Why is Sunscreen Used?
It is considered common practice to dip yourself in sunscreen before going out in the sun because sun apparently causes skin cancer. This statement cannot be farther from the truth.
This article will take you down this deep rabbit hole of a $10.8 billion industry that is actually harming us in the name of protection.
What is Sunscreen Made of?
Generally sunscreen lotions are made up of an opaque reflective material like zinc oxide or titanium oxide. It is said that this material stays on the surface of skin and hence is harmless. But this isn’t where it ends.
Traces of zinc and titanium oxide get absorbed in the skin with oils and made toxic by interaction with ultraviolet light. (1)
Other ingredients of sunscreen like PABA derivatives react similarly to zinc and titanium oxide and are absorbed in significant quantities by the skin. In general, sunscreens that prevent minor skin damage from UV have higher probability of causing Melanoma by interaction of chromosomes with sunlight and sunscreen. (2)
Even the so-called “Natural color” compounds can cause mutation by transmitting light energy to chromosomes and can end up causing melanoma.
General Side Effects Associated with Sunscreens
One of the most common side effects of sunscreen is skin irritation. This can occur if the sunscreen contains ingredients that are irritating to your skin, or if you are allergic to one of the ingredients in the sunscreen. Symptoms of skin irritation may include redness, itching, and swelling.
Another potential side effect of sunscreen is contact dermatitis, which is a type of skin rash that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. Contact dermatitis can cause red, itchy, and blistering skin, and can be triggered by ingredients in sunscreen such as fragrances, preservatives, and certain chemicals.
Some people may also experience acne breakouts as a result of using sunscreen. This can be due to the presence of certain oils or emollients in the sunscreen that can clog pores and lead to acne. If you have acne-prone skin, it is important to choose a non-comedogenic sunscreen that is specifically designed to not clog pores.
Sunscreen can also cause eye irritation, especially if it gets into the eyes. This can lead to redness, itching, and watering of the eyes.
How Harmful is Sunscreen?
Melanoma cases have risen 600% since 1970 while the time we spend outdoors in the sun have decreased considerably since the 70s. Most of us are inside on our computers now and the kids are playing video games. Doesn’t add up, right?
And what if I tell you this was the same time frame where roll out of sunscreens was taking up pace.
A lot of sunscreen ingredients are known carcinogens as discussed above. What’s interesting to note here is that, initially sunscreens only blocked UVB rays. and melanoma, the type of skin cancer caused by sunlight, is found to be caused by UVA.
This means that sunscreens fundamentally cannot prevent melanoma at all.
Sunscreens not only cause harmful affects to a human body but also harms the environment. One such environmental factor that gets affected by the usage of sunscreen is that it causes major damage to coral reefs and marine life. This happens when chemicals from sunscreen wash off people's bodies and go into water. This damage is so bad that Thailand banned the use of sunscreen last year.
One can only imagine what happens when this chemical enters the body.
What Are The Alternatives?
Sun blockers that block ultraviolet light without increasing the risk of melanoma would ideally be very beneficial because they would allow one to have long sun exposure which has an anti-stress effect. But unfortunately, no such sunscreen exists.
The best solution would be to develop a good ‘Solar Callus’ in your body. Solar Callus is your body’s resistance towards getting burned under the sun.
Developing Solar Callus is a straightforward process. Start exposing yourself to the sun in the morning. This is because the morning sun has relatively less UV and more IR (infrared).
Gradually increase your exposure time till noon where the UV component becomes more prominent. This process gives your body time to develop a Solar Callus and your body is less likely to get burned.