As summer approaches, you’re likely going to be picking up sunscreen to help protect yourself and your family… but, how safe is your sunscreen? In this week’s episode of IWG Radio, Dr. Nicole and Brooke discuss the dangers of conventional sunscreens and the top picks for safe alternatives.

 

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Dr. Nicole:
[00:01:00]
Hey, there. Welcome back to IWG Radio. We have Dr. Nicole and Brooke Scheller, the clinical nutritionist at IWG. We are going to be talking about sunblock, so we are kicking off this weekend, our Memorial Day celebrations and hopefully the sun will be out no matter where you are. With that being said, typically we are going to be taking out the sunblock, especially since our skin is very pale going through this lovely winter, and it's going to be first time that it's exposed to the sun in a while. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk to you guys a little bit about sunblock and some of the major things that you really need to know when choosing your sunblock.

Brooke:
[00:02:00]
Yeah, I think this is the perfect time to talk about this, because we're heading into the summer, so a long season ahead of us of wearing sunscreen. I think it's something that we tend to forget about when we are making changes in our lifestyle. We go ahead and we change our diet and we maybe start to exercise, and then we start to change our personal products, but I think sunscreen is still one of those things that doesn't really get a lot of attention. We've learned more about antiperspirants and certain types of deodorant are notorious for having things like aluminum in them, but sunscreen is one that isn't really highlighted a lot, so I think it's really good just to shed some light upon what are the safe alternatives for you and really how these sunscreens can affect your health. Let's kick things off. I'll have Dr. Nicole even just give a brief introduction on functional medicine and really how personal products come into play too.

Dr. Nicole:
[00:03:00]
Yeah, well, what we really strive to do with functional medicine is, we really strive to figure out what the root cause of your problems are or your symptoms. With women, dealing with so many hormonal disruptions nowadays and they're manifesting different conditions like PMS, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, a lot of these things are indicators that we are experiencing some level of hormone imbalance. One of the really important things to understand is that the things that we put on to our bodies, not only in our bodies, can affect our hormones. Sunblock is one those.

Brooke:
That's right, because our skin is our largest organ, so anything that we put on to our skin does get absorbed into our body. That's sunscreen, but anything like lotions and makeups and all those things we have to keep in mind too.

Dr. Nicole:
I'm glad you said that, because some of the top questions that I consider when really evaluating the ingredient label of sunblock is, is it going to penetrate my skin, which will then penetrate my tissues? Certain chemicals will get into the tissues and then stay there and just be a toxin to the body. Will it disrupt my hormones, which most unfortunately will? Then also will it cause any type of skin irritation or skin allergies? Those are some of the primary concerns when you're thinking about using certain types of sunblock.

[00:04:00]
Brooke:
Why don't you a little bit further elaborate on that and tell us what are the major things that we need to be looking out for on the labels?

Dr. Nicole:
There's definitely a whole list of chemicals that are classified as chemical filters, and these are filtering out the UV light. oxybenzone could definitely going to be one the primary. Then avobenzone is going to another one that is very abundant in a lot of the different brands of sunblock. There's a list of a couple of others that are classified as chemical filters. We'll definitely make sure to list those for you as a reference as well, but I want to keep this simple and focus a little bit more on the oxybenzone as well as the avobenzone primarily because the oxybenzone is going to be in 70% of the commercial sunscreens.

Brooke:
[00:05:00]
That's was something I was going to mention because I think that most of the sunscreens that are commercial ones that are on the market, unless you know that it's more a more natural route, and we'll talk about what those are, it's pretty much safe to assume that anything that's Coppertone or some of those bigger brands, that those are going to contain these chemicals.

Dr. Nicole:
Yeah. They're all using different chemicals that are cheap, essentially. If they're cheap, then they're going to make their way into the product, because then there is a bigger return on investment or more profit to be made. You will see a lot of similarities in the ingredient labels with these commercial brands.

Brooke:
I know we talked about hormone disruption, but let's elaborate a little further on what the major problem is with some of these chemicals.

