The Chemical Culprits in your Sunscreen:
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) a major ingredient in sunscreen and other personal care products called oxybenzone has contaminated an amazing 97% of Americans. It is also commonly known as benzophenone-3. Oxybenzone has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cell damage, and low birth weight in baby girls whose moms are exposed to this chemical during pregnancy. One of the most dangerous features of oxybenzone is that it is a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals you are exposed to penetrate the skin. Oxybenzone is quickly and easily absorbed into your skin. Ironically, when oxybenzone is exposed to sunlight, it causes the chemical to form free radicals, damaging cells and DNA through inflammation, causing premature aging. Oxybenzone gets stored in fatty tissues and remains in the body several days after application. New studies are showing that oxybenzone is disrupting the hormone systems in your body, specifically the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands regulate hormones and ensure that the thyroid functions properly. Damage to the adrenal glands wreaks havoc on your entire body. Children absorb higher amounts of oxybenzone and don’t have the ability to excrete chemicals and detoxify their bodies to the same degree as adults, making them much more vulnerable to organ damage and hormone disruption. In Europe, products containing oxybenzone come with a warning label.
Octinoxate (octyl methoxcyinnamate) and Avobenzone are other chemicals commonly found in sunscreens and personal care products. Octinoxate is an estrogenic chemical that has been linked to hormone disruption and increased rates of cancer. Avobenzone absorbs UV radiation energy, and since your body cannot destroy it, it converts from a light energy to a chemical energy unleashing free radicals into your body. Studies have shown that all three of these chemicals passed through breast milk, exposing infant to these dangerous chemicals.
Some of the most common sunscreens containing these toxic chemicals are made by Hawaiian Tropic, Coppertone and Banana Boat. Visit the Environmental Working Groups main website to view their worst scoring sunscreens for kids this year. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/worst-kids-sunscreens/
Understanding How Sunscreens Work:
There are two basic types of topical sunscreens, chemical absorbers and physical blockers. The chemical absorbers absorb UV Rays. Physical blockers reflect UV Rays away from the body.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) levels have always referred to UVB Ray protection. The Food and Drug Administration is now requiring sunscreens to indicate whether or not they will protect you from UVA Rays. UVA/UVB protection labels will read “Broad Spectrum SPF”. These are the sunscreens you must start purchasing to protect yourself from the sun. An SPF of 30 will provide 97% protection from UV damage.
The SPF number is a measure of how long you can stay in the sun without burning while using a sunscreen, as opposed to how long you could be in the sun without burning if you weren’t wearing any sun protection. For example…If your skin normally starts to turn red after 10 minutes in the sun, and you use a product with an SPF 2, then your skin would now not start to turn red for 20 minutes. If you use an SPF 25 then you could stay in the sun for 250 minutes before your skin would start to turn red. SPF numbers are not the final word on sun protection; it all depends on how quickly you start to burn. If you start to turn red within 5 minutes, an SPF 25 will only last 125 minutes. The most important times of the day to wear sunscreen is between 10 AM and 3 PM during peak sun hours.
There are other natural herbs and oils that provide protection from UVA and UVB rays, however the FDA will not allow for them to be sold as sunscreen. The FDA has only approved zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to be labeled and sold as sunscreens with a determined SPF.
New Bug Spray Guidelines: from the CDC and the Environmental Working Group
As recently as 5 years ago, the Environmental Working Group took aim at the use of DEET, the active ingredient found in nearly all insect sprays. The toxic chemical is a known eye and skin irritant, and has been shown by researchers at Duke University to have serious adverse effects on the neurological systems of rats. The EPA acknowledges that there have been neurological damage and death to both adults and children as a result of heavy exposure to DEET. French research shows DEET affects cells in the same manner as nerve gas. DEET is a behavior-modifying chemical. DEET increases the toxic activity of other chemicals when combined in the same formula, like bug sprays and lotions.
As rates of contracting disease like West Nile Virus from mosquitos or Lyme Disease from ticks, the CDC and EWG have released a joint statement that DEET is “relatively safe” when used at no more than 30% of a solution. They also recommend you only use products with DEET sparingly as well. Higher concentrations of DEET don’t protect you any better from biting insects. A 7-10% concentration of DEET will last a few hours, while the solutions containing 30% DEET will protect you all day. Higher amounts of DEET only protect you longer, they do not provide better protection from mosquitoes and ticks. You can buy 100% DEET and make your own dilutions of bug sprays at home to protect yourself as much as possible from the side effects of DEET and from the chemical reactions DEET serves up. It is also important to avoid any insecticides that release DEET into the air in small particles like candles and aerosol sprays. Avoid inhaling DEET as much as possible. Do not use bug sprays on children before six months of age.
