Thursday, July 03, 2008


It's easy to see why people have always worshipped the sun. First of all -- there it is, big as hell, infinitely more powerful and arguably hotter (and it's hard to argue over the physical characteristics of mythological places) -- so nobody can question the sun's existence or the power it has over life itself. Now with climate change undeniably happening, whether you think people are causing it or that the sun is merely getting hotter on its own, we have to deal with it as citizens of this particular solar system.

OK, that really went "out there" and got a little philosophical, but to get closer to home and the issues affecting you as you walk out the door, what about sunscreen? Do you use it? Back in the "Coppertone" days, we'd put on that stuff that was like a thick butter, and it smelled soooo good, but was only about an SPF #2 or something. Oh yes, you'd get a tan, and that oily stuff was probably good for the skin. Most people these days use products with at least an SPF of 15, and that's generally very effective at keeping away a tan. SPF is a confusing thing, though. SPF 30 is not twice as protective as SPF 15.

Now here is a study conducted on a whole range of sunscreens with some surprising conclusions, at least for me. You tend to think that the health brands would just automatically be safer. Uh-uh. They tested hundreds of products for effectiveness and safety. There are chemicals in these products that can harm you, and others that simply break down and don't work. They've got a grid with HAZARDOUS weighed against EFFECTIVE, and some of the worst products are as you might guess: some Coppertones, Walgreens, Gillette, etc, but there's also some Rachel Perry, Aveeno, and so on. And some of these products contains nanoparticles. That's an area where I am really not comfortable. Nope. And... it's worth pointing out that lots and lots of products that you put on your body contain sunscreen, like makeup (even face powder), lotion and shampoo.

I used to keep sunscreen on all the time. Nobody wants skin cancer, and I have a little spot on my nose that I have to watch out for. Then I wound up with osteopenia, which is the bone condition you get right before osteoporosis. Testing showed that I was losing Vitamin D (who knows why? I don't think the doctor was even certain, so now I take a prescription form of it, and I also pretty much gave up the sunscreen when my exposure is limited to in and out of the car (and haven't you heard the alarm bells sounded over even those small amounts of sun exposure?) because sunscreen... wouldn't you know it... also blocks the vitamin D you get from sunshine. Anyway, here it is a few years later and the ostopenia is gone. My bones are now considered normal for my age. Ta-da!!

This recent article brings up a lot of good points too, there's risk no matter what, and we all have to weigh these out for ourselves.

As the second article points out, clothing is protective and doesn't leech chemicals into your bloodstream. Hats with brims are good, sleeves (if you can stand them) work, and shade is a wonderful thing. Umbrellas (parasols) are designed for that (umbra = shade (Greek), parasol = shield sun [Latin, French, Italian roots]), so they should be brought back in style for sunny days. Don't wait for the designer, just do it yourself.

Have fun in the sun or out of it.
And don't forget your hat.

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