We parents are constantly warned to protect our children from the sun so they can enjoy being outside without damaging their skin. But what if ‘sun protection’ is actually causing more harm than good?
Many of us have been convinced that the sun is dangerous for our children’s delicate skin and the only safe way to have them outside is to slather them in sunscreen. Not only is this untrue, but the majority of sunscreens have toxic ingredients that leach into the skin and have been linked to diseases including cancer.
This blog shines a light on the science behind sunlight’s health benefits, and how to enjoy it safely including:
– Our favourite non-toxic sunscreen brands
– Why it’s important for everyone to get a bit of sun without sunscreen
– A link to a clever sun exposure calculator to help you know how much sun is safe depending on skin type, location, time of day and weather
Sunlight’s benefits go beyond Vitamin D
While it’s important to protect skin from sun damage, it’s also very important to make sure we are exposed to a healthy dose of sunlight as often as possible. People wrongly think sunlight should be avoided at all costs and they can just pop a Vitamin D supplement to make up for it. If you miss out on sun exposure, you’re missing out on a myriad of benefits including the main ones we’ve listed below.
Visual light – keeps our body clock ticking
Infrared light – boosts energy in mitochondria
UV light – beyond Vitamin D
While cosmetic companies are happy to shout about the dangers of the sun, they are a bit silent when it comes to the dangers of sunscreen. Many sunscreens marketed for children have harmful chemicals that can be absorbed into the body through the skin. Even sunscreens that advertise ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ ingredients on the label can have hidden nasties like ‘fragrance’ which often is made from hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. Other dangerous chemicals go by the names of Oxybenzone, Octonoxate, Retinyl Palmitate, and parabens. The most natural and safe ones use either zinc or titanium oxide as these are natural minerals that block the sun and our favourite brands include Badger, Green People and Sweet Bee Organics (available online or at most health food stores).
Even the most natural organic sunscreens will block some of the UV benefits and Vitamin D production, so aim to get at least 10 minutes of sun exposure before you put sun cream on you or your child.
Handy sun exposure calculator
The amount of time you can safely spend in the sun without suncream depends on your skin colour, time of day and year, and the weather. We found a fantastic online tool that calculates all this for you so you know how long you can stay in the sun safely without developing a burn. It also calculates how much sun you’ll need to maintain your current level of Vitamin D. It was developed by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and is evidence-based and scientifically calculated so we trust it. However, always go by your own experience and use common sense – this should be used only as a guide as it was designed for adult exposure.
It will ask you to input time, place, skin type and amount of Vitamin D you’d like to achieve. Note we recommend 3,000 i.u. to maintain levels but this may increase overall sun time to a level that risks sunburn depending on the time of day.
Some things to remember
We hope this gives you a bit of reassurance so you and your family can enjoy some true health-giving benefits of sunlight before having to use sunscreen.