Monthly Archive: June 2014

To Sunscreen or Not to Sunscreen

It felt like it would never come, but it is finally that time of year again! The sun is shining, the days are long, and your skin colour is starting to turn a fire-engine red…

Wait! That isn’t supposed to happen!

If you want to avoid looking like a lobster, prevent skin damage and wrinkles, and decrease your risk of skin cancer, it is time to start practising safe sun.

We do need some sun exposure for our body to produce vitamin D. About 10 minutes in the summer sun is usually enough for fair-skinned individuals to produce sufficient levels from UV-B rays (see below). Better yet, taking a vitamin D supplement throughout the year – especially during the wintertime – has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis, seasonal-affective disorder, respiratory tract infections, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colon cancer.

But too much sun can be harmful and increase your risk of cancer.

There are three types of UV rays.

  1. UV-A rays contribute toA  These do not cause burns, but are present even on cloudy days. Almost 99% of the UV rays that reach the earth are UV-A. They increase the production of harmful substances that damage our DNA and lead to skin cancer.
  2. UV-B rays contribute toB These rays directly damage DNA, leading to skin cancer. These rays also increase the production of melanin in our skin, which gives us a tanned or burnt look (which is a bad sign).
  3. UV-C rays lead toCancer and are the most harmful. Fortunately, the ozone layer prevents these rays from reaching us.

Follow these practical tips to protect yourself from the sun:

  • Cover up: Wear a hat and sunglasses (that protect against UV-A and UV-B rays), and use a sun umbrella on the beach and in your backyard.
  • Avoid the mid-day sun as much as possible from 11am–4pm when the rays are the strongest.
  • Check the UV index daily at Plan outdoor activities on low-risk days and exercise extra caution on high-risk days.
  • Increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 showed that daily intake of lycopene from tomato paste (1/3 can per day), along with olive oil (2tsp per day) for 10 weeks reduced the degree of sunburn by 40% as compared to placebo. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in high amounts in tomato paste, sauce and juice. It is the primary antioxidant for the skin. Also consider increasing your consumption of these antioxidant-rich foods:green tea, turmeric, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, pomegranates, artichokes, broccoli, red cabbage, walnuts, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, oregano, cocoa, pecans, raw ginger, elderberry, acai and rosehips.
  • Use an appropriate sunscreen:
    • Avoid ingredients such as octybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and octocrylene. These all can increase cellular damage. Octybenzone and octinoxate are the most harmful, as they may act as hormonal/endocrine disruptors, have reproductive and developmental toxicity, and have a high risk of allergy and phototoxicity.
    • Choose sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
    • Avoid sunscreens in spray or powder form to prevent inhalation of harmful substances.
    • Avoid purchasing products that have sunscreen and bug spray combined because the harmful substances will have increased absorption.
    • Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website at  It is constantly updated with the newest safety information on sunscreens, moisturizers, cosmetics, etc.
    • The EWG lists the following sunscreens as the safest options: Aubrey Organics Natural Sun Unscented Sensitive Skin/Children Sunscreen SPF 30+, Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick SPF 50, Badger Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+, Green Beaver Company Certified Organic Kids Non-whitening Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30.

Now get out there and enjoy the nice weather, but be careful!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.