Are You Sun Savvy Or Just Plain Confused?

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When it comes to protecting your skin from damaging UV rays, what you don't know can really hurt you. Dull, blotchy skin; coarse skin texture; broken blood vessels; and premature wrinkling are among the top five skin damaging effects of daily exposure, not to mention the risk of melanoma and pre-cancerous lesions. In my clinic, I see clients every day that experience varying degrees of sun damage that could have been prevented with effective sun protection.  Excessive exposure to UV rays and harsh environmental conditions rapidly accelerate the aging process and set you up for some major skin issues later in life if you are not careful.  Simple, healthy options to prevent this damage do exist, if you know where to look—and in particular, what to look for.

Sunscreens, sun blocks, misleading claims, and concerns about which ingredients are toxic and which ones are not combined with the new FDA sunscreen regulations have confused consumers for some time.  The new sunscreen labeling laws that were passed in 2011 will forever change how sunscreens are marketed in the US.  No longer can a sunscreen have an SPF rating higher than 50, "waterproofing" a sunscreen is no longer allowed, and many product formulations currently on the market have fallen under the OTC drug labeling requirements.

It is very interesting that worldwide, the greatest risk for melanoma has been in countries where sunscreens have been heavily promoted. In Queensland, Australia, where the medical establishment has vigorously promoted the use of sunscreens, there is more evidence of melanoma per capita than any other place (Garland, Cedric F., et al American Journal of Public Health, April 1992).  Drs. Cedric and Frank Garland of the University of California have pointed out that while sunscreens do protect against sunburn there is no scientific proof they protect against basal cell carcinoma in humans.

In 1997, Europe, Canada, and Australia changed sunscreens to use only three specific sunscreen ingredients—avobenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide as the basis of sunscreens. All others were banned. In March of 2008, a new study by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with a widely used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.

Just What Is The Difference Between A Sun Block And A Sunscreen Anyway?

The sun gives off two rays: UVA and UVB rays. Dermatologists believe these are the rays that cause tissue damage, wrinkles to form, and skin cancer. UVA and UVB wavelengths can penetrate through almost anything; therefore, protection from them is important all year round, not just during the summer months. You can be exposed to the sun's harmful rays during any season, any temperature, and even on a cloudy day.

Contrary to popular belief, sunscreen and sun block are not the same things...

Sunscreen contains materials that act as filters to allow a certain range of UV light to be absorbed into the skin.  Studies have proven a majority of these ingredients to be toxic and/or carcinogenic.

Sun block contains materials (usually minerals) that reflect and scatter the UV light and acts a wall between damaging UV rays and your skin.

It is also important to understand that higher altitudes intensify the sun’s damaging effects.  For every 1,000-foot increase in altitude, the sun's potency increases by 4 percent. Don’t forget the sun block when you’re skiing! 

Sunscreens that use titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredient as opposed to OTC sunscreens are both highly effective and non-irritating, making these highly preferred options for anyone looking for healthy sun protection. These ingredients are also the preferred option for those with highly reactive, sensitive skin, as well as rosacea and acne conditions.

Other groundbreaking ingredients to look for in a healthy sun protection formula are betula alba (white birch bark extract) and potent topical antioxidants including superoxide dismutase and vitamins C and E, to name the top four. These vital nutrients should also be included in your diet and nutritional supplements as well to help provide the raw materials necessary to help protect the skin from environmental aggressors. Our environment is more aggressive and hostile than ever, and careful consideration must be given to the care and protection of your skin to prevent accelerated aging and prevent cancerous conditions from occurring. 


Emily Fritchey is a holistic skin therapist, award-winning product formulator, and nationally recognized aesthetics educator who's unique and highly effective approaches for the treatment of aging and problem skin conditions have been presented at national aesthetics conferences, wellness seminars, and natural health workshops across the country. She has been featured in Cosmetic Surgery Times and Dermatology Times, and has received the endorsement of beauty experts and nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts across the country, including Kat James, author of "The Truth About Beauty." Emily is the founder and president of Sunshine Botanicals and the recipient of three consecutive "Beauty with a Conscience" awards from Natural Solutions magazine for outstanding product formulation. For more information, visit www., as well as her Facebook and Twitter pages.