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Choose carefully when applying sunscreen

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With all the hot weather we’ve been experiencing over the past few months, Canadians seem to be spending as much time outdoors as possible.

There’s good reason for that: heat and sunshine are concepts that are foreign to us for much of the year.

However, fun in the sun isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. We are constantly reminded that the sun’s rays can be harmful at times, and to watch the UV index before going out. Oh and don’t forget to slather on metric tonnes of sunscreen before stepping foot outdoors!
But, what if we’ve been getting it all wrong? What if the very thing we are trying to avoid, the sun’s UV rays, are not only beneficial and healthy, but the products people use to protect themselves may be toxic and dangerous themselves?

Consider the fact that all forms of life require the sun to live, including humans. Our skin filters UV rays (the good ones) and turns them into vitamin D, an essential vitamin that sometimes acts like a hormone.

An adequate level of vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, colds and flu and certain types of cancer. Vitamin D also strengthens bones and the immune system.

On the other hand, unsafe exposure to UV rays (the bad ones) has been linked to skin cancer. This is the reason why most people slather on the sunscreen. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients found in commercial sunscreens are toxic and have the potential to be harmful as well.

The main chemical used in commercial sunscreens is octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC). OMC was found to kill mouse cells even at low doses. Other problem chemicals in sunscreen include: dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, parabens and retinyl palmitate, to name a few. These chemicals can be dangerous even in small doses.

Alternatively, look for safer sunscreens that do not use harmful chemicals. Ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium dioxide are safer alternatives. Coconut oil, beeswax, tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), aloe vera gel and glycerine are common as well. Start reading the labels and know what chemicals you are absorbing through your skin.

Most importantly, safe sun exposure involves not staying out until you burn. Temper your sun exposure by gradually ramping up your time spent outdoors. Remember, a tan is actually a form of sun protection.

To prevent burns, eating a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and high in phytonutrients and antioxidants has been show to help somewhat. Also, make sure to keep the sun out of your eyes with either a cap or sunglasses.

Safe sun exposure involves a few common sense practices as well as looking for sunscreen products that do not contain harmful chemicals. Following these simple suggestions will ensure you receive all the benefits of the sun, without the negative side effects.

Dr. Christian Chatzoglou, D.C. is a chiropractor, writer and natural health expert. For more information on this and other topics, visit www.drchrischatzoglou.com

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