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4 Big Fat Sunscreen Lies

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

It’s summertime in the Southern Hemisphere and, with the holidays upcoming in the Northern Hemisphere, many people may be headed to a beach somewhere. So, no matter where you live (or what time a year it is, for that matter), SBS Australia has listed four dangerous myths about sunscreen that everyone should know. While we’re at it, I’ll thrown in a few ideas of my own on the best way to enjoy the sun.

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Myth No. 1 — You can prevent sunburn with a good diet and special foods. Who could be against a good diet and great foods? But the idea that you can stand out in the sun and not get burned just because you eat healthy and consumed a certain food is ludicrous at best. If you go outside and stand in the sun too long, you’re going to get burned no matter great your diet is.

Myth No. 2 — Dark-skinned folks don’t need sunscreen and don’t have to worry about vitamin D levels. Let me repeat, being out in the sun too long can cause a sunburn no matter what color you are. As for vitamin D levels, darker-skinned people may be at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, so it is necessary to get some “D” from the sun; just don’t overdo it (which is the same message I would give to anyone).

When it comes to sunscreen, be aware that many are toxic (see below) and only half as effective as they claim. Once you understand that the sunscreen “SPF” label applies to UVB rays only, and not UVA (which is actually responsible for most of your UV damage) you’re know why it’s important to look for a broad-spectrum product that specifies that it protects against UVA.

Myth No. 3 — You can make your own sunscreen from a food. Actually, your best bet for sun protection comes from hats, sunglasses, clothing, zinc oxide and astaxanthin (if you’re thinking of trying a supplement). Astaxanthin — a potent antioxidant — has been found to offer some protection when taken as a daily supplement. It can also be used topically, as a number of topical sunscreen products contain it. Other helpful antioxidants include proanthocyanidins, resveratrol and lycopene.

You can moisturize your skin with foods such as coconut oil — which is something many commercial sunscreens advertise as an ingredient. It follows, then, if you buy commercial sunscreen, read the labels, if for no other reason than to cross off those with dangerous chemicals in them. For example, studies show that 97 percent of people living in the U.S. are contaminated with a toxic ingredient widely used in sunscreens, called oxybenzone. Mothers with high levels of this chemical have a higher risk of giving birth to low birthweight babies, a critical risk factor linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases. So, if the sunscreen you’re considering has this ingredient in it, don’t buy it — and let me warn you, the Environmental Working Group identified nearly 600 different sunscreen products containing oxybenzone!

Myth No. 4 — A sunscreen pill is all you need to guard against UV rays. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just swallow a pill and get all the sun we want and merrily go on our way? The thing is, that’s not how it works. One more time, safe sun exposure can do wonders for your health. But — with an emphasis on SAFE — sun exposure can only be therapeutic when it’s done in appropriate and measured time frames.

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