The health risks of chemical sunscreens
Several years ago, I stopped using chemical sunscreens after learning about the toxic chemicals in them. Ingredients in conventional chemical sunscreens include endocrine disrupters, suspected carcinogens, and substances that increase photosensitivity, increase free radicals that damage DNA, and cause allergic reactions. Research also suggests that some of the ingredients are associated with negative pregnancy outcomes, reduced testosterone in males, and negative impacts on reproductive and thyroid hormones1,2.
I was horrified and found it illogical to put these dangerous chemicals on my skin. Our skin absorbs what is put on it. So, not surprisingly, many of the chemicals found in sunscreens have been found in urine, breast milk and blood, so they most definitely get absorbed. They can also be inhaled or ingested if using spray sunscreens and sunscreen lip balms, respectively.
Conventional chemical sunscreens are also harmful to the environment5, particularly to coral in the marine world. Some of the substances within them are associated with coral death. It isn’t shocking that something that isn’t good for the environment isn’t good for us humans. We are not separate from nature. We are part of nature.
There are better options
Mineral sunscreens or physical blockers are a better option. These are predominantly zinc oxide based. This is what I use on my family and my skin. This is more expensive if you buy it from the shops. But, conveniently, it is an easy sunscreen to make yourself.
Despite my preference for physically blocking sunscreens, I try to limit my sunscreen use. I put it on my hands and face since these are out in the elements every single day. But I let my skin on the rest of my body get a little bit of good old sunlight to ensure my vitamin D levels stay high3. And the majority of the time if I’m out in the midday sun, I cover up with wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and seek out shade. My sons both learned from a very early age that they must first put on their hats if they want to go outside. Now they give me a hard time any time I step outside without remembering mine.
Making your own sunscreen
My simple homemade sunscreen is based on Wellness Mama’s recipe4. I have used various carrier oils, more or less zinc, depending on the season and UV intensity. I also often add rosehip or argan oil for skin nourishment and vitamin e oil derived from sunflower seeds for a natural preservative. I also add a few drops of essential oils for a pleasant scent and some added skin benefits. My go to oils in my sunscreen are lavender, frankincense and also vanilla extract.
½ cup Coconut oil
4 tbsp Shea butter
1 cup Olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, or jojoba oil
½ cup Beeswax
6 tbsp Non-nano zinc oxide
A couple of drops of each lavender & frankincense essential oils (optional)
A tsp Vanilla extract (optional)
Making sunscreen is a great place to start if you are new to the DIY world. It seems impressive but is super easy. But mixing potions in the kitchen isn’t everyone’s thing. Getting familiar with the ingredients in your current sunscreen or swapping to a healthier and more earth-friendly one when it runs out are also great options.
DIY Tip: Set aside a few items for DIY projects, especially if you make this sunscreen recipe or any other recipes with beeswax in them. Beeswax is difficult to get off utensils and bowls and can clog drains and dishwashers. A couple of glass jars, a spoon and a grater (if you are using a block of beeswax instead of pellets) are all you need. This way as a bonus, clean up is virtually nonexistent. I also like to wear a face mask when I add the zinc powder so I don’t accidentally breathe it in. If you are adding any essential oils, just make sure that you don’t add ones that make skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Disclaimer: The information in this article and on drhilarclaire.com is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents here are for information purposes only. You, the reader, are solely responsible for the choices you make for your health and the health of your family. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with your questions regarding medical conditions or psychological diagnoses.
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