What’s the deal about sun, sunscreens and our skin?

Beaches_wallpapers_371I love sunlight and can’t wait for the longer summer days.   But excessive UV light exposure is the number one factor in pre-mature aging of the skin and is responsible for 90% of basal and squamous cell skin cancers.  Therefore, the American Cancer Society advises us to protect our skin from the suns rays by “slopping” on sunscreen products and reapplying them every two hours.

But the reason we must reapply those sunscreen chemicals is because our body recognizes them as a toxins, so our immune system is triggered to isolate and remove them.  Histamines and lymph are released to surround the chemicals then enzymes in the skin work to break them down rendering them useless after a while – so you need to reapply.  And conversely, two of the risk factors for skin cancer is exposure to toxic substances and having an over-taxed immune system!!

What’s the deal?!!!

Think of your skin as a filter system for the body.  What we put on it is broken down and refined but the essence that remains can penetrate to the inner workings of our body to circulate throughout either helping or hindering.  The Environmental Working Group that I became acquainted with early in my skin care years has been a watch dog the skincare industry searching for data on the health of cosmetic ingredients.  What their data bank has shown is that many of the sunscreen chemicals used today are indeed toxic to the body in one way or another and some are even linked to causing cancer!  But the Skin Cancer Foundation says they are safe!  Geez….

This is a REAL dilemma isn’t it?  For those of us with high risk factors for skin cancer, the tendency is to be compulsive with the use of sunscreen and then be fearful.  But for some of us who are very sensitive with hyper-active immune systems, the sunscreens cause rashes, welts and redness so we can’t use them anyway.  Our body is telling us one thing and our mind is saying something else.

So how can we protect our skin from spotting, from pre-mature aging and from the potential of skin cancer later in life?  Especially when we like to be outdoors?  It’s so confusing!  Here is what I know as a professional:

actinic-keratosis-4Actinic-Keratosis-31.  Use skincare products that keep UV damage at bay. Approximately 65 percent of all squamous cell carcinomas and 36 percent of all basal cell carcinomas arise in lesions that previously were diagnosed as actinic “solar” keratoses, pre-cancerous keratosis.  These are the little upraised, crusty patches that form on your skin caused from repetitive sun exposure.  You may find them on your arms and legs and if you haven’t historically taken care of the skin on your face, you may find them there as well.  

    1. CONSISTENTLY use solutions that contain AHA acids or retinoids plus semi-aggressive scrubs to help keep the keratosis from forming.

IMG_00512.  Use skincare products that lessen your skin’s chance of becoming cancerous or pre-maturely aged.  Aging of the skin, including sagging, wrinkles and spotting, is only 20% heredity and the rest is from environment (smoking, contact with toxins, excessive SUN…)!

    1. CONSISTENTLY use products that contain vitamin C in these forms;  L-ascorbyl palmitate, L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.  They will help your skin resist sun burning and are accumulated in the skin for several days worth of resistance.
    2. CONSISTENTLY use products that contain anti-oxidants to help your skin cells resist the urge to mutate, change their DNA and mal-form into pre-maturely aged or disease carrying cells.  The ingredient variety is huge and some are more powerful than others.  Read your labels.
    3. Use sunscreens that do not include the most toxic sunscreen chemicals but instead favor the use of zinc and titanium dioxides and the less invasive chemicals.*  Wear some sort of sunscreen daily; SPF 15 or more for casual exposure and 30 – 50 SPF for prolonged exposure.  Make sure they are “broad spectrum” which means they block UVB sun rays (which are the main cause of sunburn) and UVA sun rays (which age the skin and can also cause cancer).  Reapply these liberally and often.

3.  Have regular [at least at the change of the seasons] facial procedures that remove damage, resurface the skin and stimulate healthy skin cell renewal.

4.  Wear hats and protective clothing.  Keep the sun off your skin when ever possible and particularly during the peak hours of 10AM to 4PM when the suns rays are the longest. Sunscreens do NOT block all the suns rays.

 5.  Avoiding sunbathing and tanning beds.  Tanning beds in particular increase the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.


I am one of those people who have a hyper-sensitive skin with an over active immune system – I can’t use sunscreen chemicals.  Add to that the family history of cancer, medium-fair skin and moles AND the fact that I love to be outside, I am at high risk for skin cancer and pre-mature aging of the skin. 

Here is what I do to protect my skin:

  • I wear face make-up foundation everyday that has broad spectrum mineral oxides SPF 15 that I blended in to it and smear chemical-free sunscreen on my exposed neck/chest.  If I have an unexpected moment to take a walk or putz in the garden, I dust on my mineral powder make-up SPF 26 over that.  Sometimes I have been known to simply smear in more sunblock right over everything – easy.  I am not a make-up prima donna. 
  • When I will be outside for longer periods of time, I always start with a liberal application of sunblock SPF 30 – 50.  Even though mineral oxides are not neutralized by the skin therefore are always still active, I will reapply often because I perspire a lot and have a habit of rubbing my face which removes it.  I also ALWAYS wear a wide-brimmed hat and when I can stand it, wear long sleeves.  [I know I always should but….no one is perfect.]
  • I try to do all my outside activity early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  I find this a great way to organize my day anyway.
  • I continually,  consistently use acid solutions, scrubs and anti-oxidant skin care products.

EVEN STILL, my skin tans a bit and at the end of the summer I work at lightening those spots again.  NOTE: most spotting on our skin is from exposure 20 years previously.


* Less-hazardous, least restricted, least allergic sunscreen chemicals :

  • avobenzone
  • ecamsule (mexoryl sx)
  • octyl salicylate
  • sulisobenzone
  • menthyl anthranilate

REFERENCES/RESOURCES: The Skin Cancer Foundation, Mayo Clinic, The American Cancer Society