|Choosing the Best Sunscreen—or None at All, Part 2: The Inactive Ingredients|
|Monday, 04 June 2012 10:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
In the previous posting, I discussed the potential toxicity of the active ingredients in sunscreen. This time I’ll consider the potential dangers of the inactive ones.
There are vegan sunscreens (containing no animal products) and there are cruelty-free sunscreens (containing no animal products and incorporating no ingredients that have been tested on animals, nor testing the final product on animals). A valuable resource to compare and contrast the toxicity and compassion of all your body-care products, including sunscreen, is the Cosmetic Safety Database.
My feeling is this: the skin is inarguably the largest absorptive organ in the body, and as a raw vegan, I do not place anything on my skin that I would not pour down my throat. In other words, only if it's a food will I eat it—with my mouth or my skin. So for me, since I haven't found a food-based sunblocks, I just don't wear it.
There are a lot of raw fooders who claim to be sun-resistant now that they no longer have toxins on their skin's surface to interact with the sun's ultraviolet rays. There are some raw fooders who claim that eating enough chlorophyll-rich foods and coating the skin with coconut oil have ceased their susceptibility to burns. After eight years as a raw vegan, I have not found either to be true for myself. This does not keep me, however, from eating my fair share of seaweed and drinking my wheatgrass. (I am a cousin of the green sea slug, after all.)
And I use coconut oil for just about everything, from eye makeup remover to my preferred after-bath skin moisturizer. Being a raw vegan may not have granted me sun impermeability, but it has gifted me something much deeper and more conscious: a genuinely healthy relationship to the sun, wherein I am more sensitive to my body's needs as it relates to nature's signals.
To me, the sun is like the ocean in some ways. The ocean is a giver of life and we all like to play in it, but none of us would think we could go underwater for three hours without, well, drowning and dying. We should treat the sun with the same magnificent respect.
We can adore the sun, but maybe not insist on baking in it for three hours. And for goodness’ sake, let's stop the notion that the color of our birth skin is incorrect—whatever that color may be—and that for ego's sake, we wish to bake our skin to a different hue. In the end, I call this healthy relationship with the sun common sense, which—as taught to me by nature—is far easier, cheaper and more effective than any product or food I could add to my lifestyle anyway.
Sometimes I think Americans have immersed their consciousnesses so deeply into the consumer mind frame that they are more comfortable purchasing something, anything—a product, a lifestyle, a superfood—and adding it to their lives than they are subtracting something from their lives and going without. Sunscreen, to me, is like selling consumers a mechanical lift to reach the top shelf in their kitchen, when they could just have stood on a stool. I have spent considerable time in the Caribbean Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahama Islands, and Hawaiian Islands, not to mention volunteer work in Thailand and five years at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. And heck, I live in Los Angeles in Southern California where is it sunny eleven months of the year—and somehow I manage not to get sunburned.
Let me offer Tonya Kay's common-sense approach to healthy sun exposure: Stay out of the sun from 11am-2pm, when UV radiation is at its apex. Wear lightweight, long sleeves and slacks and a wide-brimmed hat if getting more than 20 minutes of sun exposure. And make sure that this 20 minutes of direct sunlight (outside of the apex times, of course) touches more than just your face and forearms, but a significant amount of nude skin. All other times, I spend in partial or full shade. And if I am lucky enough to catch the sun's rise or set, I personally incorporate a little scrying, as well.
Imagine the fisherman pants and cotton shirts that native Thai wear. Think of the turbans, lightweight gowns and full-face scarves worn in North African deserts. Consider Spain's midday siesta and the common practice of afternoon respite during the most intense hours of sunlight in the Philippines, India and Greece. The sun has been around a lot longer than humans and the day the sun burns out is the day humans will cease to exist. Our lives are dependent on this praiseworthy ball of fire and it's time we learn to open ourselves up to a relationship with it—so we can save ourselves from it as well as benefit from all that it shares with us.
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