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Sunscreen, Friend or Foe?

Hello Sunshine,

It's almost officially summertime as I write this...


My eldest came home last week after a day of play in the sun. 

He was out in the sun for almost 3 hours. He forgot his swim shirt at home and applied sunscreen to all major areas, except his shoulders and upper back. 

The tops of his shoulders were burnt to a crisp and he is still suffering. 

As summer approaches non-toxic sunscreen is always a hot topic in the Hippie Moms Facebook community

I mean, when we were little my parents would rub us down with whatever white goop they had to keep us from burning in the sun. 

Back then, no one had a clue what chemicals we were wiping on our bodies. 

When I was a teenager, I would lay in the sun for hours lathering my skin with the Banana Boat tanning oil spray with a meek SPF of 4.  

I have the freckles and age spots to prove it. 

Now that we are wising up, more moms have become aware of the dangers of sunscreens not only for our health but for the planet as well. 

It is estimated that between 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen end up in the oceans worldwide, resulting in 10 percent of coral reefs being threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching.

This is devastating! 

There are some very important points I want to share with you regarding sun exposure and sunscreen. 

First and foremost, finding a brand that isn't toxic is vital if you and your family are going to be using it this summer. 

Our skin absorbs up to 80% of what we put on it, thus, your body is absorbing and metabolizing everything the skin is exposed to. 

Dr. Mercola posted this article that shared that 78 sunscreen products contain benzene, a highly flammable, colorless chemical that can cause blood cancers like leukemia.

It is also linked to anemia and can cause excessive bleeding and negatively impact the immune system. 

Nobody wants that. 

More dangerous chemicals found in sunscreens are noted in this article by EWG

"The ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after one use (Matta 2019, Matta 2020), according to studies published by the FDA, which also found that they could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after no longer being used (Matta 2020). Previous studies detected many sunscreen ingredients in breast milk and urine samples (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). In addition, it’s possible for sunscreen users to inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so the ingredients must not be harmful to the lungs or internal organs." 

No mother wants her child exposed to these harmful and dangerous chemicals. 

AND, we don't want to not get sunshine! 

The benefits of sunshine are endless: 

  • Initiates the process of producing vitamin D, a vital hormone for the body which: 
    • Supports healthy bones
    • Manages calcium levels
    • Reduces inflammation
    • Supports the immune system and glucose metabolism 
  • Helps us sleep better and set our circadian rhythm by regulating serotonin and melatonin
  • Contributes to our well-being 
  • Great for blood circulation 
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Supports the Immune System
  • Boosts Fertility
  • Promotes Hair growth
  • Soothes the eyes
  • Reduces risk of osteoporosis
  • Helps us detox
  • Fuels our mitochondria, the "motors" of our cells 

There are so many benefits, that it could take days to list them all. 

My point is that we need sunshine, but how much and when we get it is just as important. 

Personally, my sweet spot for daily sunshine exposure is about 35 minutes. 

My body tells me exactly what it needs. 

When I lay in the sun and it feels like heaven. 

My body tingles with joy and it literally feeds my soul. 

I rotate like a hog on a spit, and always keep my face covered.  

Then when it doesn't feel heavenly anymore, I get out of the sun. 

Super simple. 

BUT there are going to be days when we play longer in the sunshine. 

On the beach, in the forest, at the park, and in all the other outdoor activities that summertime blesses us with. 

SO before we get into what sunscreen options we have, here are some easy tips are from EWG that is exactly what I tune into in the summertime: 

  1. Wear clothes! Shirts, hats, shorts, and pants are great to shield your skin from long sun exposure. 
  2. Plan around the sun. Get outside in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. The high time is usually between 10 am - 2 pm.
  3. Find and/or create shade! Bring an umbrella, and find a tree, or canopy to shield you and your kids. 

The longer I can keep my kids outside, the better!

So planning and using these simple tips to keep our exposed skin safe is super important. 

So, what sunscreens are safe? 

Well, fortunately, many companies have risen up to the task and created concoctions that not only protect our skin but don't kill our coral reefs either. 

When looking for sunscreens here are some things to note: 

  1. Avoid spray and powdered sunscreens because they can be difficult to apply properly and can have ingredients that are toxic and can be inhaled. 
  2. There are only 2 ingredients that are truly safe to protect the skin from the sun and they are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, just make sure they are not nanosized.
  3. Avoid high SPF sunscreens they are misleading as the SPF value does not reflect a product's ability to protect from UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply (Source)
  4. Chose a sunscreen that best suits your needs because one-size-never-fits-all. Such as are you going to be active in the sun, do you need just a daily use SPF, or are you looking for an option for your kids and/or baby? 

EWG offers a free sunscreen guide to help you find one that works for you and your family. Get Guide Here

Because everyone is different, I'm not going to tell you what sunscreen to buy, but I will share with you the sunscreens I use for myself and my kids. 

First, I always use a daily SPF on my face.

I've tried A LOT of daily face sunscreens and this one is my absolute favorite... Sunlight Facial Cream by Crunchi (SPF 30) it's lightweight, fast-absorbing, non-nano SPF and is amazing under foundation. 

For our bodies, we love and use Badger unscented. Badger also carries sunscreen specifically for babies too! 

You can find lots of other options and resources on EWG's Guide to Sunscreens AND find out the safety of the sunscreen brand you are already using. 

I get this is a lot of information on sunscreen, but companies have been allowed for way too long to sell us toxic and harmful concoctions. 

The only way we can better the world of sunscreens is to buy options that are safer for our bodies and our world. 

Now, get outside and enjoy some sunshine... safely. 

In love, and lots of light, 

Becky Wells 
The Hippie Moms, LLC
The Hippie Moms Podcast


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