We love the outdoors. We love the sun. But we don’t love skin cancer. Slapping on some sunscreen before putting yourself under that cosmic ball of fire is a wise choice, but what exactly is in that supposedly skin-saving lotion?
Different sunscreens use different ingredients, so the only way to know is to check the label. You might see oxybenzone in the small print, a widely used chemical UV filter that can alter your sperm production. Perhaps octinoxate will be on the list, another popular sunscreen chemical that can disrupt the function of your thyroid gland. Also look out for homosalate, which is known to disrupt male androgenic hormones such as testosterone.
Kaboompics ‘Sunblock’ CC0 via Pixabay
These chemicals are good at protecting against harmful UV rays, but should you be using them when they can do damage to your health in other ways? We don’t think so. Here at Dr. Squatch we don’t like putting chemicals on our skin. Hell, that’s why we created our natural soap. That said, you have to weigh up the pros and cons, because if you’re hanging out at the beach without wearing sunscreen you’re likely to suffer more than when you’re smothered in it. Ultra violet radiation from the sun causes most cases of skin cancer, and it’s the UVA and UVB rays that are the culprits.
So what’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays? Here’s the low down. UVA rays account for 95% of the UV radiation raining down on us from the sun. These rays penetrate the skin deeper than their UVB brothers and are responsible for premature aging of the skin, wrinkles and getting a tan. Your skin tans when exposed to UVA rays because your body is trying to turn your skin darker to combat the DNA damage being caused. That’s right, a tan equals DNA damage.
As for UVB, these rays are less prevalent than UVA and don’t penetrate the skin as deep, but are responsible for making the top layer of your skin, the epidermis, turn red. UVB rays give you sunburn, dark moles on your skin, and play an integral role in the development of skin cancer. UVB rays are literally frazzling the top layer of your skin, but it’s both UVB and UVA rays that are responsible for skin cancer.
Pat Hawks ‘Sunburn’ CC2.0 via Flickr
Sobering stuff I know, but now’s a good time to tell you that there are two types of sunscreen, chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreens absorb and filter harmful UV rays while mineral sunscreens completely block them from penetrating the skin. The best and safest mineral ingredient for sunscreen is zinc oxide, which offers broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s also unlikely to irritate your skin and even has anti-microbial properties that fight things like acne.
Finding a good quality natural sunscreen isn’t exactly easy but they are out there. All the different Badger sunscreens available are Certified Natural by the Natural Products Association, completely biodegradable and use zinc oxide to block both UVA and UVB rays. Their sport sunscreen is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, perfect for you fellas out there surfing, wakeboarding, kayaking, sailing or doing anything else on and in the water.
Andrew Steele ‘Sunscreen on back under normal and UV light’ CC0 via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re a hands-on kinda guy who likes to make things, why not have a crack at mixing up your own batch of natural sunscreen. It’s not a complicated process and you don’t need a whole bunch of different ingredients. One thing to note, you should wear a protective dust mask when handling and mixing the zinc oxide as it can be dangerous when inhaled. Here’s the basic recipe:
a. Beeswax – Quarter of a cup
b. Coconut oil – Quarter of a cup
c. Olive oil – Half a cup
d. Zinc oxide – Two tablespoons
i. Mix the oils and beeswax in a large jar, a washed out pint-sized pickle jar would work just fine, and place the lid on loosely so it is not sealed tight.
ii. Put a few inches of water in a saucepan and heat it up on the hob. Place the jar with ingredients in the saucepan and watch them melt.
iii. Stir the melted ingredients so they are well mixed and then add the zinc oxide, and keep stirring to mix in the zinc oxide.
iv. Transfer to a smaller jar or whatever you want to store the mixture in, a screw top tin works well, and keep lightly stirring as the mixture cools.
v. Leave to fully cool in the fridge and then use as you would any other sunscreen.
You can also add other natural ingredients to the mix at the beginning that are known to have a natural sun protection factor (SPF). Carrot seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, almond oil and Shea butter are all great additions to this basic recipe.
There you have it, aside from covering up your skin when out in the sun, using natural zinc oxide sunscreen is the best way to go. Also, don’t think that because it’s cloudy outside that those UV rays won’t be firing down on your either. When the clouds are thin and patchy UV rays can reflect off the edge of a cloud which increases their intensity and strength. Even on completely overcast days UV radiation will penetrate through the clouds and reach your skin. Now slap on that natural sunscreen, get out there and enjoy the sunshine!
Featured Image: Jill111 ‘Man Holding Sun’ CC0 via Pixabay