You're Putting What on Your Skin?

I know it's not summer yet, not even spring, but here I am, thinking about what I'll use for sunblock when I head to Nicaragua in just 10 short weeks. Yes, during Tri break in April, several volunteers and I will head to sunny Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua on a medical brigade for the non-profit organization Natural Doctors International. It's not exactlyonthe equator, but it's much closer than Chicago. We'll almost certainly burn if we aren't prepared. I should know, because Nicaragua turned me into a crispy piece of bacon last year! And that is the only one time in my life that I'll say anything negative about bacon.

Nicaragua 2013 on our medical brigade for Natural Doctors International

So, back to the sunblock options. Clearly I chose to wear nothing  to protect me from the sun last year. If you've seen me, you know I'm fairly far over on the pale end of the spectrum, so this was not the correct choice. That was just bad planning on my part.

2014-02-14_coco _oilThis time, I'll do it right. I could use the standard, commercially prepared sunblock from the store. Yikes. Have you ever looked into the ingredients list and the health impact of some of those ingredients? If so, you're ready to move to the next option with me -- coconut oil. I actually used Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil straight out of the jar while vacationing in Puerto Rico a few months ago, and I am mildly happy to report that I barely achieved a tan at all, despite my hours in the sun. Slather that stuff on, and not only do you have the benefit of looking like an oiled up body builder (that's me for sure), but you have the benefit of approximately SPF 10 with none of the side-effects of conventional sunblock.

On a side note, I'm generally against using sunblock of any kind on a regular basis. Why? I like making Vitamin D. It's my body's job. When you block the sun -- specifically, the UVB rays -- you block your body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D. Oops. Coconut oil blocks many of the UVB rays, which also contribute to skin aging, etc., but it allows approximately 10% of them to get through and get the Vitamin D process rolling.

2014-02-14_sunblocksFinal rant: I'm personally bothered by the research available linking common sunscreen ingredients to cancer (specifically -- skin cancer!), hormone imbalance (infertility), and neurological disorders, thus, I do not slather it all over my children's skin or my own on any type of regular basis.

Check out this article for a brief summary of some of the issues associated with sunblock and some of the reasons that coconut oil can be a better choice for your health overall: Ditch the Toxic Sunscreen; Use Coconut Oil Instead (Natural Society).

Here is the Environmental Working Group's database of sunblock (and other cosmetics), where you can search by brand, see the overall rating of your favorite cancer-preventing cancer causer, and see the health hazards of each individual ingredient.

Finally, here is a snapshot of the results for a product I used to use on myself. Curses. It scores a 7 out of 10 on the toxicity rating system, where 10 is the most toxic.

Choose wisely, my friends.