Healthful Mondays: Sunscreen=cancer?

With today’s big news that certain sunscreens may contain an ingredient that will actually accelerate user’s chances of cancer, every parent is frantically checking sunscreens for retinyl palmitate, a Vitamin A derivative. More than 500 of the most popular sunscreens on the market contain retinyl palmitate, meaning many have been slathering on the cancer risk instead of protecting against it.

The sun has turned into the enemy. Every year there is the development of stronger and stronger sunscreens created to prevent even the smallest amount of UV rays to damage the skin. Prolonged sun exposure has been linked to skin cancer, eye damage and premature skin aging. So, slathering on sunscreen is the solution, right? Not necessarily.

Sunscreens contain chemicals. Some chemicals aren’t great. Constantly coating your body with a layer of chemicals to protect it from sun exposure isn’t a wonderful thing. And, with new evidence from studies showing retinyl palmitate as a cancer risk, parents should be reading the ingredient list on their sunscreen, and finding other ways to protect against prolonged skin exposure.

Here’s the thing. Even the Skin Cancer Foundation has suggestions for spending time outdoors without covering the body every 20 minutes with sunscreen. Wearing hats, sunglasses and clothing with UV protection built-in is a start. UV protective clothing can be found at many outdoor stores and online. Another suggestion is to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day. Take a break from outdoor fun, have a healthy lunch as a family and enjoy a board game, like Monopoly!

The Skin Cancer Foundation also suggests applying 2 Tablespoons of sun block with an SPF of 15 or higher everyday, and to re-apply every 2 hours or after prolonged swimming. I know people who are coating their kids every 15 minutes with half a tube of SPF 70! I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit excessive.

So, check your sunscreen. If it contains retinyl palmitate, chuck it and buy a sunscreen sans the stuff. Here’s a link to a wonderful list of lovely natural sunscreens free of any nastiness!

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