Did you ever wonder about those older ladies (and sometimes men) who walk down the street under an open umbrella on a sunny day? Well, they’re not just doing it to stay cool. They know how important it is to stay out of the sun. Sure, we love the sun for it’s ability to provide our bodies with the most natural and powerful source of vitamin D. And with all of the press surrounding vitamin D these days (lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes), you have to figure, the more the better. But, alas, we also know that the sun is powerful in a very bad way for our skin. Too much exposure can cause your skin to burn, which can cause skin cancer and those fine lines of age – wrinkles.
The sun beams down on us a mixture of UVA and UVB rays. The UVA rays are responsible for aging our skin (think A in UVA for Aging) – age spots and wrinkles. The UVB rays cause the skin to burn (B for Burning), increasing chances of skin cancer. To protect your skin, you must choose a sunscreen that says “Broad Spectrum” so that you are protected from both kinds of harmful rays. Make sure to slather on the sunscreen at least 20 minutes before leaving the house, and reapply every 2 hours if you plan on being outside for an extended period of time. Also know that it takes about an ounce of sunscreen to cover your whole body – that’s the amount that will fill up a shot glass. But will any brand of sunscreen do?
Unfortunately, no. A recent report showed that not all sunscreens are the same. Even worse, a higher SPF may not necessarily be better for you. Manufacturers have deceived us into thinking that a higher SPF means that we have more protection and can stay out in the sun longer, which we now know is not the case. Click on the following link to find the best sunscreens to use. You may be surprised that many of the big sunscreen brands are not on the list.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D
It’s important to mention that protecting your skin by wearing sunscreen prevents your body from absorbing the vitamin D from the sun. I figure it’s better to wear the sunscreen and reduce the risk of skin cancer and pop a vitamin D3 supplement to get my daily dose of vitamin D instead. Of course, before taking a vitamin D supplement, you should get your blood level of vitamin D checked to see if you’re deficient (which most people are). It’s a simple blood test that you can ask your doctor to run. Make sure to ask for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test.The goal is to have your level >50 ng/ml. If it’s lower than that, then you’ll need a vitamin D supplement. A Registered Dietitian has specialized knowledge to help you increase your intake of vitamin D through your diet and/or supplements.
The Bottom Line
When choosing a sunscreen, look for ones that contain mineral blocking agents like Zinc, Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX , and try to use products in a cream form rather than a spray or powder (bad for environment and our lungs). Look for the words “Broad Spectrum” and an SPF of 30+. Of course the most sure-fire way to prevent skin cancer is to not go out in the sun, or to be covered up by clothing, a hat, and some cool shades. I guess I’d better break out my umbrella.