Dr. Nicole:
[00:06:00]
Yeah, definitely. Especially when you're dealing with the two, the oxybenzone as well as the avobenzone, the primary things that we're going to experience is going to be an increase in our estrogen levels and then we're also going to see a decline in our androgens as well as progesterone. To sum that up and give you a clear picture of what that looks like is, I think that a lot of us have heard about different cancers that can be estrogen positive, especially when you're dealing with breast cancer. I'm not saying that if you use too much sunblock you're going to get cancer by any means, but having the higher levels of estrogen due to using these different sunblocks, this could be a contributing factor to the abundance of the estrogen. Some of the other more common things that you're going to experience with high levels of estrogen is going to be bad PMS. When I say PMS I think a lot of people automatically think mood and yes, it can create moodiness, irritability, but at the same time it can create heavy bleeding. It can also create bad cramps.

[00:07:00]
It can even cause clotting to be released when you are menstruating. Once the estrogen gets even more abundant, that's when you manifest different things like polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, as well as other types of fibroids or accumulation of tissue in the reproductive organs. These are going to be some of the most common things that are reflective of high estrogen. If you are somebody who has hormone imbalance and maybe you have made some changes to your diet and you've made some changes to the makeups or the shampoos that you're using, you also need to consider what you're using in the summer as your sunblock resource, because this is a big contributing factor. Another really important thing to understand is we, as maybe a pregnant woman, would say, "Okay, let me make sure that I protect my skin and I don't want to put myself at risk for skin cancer" we might be using a lot of sunblock in the summer.

[00:08:00]
What's interesting is these different chemicals that we referenced earlier can actually get into the amniotic fluid and they also can get into the mother's milk if they are breastfeeding. These types of chemicals yes, they are hormone disruptors, but at the same time, if there is a fetus in the womb, it can create birth defects as well. That could be everything from behavior issues to colic, even into actual physical deformities.

Brooke:
I'm assuming that if the mother's being exposed to these even previously, would that still affect the amniotic fluid and the milk down the line? Let's say, as woman in their 20s, using some of these things, if they are in the body when they do become pregnant, they can be built up?

Dr. Nicole:
[00:09:00]
Definitely. That goes for any type of chemicals. It could be from sunblock, it could be different types of heavy metals. I think we hear a lot about mercury being in fish. The thing that people don't understand is that yes, if you change your lifestyle you're decreasing that additional exposure, but if you have compromised detox pathways or you have a high abundance of these toxins, sometimes your body doesn't know how to shed them properly. These are important things to understand, is that if you haven't necessarily been evaluated for these chemicals and then gone through some type of detoxification process, chances are they could still remain within the body and affect a pregnancy, so yes.

Brooke:
I think just talking generally about hormones, it's important to mention that I think a lot of women are diagnosed with some type of hormone imbalance or they are experiencing these types of symptoms and they don't necessarily think of it being contributed to from things like their personal products. Let's say, for example, in fertility we think, "There's something wrong, something is going on. Who knows my bad genes?" or whatever it is, but the fact is that you could be contributing some of those issues by some of these products, so I think that's important to note as well.

Dr. Nicole:
[00:10:00]
Even thinking about a fair-skinned person, if they have been fair-skinned obviously their whole life, they've probably been using sunblock consistently or they started to get older using more makeup, and a lot of the makeup has these types of sunscreens in them, the SPF. You could potentially be using these types of chemicals for your whole life. It's definitely significant.

Brooke:
As a fair-skinned person myself, who's used up a ton of sunscreen, and I use sunscreen for the most part if I'm going to be out in the sun for a long period of time, using safe sunscreen, which we'll to you more about, but let's elaborate on vitamin D, because I always remember when I was school it was interesting to learn that we think we need the sunscreen. But then we're not creating the vitamin D properly. Let's clear that up for people so they have a better understanding of what they should be doing to still protect themselves from the sun, but also make sure they're getting that vitamin D exposure.

Dr. Nicole:
[00:11:00]
Of course. You definitely will compromise your vitamin D absorption through using lots of sunscreen and not really allowing your body to be exposed to the UV light. Everything in moderation, of course, but vitamin D is really an essential nutrient that we need for various reasons, and obviously sunshine is going to be the most bio-available and it's going to be the most easily absorbed within the body opposed to taking a supplement. Getting yourself in the sun is really important for the vitamin D, especially to have proper bones, because if you don't have vitamin D you're not really going to absorb calcium into your bones.

[00:12:00]
Vitamin D is absolutely essential for your immune system, so if you do have kids that are maybe getting sick a lot, a lot of ear infections, sore throats, or you're someone who, as an adult, is getting sick every few months, vitamin D could be a big part of the puzzle. Don't get me wrong, there's other layers to that, but vitamin D is definitely something to consider. Then also if you're someone who has thyroid dysfunction, and vitamin D plays a very big role in how well your thyroid functions as well.

