Sunscreen: Is It Harming and Hurting Your Skin?

For years we have been told the sun is a danger to our skin. We have been told to lather on tons of sunscreen to protect us from its damaging rays. While I don’t disagree that the sun can certainly burn our skin, I have often wondered how many generations before us survived centuries of sun exposure and no skin cancer?

I grew up loving the sun; my parents loved spring and summer. These seasons were to enjoy barbecues, summer vacations, pool time, ice cream, watermelon, and fresh flowers. My mom and dad always encouraged us to go outside and soak up some natural vitamin D. In fact our house had tons of windows that let in lots of natural light and let me tell you, to this day, soaking in sunshine puts a huge smile on my face!

Being protected from this free and organic mood-enhancing, immune-boosting, and vitamin D-rich goodness didn’t cross our minds until we learned our mother had allergic reactions to direct sunlight due to her SLE Lupus.  Her disease didn’t prevent her from enjoying those beautiful rays, but it did teach us about the right kind of protection and the importance of enjoying direct sunlight in moderation. 

These days there are so many sunscreens to choose from with highly questionable ingredients. Now that beautiful sunny weather is here, so is flag football, water fights, and lots more outdoor fun for my family and me. 

As the owner of a holistic skincare company and concerned mother I have been asking the burning question; does sunscreen harm or help our skin? More and more studies are showing the ingredients in sunscreens could actually be the culprit in causing skin cancer and not the actual sun. 

An article written by Paul Fassa noted that a study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day. Additionally, an epidemiological study followed 30,000 women for over 20 years and “showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group.” 

An article issued in the NY Times (I Beg To Differ), over ten years ago, notes two opposing agreements from two prominent dermatologists. One argues there are no solid scientific facts that prove sunscreens protect our skin from the sun, while the other believes limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen is the best way to protect us from skin cancer. So who’s right? 

Well, I am no expert but I do know two things; 1) without enough vitamin D we run the risk of creating a deficiency which can lead to disease. 2) Many sunscreens (not all) do contain toxic ingredients that can cause disease.

So, what’s the answer? Great question. Again, I am no medical expert, but here are some things that can help protect you and your little ones:

Eating a healthy diet that contains omega-3, vitamin B, C, D & E, and foods rich in antioxidants. 

Getting enough sunlight, but not too much is also important; everything in moderation is key here. Besides no one wants a terrible sunburn.

Check the ingredients on your sunscreen and switch to a cleaner brand. You already know your skin is absorbent and like so many other skincare products, there are toxic ingredients in sunscreen too. 

We recommend staying away from sunscreens that contain these ingredients:

Oxybenzone - a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system.  

Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A retinyl or retinol) - Eating vitamin A is very good for you, but studies have shown putting it on your skin is not. 

All synthetic fragrances - these contain harmful chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, and synthetic musks.

If you are super adventurous you can make this homemade sunscreen that is safe for you and your kids! 

1/2 cup organic coconut oil 

1/2 cup of shea butter (look for fair trade and unrefined, you can use mango or cocoa butter as well)

1/4 cup of beeswax (see if you can get this locally sourced from a local farmer. If you have a farmers market, you will likely find a beekeeper who is willing to part with some wax)

1 tsp carrot seed oil

1 tsp vitamin E

1 tsp red raspberry seed oil

20 drops of essential oil that promote skin healing (chamomile, geranium, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, peppermint, or tea tree. It is NOT recommended to include citrus essential oils in your sunscreen. They are photosensitizing and can cause sunburn). 


Over low heat in a double boiler, melt coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax until completely melted. Remove from heat and add carrot seed oil, vitamin E, red raspberry seed oil, and essential oils. Stir and let sit until it cools. With a blender, whip until fully blended.

Whatever the studies show, whatever the experts argue about, know your own power in knowledge and choice. Read the labels so you can choose cleaner sunscreens for your family and remember, everything in moderation. Including the sun!

Love & light to you and your skin!

Tara Raj, CPC, ACC, CNWC
Skincare Consultant

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