Unraveling the Sun’s Gifts and Safeguarding With Sunscreen

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Isn’t it amazing how our relationship with the sun is so complex? The sun actually does a lot for us, like giving us Vitamin D to help our bodies absorb calcium and keep our bones strong. Plus, soaking up some sun in moderation can really boost our mood, help us sleep better, and even reduce stress. It just goes to show that a little sunshine can do wonders for our overall well-being!

Searching online for information about sunscreen might have left you feeling uneasy about using these lotions and creams on yourself and your family. Dr. Jennifer Lin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, urges the public not to let myths deter them from protecting their skin.

Sunscreen does block ultraviolet B rays, which are important in generating Vitamin D in the skin. However, because most people apply far less than the recommended amount (about a teaspoonful to the face and one shot glass–sized amount to the body) of sunscreen, users typically aren’t deficient in vitamin D. Your doctor can recommend a vitamin D supplement, such as 800 IU of vitamin D3 daily if you’re concerned about a vitamin D deficiency.

The term “sunscreen” usually refers to chemical sunscreens that contain active ingredients designed to absorb UV rays and prevent skin damage. Common ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. On the other hand, “sunblock” typically refers to physical sunscreens, which act as a physical barrier by reflecting UV rays off the skin. The key active ingredients in sunblocks are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which provide robust protection against harmful effects.

Oxybenzone has attracted considerable attention due to concerns that it may function as a hormone disruptor. Hormone disruptors are chemicals that can cross cell membranes and potentially interfere with the body’s natural hormone production. However, there is no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans. The studies raising these concerns were conducted on rats, which were fed oxybenzone directly. According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it would take an individual 277 years of typical sunscreen use to reach the systemic dose that produced effects in these rat studies.

The Extension office does not recommend avoiding sunscreens with oxybenzone. However, if individuals choose to avoid it, they should be aware that this chemical is also present in many other common products such as plastic, hairspray, and nail polish.

It’s important to note that sunscreen alone is not a comprehensive sun safety strategy. Even when applied correctly, sunscreen cannot block all of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. To maximize protection, seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing, use a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and reapply sunscreen regularly. Make sure to apply a thorough coat about 15 minutes before going outdoors. These additional measures can help protect against burns and skin damage effectively.

various types of sunscreens

Image by Beate from Pixabay