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Summertime Sunshine Safety Precautions

People need to protect themselves from the harmful UVA rays of the sun with chemical free natural sunscreens to prevent endocrine disruptors and cancer while benefiting from the UVB rays which provide vitamin D..

     It's summertime again and everyone wants that great looking bronze skinned suntan look, not to mention a good healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun to protect us from all kinds of diseases. But we need to look into how to do this without causing more harm than good.   Chemical sunscreens have been around for a long time, but more and more natural sunscreens and sunblocks are coming onto the market as more people shy away from harmful, even cancer causing chemicals found in today's sunscreens.  It's best to avoid chemically laden endocrine disrupting sunscreen products.  When sunbathing the goal is to reflect the harmful UVA rays and absorb the beneficial UVB rays that provide our bodies with vitamin D.  The only way to accomplish this is through the use of sunscreens that provide UV protection without blasting our bodies with an overload of chemicals easily absorbed through our skin.

     The middle of the day is the most likely time to get a sunburn when the sun is at its highest position. Somewhere between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. depending on where you live.  The closer you are to the equator, the stronger the suns rays.  Also, altitude plays a role as well as reflective surfaces like water, concrete and those white sandy beaches we all love.  Even snow reflects more of the suns rays, but hopefully not too many people are exposing a lot of skin wearing bathing suits in snowy regions.  Of course, skiers and snowmobilers need to protect their faces.  The UV index of the day can be helpful as well.
     There are all kinds of recipes on the internet for making your own chemical free sunscreens.  You should be aware of some of the suggested ingredients.  One common recommendation is to use coconut oil alone. This may work for some people and not for others.  It depends on your skin type and whether or not your skin is conditioned to being in the sun.  The duration of sunbathing is important as well.  Not very many tanning products allow for anyone to be in the sun for hours and hours unless it is reapplied often.  Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours at minimum. Even at that you could still suffer some skin damage from the sun if you stay out all day without taking a break in the shade once in awhile.  The time of day matters again as well.  The type of coconut oil is important as well.  It must be unrefined, virgin coconut oil.  Refined, heated coconut oils have lost their beneficial properties for the skin.  Also, coconut oil has a very low SPF rating. So unless you're already a 'seasoned' sunbather, I wouldn't rely on coconut oil alone.  The following ingredients can be added to the coconut oil or other safe oils like virgin olive or avocado to create pleasantly scented and safer sunscreen.  When making your own sunscreen, you can add an ounce or two of beeswax to provide some waterproof protection.

     Some sunscreen recipes suggest the use of essential oils to scent the lotion.  The use of the wrong essential oil can be a grave mistake.  Photosensitizing essential oils such as those in the citrus family can cause permanently darkened skin spots and other discolorations of the skin.  If you have recently used any of those oils on your skin it's best to stay out of the sun for 12 or even 24 hours just to be sure.  Some steam distilled citrus oils are okay such as orange, but lemon and lime remains photo toxic whether cold pressed or steam distilled.  Bergamot oil is another nicely scented oil, but is photo toxic unless certified bergaptene-free and labeled as Bergamot FCF.  So if you're going to scent your lotion it's best to do your homework and be sure you are using a safe essential oil such as lavender.  Or you can add some lemon eucalyptus for the added benefit of bug repellent.  It's non-photosensitizing and it only takes a few drops.

     Some oils extracted from seeds and nuts, such as those in raspberries or macadamia nuts, provide varying amounts of UV protection and can be used as the base oil in sunscreen recipes. Some examples are  red raspberry seed oil (SPF 28-50), carrot seed oil (SPF 38-40), soybean oil (SPF 10), wheat germ oil (SPF 20), jojoba oil (SPF 4), macadamia nut oil (SPF 6), and soybean oil (SPF 10).

     And last but not least, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two natural mineral ingredients used to block the harmful rays of the sun.  Even these ingredients warrant investigation when it comes to nano particles.  Whereas the use of these minerals in sunscreens previously left a pale, ghostly look when applied to the skin, newer manufacturing technology resolved this issue. Through the use of nano technology the particles are broken down very small.  This process not only provides better UV protection, but alleviates the chalky look to the skin after application as well.  Sounds good, but now the safety of nano zinc oxide and nano titanium dioxide are being questioned.  So far it 'appears' to be safe when applied to 'healthy' skin.  When used in powder or spray products the safety is definitely being studied as a respiratory toxicant.  For those with allergies and asthma, it's not worth the risk.  So you might just want to play it safe and look for products with non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide. Of the two, regular zinc oxide still appears the safest because it reflects and scatters UV rays rather than absorbing them like titanium dioxide.  Both are available online in non-nano formulations for making your own sunscreen.

Sunshine provides us with vitamin D produced through beneficial UVB rays.

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