The other two chemicals deemed relatively safe by the CDC and EWG are Picaridin and IR3535. Picaridin is a synthetic compound that was made to act like the active components found in piperine, the plant from which we get black pepper. Picaridin at a concentration of 20 percent is effective against mosquitoes and ticks for 8 to 14 hours and for 3.5 to 8 hours at a concentration of 10 percent. That is four times longer than DEET. There have been no long-term studies done on the side effects of long-term use, however people have reported various skin irritations. Unfortunately, black pepper essential oil does not contain enough piperine to be used in homemade bug repellents.
IR3535 is a chemical made by Merck, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. It is structurally similar to the amino acid b-alanine. It is a known eye irritant and is slightly less effective than DEET in similar concentrations. It comes with the same precautions as DEET, to only be used in small concentrations and with limited use. IR3535 is commonly added to sunscreens to duo as a bug repellent. However, those products have to be reapplied every few hours, increasing your risk of toxicity from IR3535.
There are several Essential Oils that contain constituents that repel biting insects, mosquitos and ticks. They are safe and extremely effective. A 2004 Swedish Study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology stated that eucalyptus oil is powerful at preventing tick bites and infections. Tansy has also been scientifically shown to have a 64-72% tick repellent force. Testing has shown that concentrations of 20 to 26 percent lemon eucalyptus oil may perform as well as 15 to 20 percent DEET against both mosquitoes and ticks.
A Word About the Zika Virus
Zika is a flavivirus, and is from a family of viruses that include West Nile virus and dengue virus, that may cause encephalitis. It started spreading in 2007 from islands in the South Pacific and by 2015 had come to Brazil where it rapidly spread to more than 40 other countries and territories.
Zika is transmitted by infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. While they evolved in Africa and Asia, they are now commonly found in urban areas with warm, wet climates all over the world. Peak biting hours are early morning and late afternoon. The virus can also be transmitted during pregnancy from a mother to her baby, through blood transfusions, and through sexual intercourse. The first case in the United States was from a sexual transmission.
According to the CDC approximately only one in five people infected with the Zika virus will get sick. Common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, headache and conjunctivitis. It can take two to seven days for symptoms to manifest after being bitten by an infested mosquito. The more serious effects of Zika are Guillain-Barre, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and the virus can kill developing brain cells. Guillain-Barre is an immune disorder that can cause paralysis, while ADEM is a brief but widespread attack of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages myelin, the protective covering on nerve fibers. The World Health Organization has now confirmed that there is a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by an undersized head and incomplete brain development. Brazil went from 150 reports of microcephaly per year to almost 4,000 cases in 2015. The CDC also believes there are other birth defects consistent with Zika like brain or eye abnormalities which are not detected until the third trimester.
The CDC believe Zika will spread to every American country but Canada and Chile as their climates are not conducive to the Aedes mosquito. There is active Zika virus transmission is in the following places:
There have not been any Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitos found in Idaho. However, Ada County has been preparing by creating a new contraption called the Oviposit Trap designed to capture these specific mosquitos. The CDC advises women who are pregnant should not travel to any of these areas.
Summer Skin Care Escentual Recipes:
Combine all ingredients but the zinc oxide in a glass bowl. Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and place over medium heat. Place the glass bowl in pan to melt ingredients. Stir continuously until fully melted and remove glass bowl from heat. Add the zinc oxide, stirring mixture as it cools to fully integrate the zinc oxide into your sunscreen. Place in a wide mouth jar with a lid. Enjoy for six months!
WON After Sun Healing Lotion
Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil in a double boiler. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to a creamy texture. Store in a dry, cool place. The Oils and Butters used in this recipe help your skin retain moisture, heal from damage caused by excessive exposure to the sun, and reduce pain caused from inflammation. Rich in antioxidants this cream will repair damage caused by free radicals. The Essential Oils listed are excellent for healing dry, damaged skin.
WON Itch Relief Spray
Combine Witch Hazel and essential oils in a 1 oz glass spray bottle. Spray on infected areas as needed.
WON Bug Spray
Fill a 4 oz glass spray bottle-Half with Witch Hazel and half with Distilled Water. Add Essential Oil blend and spray as needed. This recipe will help to repel ticks along with Mosquitos and other biting insects. You may also create your own blend from the following Essential Oils: Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, and Cedar.