Pure and local: hazards of sunscreen

Carla Beharry
Classical Homeopath, practicing at the True Wellness Integrative Health Clinic in Kitchener. Find her at: www.carlabeharryhomeopathy.com.

As we head into Ontario’s summer months, we all deserve to soak up the warming and invigorating rays of the sun. But, how do we reap the benefits of maximizing our vitamin D production and allow ourselves some pure, sun-inspired emotional bliss while protecting our skin? Here are a few worthy sun and sunscreen facts to note before heading outside.

UVA versus UVB:
UVB rays constitute only five per cent of total UV radiation and are associated with non-melanoma skin cancers. They also assist our bodies in making vitamin D.
UVA rays are longer rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and make up 95 per cent of the rays in our atmosphere. UVA rays are associated with malignant melanoma – the most fatal type of skin cancer.

While sunscreen protects from sunburn, it does not protect fully against skin cancer – most protect from UVB but not UVA. It is dangerous to assume that we can apply sunscreen and stay out in the hot sun for hours. All precautions, including long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats should be worn.

Spray versus cream:
While the convenience of a spray can seem appealing, sunscreen spray leaves you vulnerable to inhaling dangerous chemicals directly into your lungs. Even “natural” mineral-based sunscreen contains nano-particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are harmful when inhaled.

Higher SPF versus lower SPF:
Sunscreens over 30-50 SPF are no better at protecting from harmful UVA rays and contain a higher concentration of sun-filtering chemicals. It is best to use a natural SPF of 15-30 and reapply often.

I like to make my own – due to toxic amount of chemicals in store bought, or to source out eco-friendly and body-friendly choices. Natural oils offer a viable and effective alternative. It is important to note that SPF in natural oils varies based on skin tone and time of year.

Make your own coconut oil sunscreen:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup shea butter or cocoa butter
1/8 cup jojoba or sesame oil
2 tbsp of beeswax
2 tbsp non-nano zinc-oxide (optional)
1 tsp red raspberry oil
30 drops of carrot seed oil
Essential oils (lavender, rosemary)

Using a double boiler, melt your oils, shea butter and beeswax. Once melted, cool to room temperature. Whisk in zinc oxide (do not inhale), chill in fridge. Add in your raspberry, carrot and essential oils, whip until light and fluffy.

Sources: Living Pretty Naturally, Wellness Mama & Environmental Working Group