While everyone's heard of the benefits of moderate sun exposure—from increased vitamin D levels to balancing mood and circadian rhythms—the negative effects, especially potential skin cancer, are enough to make most parents reach for the bottle of sunscreen.
But not us.
Since 2006 my family have gone sunscreen-free in response to a growing awareness of the dangers of chemicals placed into the majority of sun creams. At least 60 percent of what you put on your body absorbs directly in to the blood stream. So when we found out that typical sunscreen ingredients like oxtinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone and homosalate can act as irritants, allergens, hormone disruptors and even carcinogens, we were done.
In addition to the harmful effects mentioned above, these substances also wreak havoc by blocking the pores which form part of the lymphatic drainage system. And in case you missed it, sweating is vital for our health. Through sweating, the body cleanses its internal environment and regulates our body temperature.
The sun is powerful and can remove harmful substances from the body. Often we can confuse a healing crisis with a disease crisis, the latter being a descent away from good health rather than ascent back to good health as occurs in a healing crisis. When a disease such as skin cancer emerges, the body has reached a critical point of toxic overload and is crying out for help to be cleansed of toxins. The sun is a great healer and may help to catalyze such a healing crisis but that doesn't make it the cause.
It's interesting to note Australia, one of the biggest countries known for sunscreen use, also has one of the highest rates of skin cancer.
We moved to hot Gozo when our son was suffering from a skin condition, spending around 20 to 30 minutes everyday in direct sunlight, without any sunscreen. We never got sunburnt, and in fact, returned back to the UK with a revitalized, healthy child.
... if I wouldn't consume it as food or medicine, then I don't put it on my skin.
Then should we all have unlimited sun exposure with no protection? Of course not!
No culture does that. The Mediterraneans take their siesta at the hottest part of the day. The Arabs chew on the root or seeds of the Amni-Majus also known as ‘toothpick’ (a white flower also native to British Isles) and the Indians chew on the seeds of the Babchi plant to increase the Melanin which darkens their skin pigment.
Each skin color is designed to live in a particular climate and we must learn to adjust sun exposure times accordingly to reflect our own personal limits.
So we choose to protect ourselves from the sun using natural and mindful practices:
* We limit exposure during the sun’s strongest hours and during periods of illness when the body is prone to sunburn.
* We build up our sun exposure gradually starting with 10 to 15 minutes per day and building up to a limit that suits our individual tolerance.
* We use hats/long-sleeved clothing to cover up during the hottest hours where there is no shade.
* We don't routinely wear sunglasses. They were originally invented for pilots flying high in the atmosphere where there is high, unnatural UV exposure. They have no practical use on land other than as a fashion statement. It is as important for your eyes as for your skin to allow the retinas to receive the full sunlight spectrum directly.
* We hydrate our bodies before, during and after sun exposure using either pure water with lemon or coconut water. We consume cooling herbs such as mint and eat fruits such as watermelon.
* We alkalize our bodies using raw foods such as cucumber, greens, celery. This helps to balance the body's pH, reducing chances of sunburn.
* We maintain awareness of the areas on our bodies most prone to sunburn and keep them covered in the strong sun. (shoulders, nose, feet, ears, chest and anywhere the skin is thin).
If I did use a sunscreen I would pick a sunblock which uses a mineral that sits on top of the skin rather than absorbing into it. Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are safe options. After-sun lotions can also contain many undesirable chemicals, so in the event of sun damage, we opt for natural aloe vera to cool overly heated skin. After the skin has cooled we use coconut oil to heal the skin.
Labels can be confusing so the rule I live by is this... if I wouldn't consume it as food or medicine, then I don't put it on my skin.