Brooke:
Between thyroid function and immune function, a lot of studies now are presenting that a lot of autoimmune disorders can be correlated with low levels of vitamin D as well. If that's something that you might have been diagnosed with, you do want to have those levels tested and possibly supplement. Typically what I do, just to give my opinion as a fair-skinned person who do uses sunscreen, what I typically do is I'll get outside for 15 or 20 minutes a day without sunscreen and try to boost my production there. As long as you have your face and your arms out, you don't have to be fully exposed to be making the vitamin D. Then if you know you're going to be outside for a long period of time, then using the sunscreen so you're getting the best of both worlds.

Dr. Nicole:
Yeah, definitely. I don't have that problem.

Brooke:
Let's give people some ideas of what is the safe alternatives.

[00:13:00]
Dr. Nicole:
Yeah, definitely. I think that for some of the older generation that's listening, you might be familiar with the use of zinc oxide, because zinc oxide we've been using forever as a form of sunscreen. Back in the day it was going to be that white color and you literally were going to look like you were completely covered in white paste.

Brooke:
Or the lifeguards with the white noses.

Dr. Nicole:
[00:14:00]
Yeah, exactly. That's pure zinc oxide. They do make different types of sunblocks that are classified as nano-particle sunblocks. These are different sunblocks that are containing specifically zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Primarily you do want to gravitate more towards the zinc oxide sunblocks, because those are safer. They're completely safe for the body. There's no problems with them penetrating into the tissues. They're definitely a great alternative to some of the other more commercial sunblock. With that being said, there definitely are a few brands that you'll be able to find in different stores, even Target. You also can find it in some of your health food stores. Things like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc. Then when in doubt use Amazon. Badger is a fantastic type of sunblock.

[00:15:00]
The problem with Badger is some people don't really like the fact that it is thick, because it is primarily zinc oxide, so they don't enjoy how it feels on their skin. If that's something that resonates with you, you would definitely want to consider using something called Alba Botanica, which is also something you could find in your health food store or, again, even at Targets. The one that I would say is our favorite is through Beauty counter. Beauty counter makes a fantastic sunblock that's very, very lightweight. Again, completely natural, no harmful chemicals, no chemical filters. Nothing like that. Again, it's going to appeal to us in this day and age because it's not as thick and it goes on really light. We almost don't even know that we have it on.

Brooke:
Yeah. I can personally testify, again, because I'm the fairer skin gal, for the Beauty counter because I was recently away over the winter and I used that the entire time I was there. I did have, not problems with the Badger, but not my favorite in terms of how it felt on my skin. The Beauty counter is much more similar to your traditional style of sunblock that we're used to. Let's get everybody our favorite resource for not only our sunscreen, but all personal products and makeup. This is something called ...

[00:16:00]
Dr. Nicole:
It's actually a website that was created by EWG, which is Environmental Working Group. They have an app as well as a portion of their website that is dedicated to personal products and it's called Skin Deep. This is something that will evaluate all different types of sunblocks as well as different types of cosmetics and other personal products. It's really useful because you will actually be able to go on and look at maybe the sunblock that you've been using the most over your lifetime, and see where it falls in their rating system. The rating systems, once you get between 7 to 10 of the rating system, that actually means that's very harmful and has a risk to the body and it'll give you more information about the specific things it's doing.

[00:17:00]
If it is penetrating the tissues, if it is burning the detox pathways and if it's also going to disrupt your hormones. It gives you a lot of information about maybe what you're currently using, but then obviously it gives you a lot of safe alternatives. Out of the Badger, the Alba Botanica as well as the Beauty counter, I was actually very surprised that there literally hundreds now of safe alternatives for sunblock. There's definitely a lot more options out there than there ever has been. Take a look at it and, like I said, if it's something that you're not finding in stores, you can probably order it online directly from the company or finding it on Amazon.

Brooke:
[00:18:00]
Great. Just to wrap things up, if you are someone who is maybe experiencing some of these hormonal issues that we've spoken about, we would be more than happy to set up a free 15 minute strategy call with you and just guide you a little bit more on some different things that you can do to learn more about what you're experiencing. If you opt-in to this podcast, we will send you our resource list, so you'll get the sunscreens that we recommended as well as our different resource apps too. We thank you so much for listening to us and we will talk to you soon.