It’s June and this is usually the month that I write about sunscreen. Since I have some good news to report on the “sun front” and I got distracted by the "60 Minutes" piece on pthalates in everything including makeup, I’m presenting you with a bit of a hodge podge in this column.
Everything is good for you, if it doesn’t kill you – Part One
The iconic news magazine program 60 Minutes aired an episode on May 23 that included a segment about pthalates; esters of phthalate acid that are used to soften plastics in a variety of products like toys and shower curtains among others. Turns out that pthalates are also used in the cosmetics industry as a binding agent for nail polish or to make hair conditioner more emollient.
In high doses—way higher than those the average human encounters over a lifetime—lab rats showed evidence of hormone changes and birth defects due to pthalates. There is NO CONCLUSIVE PROOF that they have the same effect in humans, but pthalates are thought to play a role in obesity, insulin resistance, allergies, ADHD and low birth weight in babies.
It would be next to impossible to eliminate plastics and pthalates from your life. They are in just about EVERYTHING you come in contact with during the day. However, manufacturers of many products are starting to take notice and are taking steps to reduce the use of these chemicals. When it comes to beauty products, if excessive exposure to pthalates is a concern of yours, switch to offerings from Burt’s Bees, Tarte or Kiss My Face.
Everything is good for you, if it doesn’t kill you – Part Two
Sunscreen has chemicals—and some chemicals are bad for you (see above). It is up to you, as the consumer, to decide if the chemicals are more scary to you than UV radiation. Speaking as someone with a family history of skin cancer, and knowing personally how awful it feels to have lesions removed from one’s face, I would much rather take my chances with the sunscreen. Chemically-speaking, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safer physical sun blocks, although they do give your skin a whitish cast, as if you were a character in a Japanese “Noh”. Try Blue Lizard and Badger Healthy Body Care sunscreens.
There is no doubt that vitamin D is required for good health, and there is also no doubt that getting it from sun exposure is better for us than trying to ingest enough from food sources. Dr. Michael Holick, author of The UV Advantage, has detailed tables available in his book about how much sun exposure you really need depending on where you live in the world and your skin tone. Caucasians need only FIVE TO TEN minutes of exposure to the sun two or three times a week in order to make sufficient vitamin D in northern latitudes. The closer you live to the equator, the less you need.
So, What’s the Good News?
A study conducted in Alberta, Canada, has found that skin cancer rates leveled off and started dropping a decade ago. This is in contrast to earlier studies that found that skin cancer rates were rising around the world, even as more potent sun screen products became available. The Canadian Dermatology Association believes that this study can most likely be applied to our population as a whole.
Practice safe sun!