Cambrian: Opinion

Why sunscreen isn’t a simple solution this summer

Seattle Times/TNS

Summer is in full swing, and hopefully you’ve not gotten your worst sunburn of the season yet! Oh my gosh, did I burn as a child! My fair skin was no match for Malibu and Zuma Beach in Southern California, even with gallons of Coppertone sunscreen. My mother was not to blame, as she was swayed by the commercial hype.

In a 2007 document put out by the FDA, there is not enough evidence to prove sunscreen alone prevents skin cancer and, in fact, it may increase the risk as consumers assume that is all they need and so allow themselves to become overexposed.

First and foremost, we need some sun exposure. Vitamin D seems to be in short supply for many folks. I’ve read that just a few minutes a day of that great white belly flashing its luscious self for all the sun to see will do the trick. Just don’t baste yourself in olive oil and barbecue yourself like folks I know used to do.

Me, I was just too active to slow down enough to sunscreen up. That and then I’d poop myself out and fall asleep. Yeow!

No matter what type of skin protection you use, if it’s something you wipe or spray on — and many reports show sprays are ineffective!you must repeat this application often! So when I talk with people about natural products, they always say they don’t work. Nothing will if not used properly. And there are reports about damage caused by using commercial products. Gadzooks!

Some things to consider: allergic reactions and ingredients not tested by the FDA. Some websites, such as U.S News-Wellness, claim commercial sunscreens are fine. But they do agree with Environmental Working Group (EWG, whose wisdom and advice I tend to follow, as they are not paid for by chemical and pharmaceutical companies) that some ingredients are not tested by the FDA, so no side effects are known and, like anything you put on your skin, some folks may develop skin conditions by using it.

Sunscreens come as either mineral or chemical filters. EWG is most concerned with oxybenzone.

“Lab studies indicate that some chemical UV filters may mimic hormones or cause skin allergies, which raises important questions about unintended effects on human health from frequent sunscreen application. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, added to nearly 70 percent of the nonmineral sunscreens in EWG’s 2016 sunscreen database.” Other chemical filters may also pose such hazards.

EWG recommends using higher mineral content sunscreens and to be careful not to use “nano” formulated varieties. They have a whole list of suitable products if you would care to check out their list and buy accordingly. I know sometimes you just have to use whatever you’ve got, but if you are a diligent user of these commercial products, you may want to consider making an informed choice — not just for its efficacy, but its toxicity.

What else can you do besides choose a good, safe product and apply it regularly?

▪  A thin layer of light-colored clothing helps a lot, as will a broad-brimmed hat.

▪  Try to limit your time in the sun. For those who work outside, this is obviously impossible, but keep it in mind anyway.

▪  Check your skin regularly.

▪  Try to consume less-inflammatory foods. However, what is summer without a good bowl of ice cream? Just remember, everything in moderation. Reduce omega-6s in your diet (go here for a good article about this).

▪  Eat more foods high in antioxidants, such as copious quantities of organic vegetables and fruits and spices like cayenne, ginger and cinnamon — yes, eat your sunscreen!

DIY recipes can also fill the bill. But, like other products, you must apply a lot and often. There are many recipes out there that may contain ingredients with naturally occurring SPFs suc as carrot seed oil with an SPF of 35 and without chemicals with no known or known side effects. However, remember people can still react to plant materials as well, so test it out!

So whether you eat your sunscreen, make your own or pick up what’s on sale, enjoy the beautiful outdoors, respect the planet and respect your body! Happy summer!

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at, or visit her website at