Fortified Health Club: Small Changes Make Big Impacts

Sunscreen – Friend or Foe?

June 17, 2016 by Faith Hill

It’s that time of year again ..

.. the warm, summer days when we trade in our umbrellas for beach towels to have some fun in the sun.

We’re always encouraged to wear sunscreen for the sake of our health, but sunscreen is also loaded with chemicals. Plus, sunscreen can block out an essential source of vitamin D.

So, what’s true regarding this "protectant"?

Both sides of the argument have merit, but there are also pitfalls. In this post for our Get Clean in '16 Initiative, we’re going to lay it all out for you so you can “practice safe sun.”

The Benefits of Sunlight

Sunlight is proven to provide amazing benefits including increased fat metabolism and metabolic energy.

Sunlight is also a natural antidepressant, but the most well-known benefit of sunlight is that it’s the body’s way of creating vitamin D. Growing evidence shows that vitamin D plays a crucial role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health.

According to one large study, optimal vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by up to 60 percent (even skin cancer)! That’s right; the sun prevents skin cancer.

In fact, melanoma lesions primarily appear on areas of the body that are usually covered from sunlight. Exposure to sunlight actually protects you against melanoma. Even The Lancet medical journal agrees: “Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”

Sunscreen, in other words, has been proven ineffective in the fight against skin cancer.

Spend some time in the sun outdoors regularly, ideally, daily. But take some common sense precautions. Obviously, it’s important to avoid getting burned. Stay out only long enough for your skin to turn a light shade of pink. The optimal time is usually about twenty minutes, but it can be three to six times longer for darkly pigmented skin.

If you want to stay out in the sun for longer than twenty minutes to an hour, wear sunscreen, but choose your sunscreen carefully. The Environmental Working Group found that the top-selling brands are also the top most toxic.

Below are just three of the common harmful ingredients found in popular sunscreens.

Avoid the Following Ingredients

If your sunscreen includes the three ingredients listed below, throw it out!

Also, avoid spray sunscreens. These are popular for kids, but the convenience comes at a cost, as toxic particles are even worse for your body when inhaled.


Oxybenzone’s primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light (also known as UV rays). However, this chemical is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage.

The Environmental Working Group says oxybenzone penetrates the skin and acts like estrogen. It is even linked to endometriosis in older women.


Also known as vitamin A palmitate, this common sunscreen ingredient may actually increase the rate at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer when exposed to the sun.


If you’ve read our posts in the past, you know that “fragrances” is an umbrella term that can legally hide hundreds of harmful chemicals due to the formula’s status as proprietary information.

The hidden chemicals in fragrances have been proven to cause hormone interference and cancer.

Avoid Super-High SPFs

The sun protection factor (or SPF) listed on the bottle is often a red flag.

Higher SPFs are not harmful, but there’s evidence that the higher protection level gives the wearer a false sense of security and encourages people to stay out in the sun longer than they should.

Avoid Towelettes and Powders

Sunscreen towelettes and powders are a popular new option, but the protection they provide is dubious at best.

The substances also cause lung irritation if accidentally inhaled.

Get Sunscreen That Covers UVA and UVB

The most dangerous UV rays are UVA, but most SPF-levels only refer to the brand’s effectiveness against UVB rays, the rays that actually help your body produce vitamin D.

Look for the term “broad spectrum,” which means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Use Beautycounter’s Protect All Over Sunscreen or Protect Stick Sunscreen

Both of these Beautycounter products provide broad-spectrum protection. This lightweight, water-resistant sunscreen is made with all-natural ingredients.

It leaves no white streaks, contains aloe for skin health, and fights free radicals. Not only that, but the Environmental Working Group (which rates products on a Skin Deep scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best) gave this product a stellar score of 1.

My whole family used Beautycounter’s Protect All Over Sunscreen when we went on vacation last week, and none of us had any burns.

Practice “Safe Sun”

Instead of trying to hide from the sun, give your body a healthy chance to produce vitamin D. Expose large amounts of your skin (up to 40 percent of your body) to the sun for short periods daily.

If you are in the sun for longer periods of time, cover up with clothing, a hat, the shade, or a safe sunscreen. You can even apply a layer of coconut oil over your body. You might think it would lead to a nasty burn, but the oils in your skin actually act as a defense.

And remember, your facial skin is very thin, so shield your face daily.

Finally, consume a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants and fat. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients your body needs to maintain the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn.

There is no evidence that sunscreen is effective at preventing skin cancer, but as you can see, there is actually evidence that these added chemicals cause cancer.

There are safer options. Sunlight is your friend. Toxic sunscreens; however, are not.

Enjoy your summer!