Important News About Winter, Sunscreens and Your Health

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 04/17/2014

Even in the winter you need to protect yourself from the sun's UV rays.Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can forget about the sun and your skin. First off, you want to make sure you’re getting enough. At this time of year it’s easy to be short on sun, and our bodies need 10-20 minutes of sunlight in order to manufacture vitamin D. Supplements are good, but sun exposure is important, too.

Yet, remember that even though the sun is less intense in the winter it can still damage your skin. If you’re going to be out in the sun for longer than 20-30 minutes, I recommend covering up including wearing a hat. Taking CoQ10 100-150 mg daily also offers superior protection for the first 15-20 minutes in the sun, when Q10 is used up as an antioxidant in the skin.

Now, what about sunscreen? I used to recommend it year-round, but not anymore. Here’s why…

First of all, sunscreens can contribute to skin cancer. Cases of skin cancer on the rise, and the widespread use of sunscreens is partially to blame. That’s because many sunscreens protect you against UVB rays, but still let the harmful cancer-causing UVA rays reach your skin. So, they’re giving you a false sense of protection.

But now there’s a new danger to worry about, too. I always knew that some sunscreens contain harmful ingredients, and that those made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide were safe to use. Now, after reading the book Sunscreens- Biohazards: Treat as Hazardous Waste at the request of the author who wants my endorsement, I’ve learned otherwise.

As author Elizabeth Plourde, PhD discusses in her book, nano-particles (extremely small constituents) that help sunscreens absorb into your skin also assist in moving the chemicals in sunscreens into your body. So the toxic ingredients in sunscreens—even titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which I thought were safe—cross cell membranes and interfere with cellular division. 

So, sunscreens can cause oxidative stress, free radical damage, and premature aging: the very things we use them to protect against!

What does that mean for you? Brief sun exposure, 10 to 20 minutes or less, is good for the skin and body. For longer periods spent in the sun, I recommend covering up. While skiing or on fishing trips, I use a sun mask that blocks 95% of UV radiation. 

Now, it’s your turn: How do protect yourself from the sun?

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