May is skin cancer awareness month and schools are almost out for the summer, so the chase for a golden glow begins! But which sun kissed method is healthier?
Did you know that regular sun exposure without sunscreen causes your skin to produce vitamin D naturally!? But how much sun do you need? Well, that varies greatly depending on your location, skin type, time of year, time of day, and even atmospheric conditions. As a general rule of thumb, you want to expose as much of your body as possible to sunlight until your skin turns the slightest shade of pink.
I also found this extremely complex vitamin D / UV calculator that the scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research devised. It will take all those factors into consideration and estimate how many minutes of exposure you need for your skin to produce 25 mcg (the equivalent of 1,000 International Units) of vitamin D. It's not user-friendly, but if you're curious (like me), try it here.
Tips for the UV calculator:
- It's not written for US cities so google the latitude and longitude of your city and enter it manually.
- It also wants latitude in degrees N and longitude in degrees E. When I searched the latitude and longitude for Dallas, TX, I got, 32.77° N, 96.79° W. Great! But since the longitude is degrees W, I'll input it as -96.79° since the calculator wants degrees E.
- Google the altitude of your town in kilometers.
Don't Wear Daily Sunscreen Every Day. Maybe.
Sure, wear sunscreen everyday if you're a surfer, but what if sunscreen use actually limits our vitamin D intake, leading to bad skin, poor bone strength and general depression? If you're going from a car, to a subway, to an indoor office and then back home, you should not be wearing sunscreen daily. I would certainly never say it's 'harmful' to wear SPF, but I don't advise wearing it 24/7/365. It's great to get a little sun exposure from time to time! We need the sun to stimulate vitamin D. Between fall and early spring, I forgo the sunscreen and fill up on vitamin D. Of course I suggest sunscreen if you are going to be in the sun during peak hours, but a combination of the right skincare regimen and a hat are the best way to get a nice, healthy glow. But really, drink your juice, eat your veggies and wear a chic hat!
The majority of the sunscreens on the market today are more harmful than beneficial. Sunscreens are designed to decrease your risk of skin cancer and allow you to enjoy the sun without worry. Unfortunately, most modern day sunscreens may increase your risk of cancer and disrupt the functioning of your hormones because they are partially absorbed through the skin. Your typical "banana boat" sunscreen is full of parabens which may increase the rate of breast cancer and interfere with the male reproductive system.
Sunscreen was first invented in the 1940s by Franz Greiter and the active component consisted of zinc oxide. You won't find zinc oxide in most conventional sunscreens because it is not absorbed into your skin and you're left covered with a pasty white substance. You'll find zinc oxide in many of the #courtneyapproved sunscreens listed below and that's because it offers the same protection as wearing a long sleeve shirt! But there is also micronized zinc oxide. It has the safety profile of traditional zinc oxide sunscreen but is as aesthetically appealing as modern day sunscreens. It is not absorbed into the body, does not enter the bloodstream and has no dangerous side effects unless it is inhaled. For this reason, I recommend avoiding any "spray" products containing micronized zinc oxide.
Best Non-Chalky Formula:
Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion — Fragrance Free $19.95
All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray $16.99
OR, if you absolutely have to have an aerosol spray (some summer camps require them for your kids), use this instead:
100% Pure Yerba Mate Mist SPF 30 $35.00
Best for Working Out:
Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream $15.99
Best for Face (and my favorite):
MANDA Organic Sun Paste (SPF 50) $28.00
Best to Apply Before Swimming (and another favorite):
Raw Elements ECO Formula 30+ Lotion Tube $18.99
Best for Lips:
100% Pure Sweet Mint Lip Balm SPF 15 $9.00
“I know I’ll probably get skin cancer from tanning, but that will be when I’m old, like in my forties.” Those words, from a friend of mine, changed how I looked at skin cancer prevention in young people. Both my personal focus and professional training had always emphasized the value and importance of health. If you know something is unnecessarily harming your health, and you know ways to prevent it, you’d change what you were doing, right? That friend taught me that not everyone values health the same way I do. She also gave me insight into why traditional educational efforts, with their focus on long-term health issues, were having little impact on young people’s risky sun habits and tanning behavior, especially indoor UVR (ultraviolet radiation) tanning.
