50 Shades of Green: The Skinny on Sunscreen Lindsy Hoganson August 22, 2012 Green 14 Comments With all the sweat inducing days we’ve been having, this popular summertime staple has been flying off the shelf. We’ve all been inundated with information stating that if we don’t wear sunscreen, we’ll get cancer. In all reality sunscreen has been around for a relatively short time; invented (or at least the idea of it) approximately in the 1930’s, the first UVA/UVB sunscreen wasn’t introduced until 1980 by Coppertone. How did our ancestors survive? Now studies are showing that some chemicals included in the sunscreen cocktail may be linked to cancer. So how does this magic elixir work? The goo creates a barrier between your skin and the sun’s UVB and UVA rays, an invisible form of radiation. UVB rays are responsible for the ever-stylish lobster look, while UVA rays with longer lasting damage, leave tale tell lines etched finely into your skin. Sunscreen also works to absorb the rays and release the extra energy off as heat, helping prevent free radical and oxidative damage. In case you’re wondering what a free radical is, it’s like a rogue molecule missing an electron that goes pirating through your body trying to steal its missing mate, thus disrupting your finely tuned system and inviting a host of diseases to enter on board. Sunscreen’s ability to aid you in protecting your skin from the sun comes from a whole slew of chemicals like toxic solvents, petroleum byproducts, cancer causing fragrances and ingredients that start with methyl, ethyl and dieth etc… The issue with some of these ingredients is that they react with the sun, breaking down the chemicals and penetrating the deeper layers of your skin in fact causing free radicals which is the very thing it’s suppose to prevent. Take in account that unless you’re using 2 milligrams per centimeter squared you’re not getting the full Sun Protection Factor promised on the label either. You could always opt for sunscreens more opaque buddy, sun block, which uses natural ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc (neither of these ingredients break down when exposed to sun but you might end up looking like a human piece of wedding cake). Short of blaubing yourself in the cream and resembling the marshmallow man what alternatives are there? Keep in mind that your body is designed to deal with moderate amounts of sun. When exposed to sunlight, your skin starts its own chemical process by upping your pigment and melanin production, allowing you to tan. The tanner you are, the more pigment you have to protect your skin, hence why many hit the tanning beds before vacationing, I’m not recommending you do this, but building a base tan with a reasonable amount of sun exposure over time might not be a bad idea. Even if you do wear sunscreen, common sense will go a lot further. A hat and some shade are simple and inexpensive solutions . When a day in the sun necessitates the use of the sunscreen look for an all-natural product that is fragrant free and non-aerosol spray skips the skins defense all together and goes straight into your lungs and blood stream. You’re doing your skin and the environment a favor by going back to the basics. My favorite is antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals offering the rogues a parlay by providing it’s missing electron mate so they don’t have to go bully your cells for one. Green tea, acai berry and blueberries all offer antioxidants. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a poolside berry beverage?