Sunscreen Smart

Sunscreen Smart

Summer will soon be approaching, bringing with it an abundance of sunny days that will sooth and warm our skin. Enabling us to bathe and soak it all in. Thankfully this sparkling jewel naturally releases endorphins that make us feel good and provide us with that essential production of Vitamin D. However, too much of it may be a risk. But, why? Let us explore the benefits and risks of sun exposure further.


From the sun’s UV rays alone crucial hormones such as endorphins, melatonin and serotonin are made. These essential hormones help us reduce depression and anxiety, meanwhile boosting our feelings of well – being. Although direct exposure to the sun will help our body make more of these, it should be noted, we can also get these through exercise. Another crucial element in direct exposure to sunlight is our production of Vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin is in the family of compounds that includes Vitamins D1, D2, and D3. This vital vitamin regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus plus facilitates normal immune system function. It is also important for typical growth, and the development of bones, and teeth. It has additionally been shown to support weight loss, regulate mood and reduce depression as well as minimize the likelihood of severe illness. 1

As UVB rays stimulate our bodies to naturally produce Vitamin D, thankfully if we do not get enough sun, we are also able to acquire this essential vitamin through the consumption of fish, especially fatty fish, egg yolk and beef livers. Therefore, you may want to incorporate more of these foods into your diet, especially during the winter months.


With so many benefits provided by our gorgeous sun. Many claim it to be a huge risk factor? A wealth of studies has been done and sadly approximately 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning beds or lamps. 2 Currently UVB rays are understood to be a process of direct photochemical damage to DNA from which gene mutations arise. 3 Accordingly, some form of sun protection is crucial.

Sunscreens go back to 1940’s, when Franz Greiter commercialized his first modern sunscreen containing cocoa butter and red veterinary petroleum. Since then, the market for various sunscreens has valued to be over eleven billion dollars which is expected to increase. With all these various brands, a lot more ingredients have been added that have been concluded to outweigh any benefits and proposed classifying them as unsafe. These synthetic ingredients are absorbed through your skin and are stored in your body for weeks after one application, therefore careful reviewing of your sunscreen ingredients is essential. 4

The ingredients to be aware of are:

avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, octocrylene, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, meradimate, padimate O, sulsobensone. 5

These ingredients above are a potential health risk to endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, and even certain types of cancer. In addition, just recently in 2021 voluntary recalls were made on sunscreen sprays after testing low levels of benzene, a colorless chemical, noting it can cause certain cancers!6 Equally important as these chemicals clearly show negative effects on our health, they also contribute to coral reef damage. 7


What does a sunscreens SPF number refer to? It is the amount of UVB protection it provides. Some have as little as SPF 15 and some over SPF 70 but the SPF 15 may block 93% of the UVB radiation whereas the SPF 30 may block 97%. As the difference between increased SPF protection is small once you get past SPF 30 the protection itself becomes incremental and note no sunscreen blocks 100% of the rays!


For this reason, one should choose a mineral sunscreen with a SPF of 30 which in my opinion is best for you, and also safe for our waters. My favorite mineral sunscreen is the Sensitive Sun Lotion SPF 30 by Lavera, as it has a carefully balanced, natural composition of mineral UV filters and organic ingredients. Additionally, it is reef friendly. So, when purchasing your next sunscreen, ensure it’s a mineral sunscreen that has active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As, these  do not penetrate into your skin yet still give you the protection from the UV rays. Also, if you are a do it yourself type of person such as myself, you can easily make your own sunscreen keeping in mind that the SPF protection will be much lower and more frequent applications may be needed. You can make your sunscreen using ingredients that contain natural sunscreen properties such as coconut oil, shea butter, rice bran, cocoa butter, with added active ingredients such as zinc oxide. Furthermore, you can cover up your skin with long sleeved shirts, pants etc. providing different levels of protection.


Overall, be judicious about what products you use as far as sunscreen goes this summer. Ensuring your sunscreen gives you the protection you need based on your skin color and where you live. As fair skin people will require more protection vs someone that has darker pigmentation. The same goes for people living in warmer climates vs people that live further North and do not get the same sun exposure. Perpetually noting that direct sunlight will always beat the benefits over any effective substitute..


"Return to Nature" With each purchase 15% of the sale proceeds are returned back to nature through the Joanna Heath Foundation Fund.