Is Sunblock as healthy as we think? 

Part 1

How often should we sunblock?

by Janet Driver,

MAD Market Health and Beauty Director

Some experts are saying that sunblock may not be as needed as once thought. In fact, the question has come up, are we over-using sunscreen? Some professionals are concerned that we may be interfering with our own vitamin D absorption, which could be leading to many serious health disorders.

We want to do the right things to stay healthy and age with as much grace as possible. For more than four decades now, dermatologists and other medical professionals have advised that we use daily sun protection products as a means to guard us from harmful UV rays of the sun (and from interior fluorescent lighting). So thus began the popularity of sunblock lines. Beginning in the 1970s, we learned the term UV is the acronym for ‘ultraviolet’, referring to the dangerous rays of the sun. We eventually figured out that UVA and UVB collectively stand for ‘ultra-violet aging’ and ‘burning’, two specific areas of damage caused by the sun’s rays. Coppertone stands out as the first commercial product we used to protect ourselves, with the iconic little girl’s backside showing the world just how dangerous too much sun-time can be.

Coppertone sunscreen add circa 1955

But now we live in an era of advanced technology, a deeper understanding of skin care and health, and a desire to do well by the earth and mankind, as many of us choose to purchase only products that are ethically produced. As well, the typical consumer is well educated and well versed on the controversy regarding sun protection products. Now that we are getting a better handle on preventing exposure to dangerous ingredients, like parabens, new questions are arising in the health and beauty industry. The most recent concern is whether or not we have over-used sunblocks, and have possibly blocked the body’s absorption of the imperative vitamin D.

The most recent concern is whether or not we have over-used sunblocks, and have possibly blocked the body’s absorption of the imperative vitamin D.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s website, vitamin D is critical for protecting our bones, our nervous system and immunity. As well, it protects against bacteria and viruses. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The sun’s UVB rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D. So, blocking could potentially be preventing the important benefits we get from this vitamin.

But could the dangers of vitamin D deficiency possibly outweigh the dangers of sun exposure? That is a question dividing the medical community. Dermatologists lean towards preventing dangerous skin cancers, especially melanomas, which can be deadly. However, professionals in the naturopathic community are pointing out the perils of vitamin D deficiency. In 2013, a British study on this topic revealed favorable results for vitamin D absorption while wearing sunscreen - but only at a level of SPF 15. Most of us have advanced to using levels of SPF 50 or even greater, especially for our faces. Spray sunscreens have made it much easier to cover large areas of our body within seconds, so for busy outdoor days, that’s a common choice.

A more recent study conducted at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University California, lead the co-author to make this statement: “People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they're typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body's ability to produce vitamin D.

"While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D,"

While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D,” (- Dr. Kim Pfotenhauer). The researchers on this study did not draw conclusions, but rather, raised questions. They ultimately decided to advise their patients to spend 5 - 30 minutes outdoors in direct sunlight daily, without the use of sun protection. They also recommend the use of daily Vitamin D supplements, but only under the advise of a doctor. You can read more about this study here.

So although I won’t answer the question for you, to sunblock or not, I will share my own personal take on this - I am spending a short time daily in the sun, unprotected, then adding my typical go to protection.

My favorite sunblocks? Alba, Kiss My Face and Badger.

To get further immersed in information about this topic, read more at EWG:

$12.79

Badger makes this sunscreen in the USA with natural, non GMO ingredients.

$7.99

Made in the USA with good, natural ingredients. Paraben free, cruelty free.

$16.99

Made in the USA with 87% organic ingredients. Paraben free, fragrance free and cruelty free.

Thanks for reading! 

What do you think is the best balance?

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