeking out shade when possible, wearing protective clothing like hats, long sleeves and long pants and wear sunscreen.
- I think we do need broad spectrum sunscreen year-round. Even if it can’t be officially proven that sunscreen helps prevent skin damage and cancer, it seems obvious that it might, because it can help you avoid burns – which is surely causing DNA damage. I mean, look at sunburned skin – it looks super damaged – which can’t be good.
What do you think? Is chemical or unprotected sun exposure worse?