You might be looking at my cartoonishly dorky logo and notice that yes indeed...I am Black. This comes as quite a surprise to many people, especially when they speak to me on the phone (what is a "Black" voice anyway?)
But I digress.
Growing up, because of my cocoa-brown complexion, I was under the impression that getting sunburned was not possible. Red skin, painful to the touch, only plagued my fair-skinned friends, not me. Apparently my crispy black shoulders, from two weeks at summer camp, didn't get that memo.
Protecting your skin from the sun's UV rays is important, no matter what skin tone or ethnicity you are. Once I began using sunscreen---the highest SPF I could find---I thought my skin was shielded from any possible damage.
I've come to learn that most popular brands of sunscreen can actually cause more harm than good. While they do stop skin from becoming burnt, they do little to nothing to slow down the accelerated aging of skin or prevent cancer causing cells.
In addition, there is even research pointing to an increase in cancer when sunlight hits the synthetic or natural components of sunblock, causing cell mutation. Allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage are also found with the use of sun screens, especially those containing Oxybenzone, which is a chemical that allows other chemicals to penetrate the skin and is in nearly 600 sunscreens sold in the US (even those varieties marked safe for children).
Here is a list of chemicals to check for:
Aminobenzoic acid – carcinogen implicated in cardiovascular disease.
Avobenzone – carcinogen
Cinoxate – evidence of skin toxicity
Dioxybenzone – strong evidence of skin toxicity and carcinogen; hormone disruptor and has been found in waterways, soil and air. Has been shown to have a “gender bender” effect in animals
Diazolidinyl urea – carcinogen, endocrine, central nervous system and brain effects, skin toxicity and compromises the immune system
Ecamsule – carcinogenic
Homosalate – endocrine disruption
Methylparaben – interferes with genes
Octocrylene – found to be persistent and bioaccumulative in wildlife, liver issues and carcinogenic
Octyl methoxycinnamate – accumulates in the body, disrupts liver and is a carcinogen
Octyl salicylate – broad systemic effects in animals at moderate doses
Oxybenzone – carcinogen and contributor to vascular disease, may affect the brain and nervous system in animals
Padimate O – carcinogen
Phenylbenzimidazole – carcinogen
Phenoxyethanol – irritant, carcinogen, endocrine disruption
Sulisobenzone – strong evidence of skin toxicity, affects sense organs in animals
Titanium dioxide – carcinogen when in nanomaterial form
Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-): Parabens may mimic estrogen which can disrupt your body's balance of hormones
So, how do you protect your skin from the sun without slathering on a cocktail of toxins? Well first thing is don't be afraid of the sun, just be smart. The benefits of sun rays, which is the only natural way to deliver Vitamin D to our body, are becoming more and more clear. Vitamin D deficiency is a huge issue for many Americans because of the indoor lifestyle many of us have adopted. It has been linked to a variety of issues including, breast cancer, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Don't hide from the sun, just don't bake yourself like an oven-stuffer roaster.
When you are exposed normal amounts of sunlight make sure to wear loose fitting clothes, find shade whenever possible, and invest in a good hat. Foods high in Lycopene, like tomatoes have been shown to prevent sun damage, as well as animals who eat algae--- which are high in the antioxidant astaxanthin.
For those days on a beach or boat, when you know you'll be getting more sun than usual, you can make your own natural sunblock from items you can find at any health food store. Here's a great simplified version of a recipe I'm eager to try from Frugally Sustainable:
-1 ounce oil blend (Sesame oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp oil, Avocado oil, Soybean, or Peanut Oil)
-1 ounce beeswax (adds waterproof properties)
-1 ounce butter blend (i.e. Shea butter, mango butter, or cocoa butter)
-1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
-0.36 ounces zinc oxide powder ( you can find it in the diaper aisle of your grocery store)
-30 drops essential oils, optional just make sure not to use anything with citrus, as it could cause burns
1. Gather ingredients and kitchen tools.
2. In a double boiler, over low heat, melt the oils, beeswax, and butters.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly prior to adding the vitamin E oil, zinc oxide powder, and essential oils. Note: Wear a mask when working with zinc oxide, inhaling it can be dangerous.
4. Stir until zinc oxide is dissolved.
5. Pour into a push-up or roll-up dispenser. This recipe will produce a product similar to a lotion bar or sunscreen stick. You could easily clean out and re-purpose a used deodorant or lip balm container.
6. Allow to cool and harden on the counter overnight.
If this is too time consuming for your liking, virgin coconut oil has been shown to block the burning radiation from the sun. Try oiling up with that the next time you hit the beach.
If you aren't into being a cosmetic chemist, you can also find the The Environmental Working Group's 2012 list of the best sunscreens available on the market.
Do you use sunblock on your self or your kids? Have you tried making natural sunblock?
Soaking it up in Granolaville,