A few months ago, I came back from a trip from the nearby town of Camp Phillips, Bukidnon as all three of my kids competed at the Del Monte Cup soccer tournament. Since we arrived a bit early, when things were still being set up, I was able to observe people do their thing to prepare for the competition ahead.
For most of them, this included slathering on the sunblock or sunscreen.
Since virtually everyone was doing so, it got to the point that even when I was standing quite far from people, I couldn’t get the chemical scents of various sunscreen brands out of my nose. We’ve just had summer vacation here in the Philippines, so I assume that whether you’re hitting the beach or hitting the sports fields, it’s been the season to slather on the sunscreen.
You might be shocked to discover that I am not a fan of the stuff, and I advise you to ditch it as well. Now, I understand that I am a minority here…and right now you’re probably looking for your jaw that just hit the floor. Even my children succumbed to peer pressure during the tournament and used the stuff before their matches began. Nevertheless, I say no to sunscreen and I will give three reasons why; ending with alternatives to use instead.
1. It’s bad for the environment
You’ve probably seen the articles floating around about how sunscreen poisons and kills corals. Time.com reported it. Huffington Post reported it. So did many others. Basically, sunblock or sunscreens contain chemicals that have been proven toxic to corals. In fact, according to one of the linked articles, it is so toxic to them that all it takes is the equivalent of one drop to poison a whole Olympic-size pool of water.
One drop per Olympic size swimming pool. Let that sink in. It means that the stuff truly is some heavyweight poison. This is further highlighted by where many of the sunblock slatherers will be concentrated at during summer: around reefs (and I’m sure we don’t use only a drop on our bodies, do we?). However, don’t think that because you’re not at the beach, you’re safe to use the stuff. When you wash it off in the shower, well, as what we learned in Finding Nemo, all drains lead to the ocean.
One shouldn’t really be surprised at these findings. Sunscreen is chemical cocktail and its list of ingredients makes for a hefty paragraph of stuff that the average Joe or Juan de la Cruz can hardly pronounce. There are better, more natural ways to protect your skin, which I will discuss later in this article.
2. It’s bad for your skin.
Speaking of chemical cocktails, you’re not doing your skin a great favor by applying that stuff on it as well. While your skin is your body’s first line of defense against harmful invaders, your skin still is porous and some substances can be absorbed into your body. Maybe I’m overreacting, but several other natural health advocates share my opinion, and they’ve taken the time to explain it in writing, like this article here.
3. You need sunlight’s full spectrum light to be healthy
This is a big one. Humans, according to photobiologist Alexander Wunsch, need sunlight to keep biological systems running properly. It’s not just about Vitamin D (which is really important and should be reason alone to get some sun) but there are so many other benefits as well.
The explanation for the science behind it is way too long for this article, so please see this link here. Summarized in one sentence, it basically says: regular exposure to unfiltered sunlight is paramount to health. Key word: unfiltered. Window glass filters the sun’s full spectrum light. So does sunscreen. Trust God’s design, as He in His wisdom provided one heck of a health boon for us that’s super abundant and free of charge!
Does this mean that sun exposure is totally safe and we should bask in it all day? I’m not saying that. If you become sunburned, then that’s an unsafe level of sun exposure. The key is to get your healthy sun exposure but only before the burn happens (dear Filipina friends: yes, this means getting a bit dark). So how do you protect yourself from the sun, then?
1. Ease into sun exposure.
If you’ve been a sun-less indoor person since forever, and then out of the blue you were made to spend the whole day in the sun, you’d likely be in sunburn hell for days afterwards. Just like exercise or pretty much anything else that needs getting used to, it’s much wiser to steadily increase your exposure over time.
2. If you can’t help but be in the sun all day, keep your skin covered.
If you’re going to be in the sun only for a limited time, then by all means get as much skin exposed to its nourishing rays as possible (within the realms of decency, of course). But if you’re gonna be in the sun for hours on end, it may be best to cover up.
A great example of this are my kids, especially my son who trains pretty much when the sun goes up until the sun comes down. Since he’s in the sun THAT long, he covers up with a long sleeved soccer jersey or performance shirt. During half-day training sessions, he uses only the short sleeved jerseys.
I personally like to use fedora hats and bohemian-type long sleeved shirts if ever I know that I will be in the sun all day.
3. Keep yourself well-hydrated.
This is not about sun exposure per se, but dehydration is a pretty big risk when you’re in the hot & humid outdoors. Always keep hydration in mind: at least 1 liter of water per 20 kgs of bodyweight. To maximize water’s health benefits, add a little bit of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt to it: about ¼ tsp to 1 liter of water. This practice activates the “salt-potassium pump” and maximizes your body’s hydration.
I have come up with a pretty cool do-it-yourself sports drink in the place of the commercial stuff such as Gatorade. It’s better for my kids, and better for my wallet.
4. Apply a natural sunscreen.
Personally, I apply VCO (virgin coconut oil) mixed with a few drops of peppermint essential oil. VCO makes a great natural sunscreen and nothing moisturizes and nourishes the skin like VCO does.
I’m not a huge fan of the smell, and that’s where the peppermint oil comes in. Furthermore, peppermint oil also acts as an insect repellent, and it sure smells better than citronella, in our opinion. A cool bonus, pun intended, is that it makes your skin feel fresh and cool, almost wintery, when applied (especially nice when you apply it on the back of your neck).
So, it’s an insect repellent AND a moisturizer AND it protects you from the sun (makes a great aftershave and deodorant, too). Plus points for frugality!
If you’re not into mixing your own stuff, then there’s a great ready-to-use product that does the trick even better: Moringa Oil from Greenpastures. VCO is the base, but then is has a smorgasbord of other oils to complement it, such as: moringa (malunggay), peppermint, eucalyptus, oregano, menthol, and many others. Now, that’s a whole lotta antioxidants for your skin right there!
If you’d like to get your own bottle of Moringa Oil, then you can do so by clicking here.
5. Eat an antioxidant rich diet.
The American Cancer Society says that oxidative damage increases your risk of cancer. That’s true, so get food that is rich in antioxidants to keep oxidative damage at bay. Advice on how to increase antioxidants are everywhere, so no need to divulge on that here, but a good place to start is this article.
In my book, the food with the highest ORAC score (a test measuring food’s antioxidant capacity) is moringa, known on these shores as the lowly malunggay. I believe it’s one reason why we are so blessed to live in this country. There’s malunggay everywhere! Eat as much as you can, and then take some in supplement form for extra potency, like the moringa capsules here, or the product that I use that is a combination of moringa and spirulina. Check it out here.
There you have it. As one of my favorite authors says, “don’t be a follower, be a student” and I would continue to encourage you to educate yourself in all things wholesome, especially when it comes to your health.