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Sunscreens May Do More Harm Than Good

Researchers at the University of California at Riverside are set to publish a paper in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine that indicates that sunscreens may actually be harmful to the health of your skin and make it age faster than normal.

Sunscreens contain special molecules called ultraviolet (UV) filters that are supposed to prevent ultraviolet radiation in the sun's rays from reacting with molecules in your skin and creating compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are unstable molecules that can damage your skin from the inside out and accelerate its natural aging process.

What researchers have discovered is that three UV filters (octylmethoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3 and octocrylene) that are used in a wide variety of sunscreens can actually generate ROS once they get absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin and are exposed to ultraviolet radiation.

They were careful to note that if you continuously reapply sunscreen to your skin, you can help prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching any UV filters that have been absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin, and thereby minimize the formation of damaging ROS.

I believe that it is unrealistic to expect that most people will reapply sunscreen carefully and often enough to prevent ROS formation caused by UV filters found in sunscreens.

A better way to prevent skin damage due to ROS is to eat a diet that is naturally rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize ROS before they inflict damage to your cells.

If you do your best not to get sunburned, getting some sun exposure on a regular basis without the use of sunscreens is actually very good for your health. UV-B rays in sunlight react with cholesterol found in your skin to produce natural vitamin D, which is fast becoming one of the most important health-promoting nutrients that we know of.

Among countless health benefits, vitamin D does the following for your body:

  • Helps to prevent high blood pressure
  • Enhances the strength of your immune system
  • Helps to prevent many different types of cancer, including those of the breast and prostate
  • Helps to regulate your blood sugar level

If for one reason or another you cannot regularly expose your skin to the UV-B rays found in natural sunlight, be sure to eat foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D, such as wild salmon, organic egg yolks, and cod liver oil.


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