Summer is synonymous with fun in the sun. When our skin is exposed to sunlight it does an amazing thing: it produces Vitamin D, and a lot of it! Vitamin D is an essential nutrient which is not easy to find naturally in foods. It is needed for healthy bones and teeth, to help with calcium absorption, for hormone production, a strong immune system, and much more! The problem comes when we have too much sun exposure. Burns increase our risk of skin cancer, and that is not good news.
Here are some simple tips to keep you and your little ones safe in the sun this summer.
1. Find shade or make your own. Direct sunlight increases the risk of burns, so avoid staying out in the sun, especially during peak hours before and after noon. If having an outdoor picnic, set up under a tree. If going to the beach, be sure to bring a beach umbrella to sit under.
2. Use clothing to protect your skin. This includes long sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats. Long sleeved clothing for the summer should be made of a tight weave, using natural, light colored fabrics. Cotton and linen are good choices.
3. Protect your eyes. Your skin needs to be protected from intense sun exposure, and so do your eyes.
4. Check the UV index. Many weather apps now give us a barrage of environmental information, including the UV index. The UV index is a scale which essentially tells you how likely you are to get burned. On days with a high UV index (over 6) be extra careful when spending time in the sun.
5. Choose sunscreens that are mineral based and have ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
6. Avoid products that contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate, which have been linked with hormone disruption. Specifically oxybenzone acts like estrogen in the body. It has been shown to alter sperm production in animals and is linked with endometriosis in women.
7. Also to be avoided are sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate and retinol. These are all forms of Vitamin A. In studies they have shown to increase the risk of tumor formation when applied to the skin and exposed to sunlight.
8. A preservative in sunscreens called methylisothiazolinone, or MI, is another potential problem. In recent years people, specifically young children and babies, have been developing allergies to this product. It is listed as an inactive ingredient.
9. It’s best to not combine bug sprays with sunscreen; this is to ensure sun protection is most effective.
10. Choose an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) between 30 and 50. An SPF beyond 50 doesn’t offer that much more protection and gives people a false sense of security. Formulas with higher SPF’s need to use higher concentrations of chemicals. In my family, we try to avoid chemicals as much as possible.
11. Say no to aerosolized sunscreens. Though convenient, these formulas make it easy to inhale the tiny particles which can then become trapped in the lungs.
Got a question?
Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a naturopathic doctor and mother of two, who works at Beijing United Family Hospital. To find out more, check out her website at www.drmelissarodriguez.com
This article originally appeared on page 19 of the 2016 June-July Issue of beijingkids magazine. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: sabreguy29 (flickr)