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sun shining over a fieldTime in the sun – a/k/a getting vitamin D –  is essential for your mouth/body health, but it’s also important to protect your skin from overexposure. Unfortunately, a lot of sunscreens contain some potentially problematic ingredients. 

In fact, a new study in JAMA provides yet more evidence that a number of common sunscreen chemicals commonly enter the bloodstream at levels far higher than the administration recommends. 

For all of the active ingredients studied – avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate – most study participants had concentrations that reached or exceeded the 0.5-ng/mL threshold after just one application of sunscreen. 

While science has shown that at least some of these ingredients may interfere with normal body functions, the authors note that 

multiple active ingredients lack nonclinical safety assessment data, including systemic carcinogenicity, developmental, and reproductive studies to determine the clinical significance of systemic exposure of sunscreen active ingredients.

The FDA has issued a proposed set of final rules governing sunscreen safety and effectiveness, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which issues a yearly guide to safe and effective sunscreens, but putting these new regulations into effect may not come for at least two more years. 

Both EWG and FDA recommend zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as “safe and effective,” and if those aren’t an option for you, EWG also provides a helpful guide to non-mineral sunscreens

But you’ve got other options for skin protection, as well, simple as 1, 2, 3: 

  1. Safe Sunning

Unless you have a sun allergy or take medications that can increase your sensitivity to sunlight, there are ways you can get your dose of D by safely grabbing rays, sunscreen-free. 

Apps like dminder can continuously monitor your D levels based on skin tone, age, weight, and amount of skin exposed, helping prevent overexposure thanks to a handy stopwatch feature that can let you set a “sun session target.” 

Dr. Mercola also offers good, detailed guidance for safe sun exposure

  1. Cover Up

If you’re going to be exercising outside or beaching it for longer periods of time, you will definitely need protection one way or another. Clothes and hats to the rescue!

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers tips for the types and colors of clothing protect best. You can also look for clothing with a high UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. A shirt labeled UPF 50, for example, allows just 1/50th of UV radiation to reach your skin.

From stylish to sporty, there are lots of choices for swimming, fishing, cycling, or just hanging out. Some companies also make skin protection arm sleeves – perfect for golf or tennis, but also for a long and sunny road trip when the sun beats down on the driver’s side. 

  1. Make Your Own 

There are a number of natural alternatives to sunscreen – and plenty of recipes out there for DIY sunscreens. It’s important to remember, though, that it can be tough to tell what the actual SPF of your blend might be. Take that into account the first few times you slather it on and head outside. 

Should you get burned – a little or a lot – treat it right away to help your body heal. 

So go ahead and assess the lotions in your bathroom cabinet or beach bag, tossing any with potentially harmful chemicals. Then make a plan for what works best for you and go enjoy some time in the sun!

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