I think the motivation behind indoor tanning is the desire to improve our appearance. “Tan fat looks better than pale fat”, right? No matter what you may hear at tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation for perfectly bronzed skin now can lead to premature skin aging with fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots, as well as skin cancer. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. Worldwide, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases due to smoking. These results are not surprising given what we know about indoor tanning behaviors and society’s flawed view that an artificially tanned look is beautiful.
The Skin Cancer Foundation continually works to change perceptions about tanning through its public education efforts, including its PSA campaign Go With Your Own Glow, which is designed to encourage women to embrace and protect their natural skin tone.
With just a squirt of bronze solution and a thorough rubdown, we are now one step closer to Brazilian model material without exposing our sensitive skin to the sun’s harmful rays. Still, while it seems that self-tanner products solve a huge conundrum for humankind, the ingredients that make up many conventional products present yet another one: exposing us to harsh chemicals that are not-so-good for human health.
Popular self-tanner formulas are known to contain a toxic soup of potentially harmful chemicals added to stabilize or preserve for a longer shelf life. Many products contain parabens, a type of synthetic preservative linked to breast cancer, and oxybenzone, a chemical that messes with our hormones and may actually increase our risk of skin cancer. Some self-tanner formulations even contain ingredients known to release formaldehyde as they break down, such as diazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin.
A yucky situation indeed, conscious manufacturers have started to sense a need for something less toxic, making our pool of options much deeper. Here are a few #courtneyapproved self tanners:
Beauty By Earth Self Tanner $25.99
100% Pure All Over Glow: Lightly Sun Kissed $35.00
Chocolate Sun Cocoa Lite Face & Body Tanning Cream $40.00
Once hailed as the smart alternative to tanning outside, spray tans can also be hazardous to your health. The concern stems from use of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in tanning solutions, which interacts with dead cells on the skin’s surface to evoke color change. When used properly, DHA is considered safe. “Most dermatologists agree that the spray-on tans or the tans in a bottle, which basically cause coloration of the outer layer of the epidermis – the stratum corneum – are safe and effective,” says Leffell.
But many people don’t use spray tans properly. The FDA advises people cover their lips, nose, and eyes because the risks from inhaling DHA are unknown. Lab studies have shown that high levels of DHA – much higher than you’d find in over-the-counter tanning products – can increase free radical formation. Free radicals are part of our natural metabolic process but high levels are capable of damaging structures within the cell, including DNA, and have been linked to cancer.
Is there such a thing as organic spray tan?
Natural products aren’t necessarily organic, and even products advertised as organic could contain a significant amount of unnatural ingredients. In the US for example, products that don’t carry a USDA Organic Seal only need to contain 70% organic ingredients in order to advertise themselves as an organic product. The remaining 30% of ingredients don’t even need to be natural – so they may consist of nearly a third synthetic materials.
Does this mean spray tans that claim to be organic may not actually be organic at all? While many spray tan products carry the words “organic” or “organically certified” on their packaging, in reality, there’s no such thing. And it’s not a case of those companies intentionally misleading their customers. Instead, the issue stems from a general lack of clarity as to what ingredients can reasonably be called organic. I appreciate their honesty and clarity!
A great example of this is dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – a common active ingredient in many spray tanning products. DHA is manufactured from natural sources includes – but not limited to – sugar beets and rapeseed. And while many spray tan producers consider this naturally-based DHA to be an organic ingredient, others do not.
It’s time to pull the plug on your Mystic Tan sessions.
Emma is a certified airbrush tanning technician with a mobile airbrush tanning service that brings the convenience of a salon right to your home.
She uses the brand Sunfx which uses certified DHA derived from all-natural sources. They felt it was misleading to accurately list this active ingredient as organic even though the Australian Organic Standard requires only 95% of a product’s ingredients to be organic. They believe anything less than 100% is again, misleading. Their tanning solutions contain hydrating and skin-smoothing natural ingredients like organic aloe vera and organic coconut. It also includes more antioxidants for better skin repair like natural green tea and vitamins A, C, and E. As always, there are no alcohols, parabens, mineral oils, ethanols, artificial perfumes, or other harmful unnatural ingredients.
Now, is this option squeaky clean? No, but it's significantly better!
Here's the flawless airbrush tan she did for me on my wedding day!