With summer approaching, you may be considering natural sunscreen options. Sunscreen is not one of those products that you want to just pick up at the drug store because it’s on sale and you know that you’ll need a lot of it. A lot of sunscreens contain toxic ingredients.

First, it’s important to note that sunscreens work one of two ways, they either create a chemical barrier or a mineral barrier. The mineral barrier is a block, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that creates a physical barrier from the sun. Chemical barriers are the ones you especially need to watch out for because the chemicals can make their way through the skin to other tissues. When we say chemical, the words to look out for on a label are ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The group recommends other alternatives to wearing sunscreen:

  • Wear clothes. Shielding your skin from the sun reduces exposure risk by 27%
  • Stay in the shade or plan your day to be out of the sun during the most intense hours.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV radiation.
  • Check the UV index to avoid sun overexposure.
  • Avoid burning. Recurring sunburns aren’t good for your skin.

EWG also has an annual guide to safer sunscreens that you can request from their Website.

Natural sunscreen options

One of our doctors, Dr. Lawrence, recommends Badger brand and Babo Botanicals as two options for non-toxic sunscreens. What’s most important is that you want zinc oxide and no nano particles. So, you may find other brands that you also like. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide balance protection for both UVA and UVB rays, and are not harmful to your body. And don’t let the SPF number fool you. A higher SPF is not necessarily better, and may falsely encourage you to remain in the sun longer than is actually good for you.

Warning signs of skin cancer

We all need to be aware of skin cancer. You may have a commitment to taking care of your skin now, but skin cancers can pop up many years after harmful sun exposure. And since May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month, let’s refresh ourselves about what to notice with the moles and/or dark places on our skin. One of our patients noticed an odd-shaped brown patch on her husband’s back and said, “You need to check that out!” It’s a good thing that he did, because the patch was on the way to skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends self-exams to look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma:

A = Asymmetry (irregular shape)

B = Border (uneven or rough)

C = Color (variety of non-brown)

D = Diameter (1/4 in. or larger)

E = Evolving (any type of change)

If you notice one or more of the symptoms, call your doctor right away.