SUN! Yay summer! Grab the sunscreen, let's go. Uh sunscreen...
Today is the day that the FDA's new guidelines on over-the-counter sunscreens takes effect; manufacturers' compliance, however, is not mandated until December of this year. The FDA is requiring sunscreens to be "broad spectrum" and have a minimum level of blocking power (SPF 15.) A broad spectrum sunscreen is one that has been proven to block both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The higher the SPF number the more effectively those rays are blocked. The American Academy of Dermatology, among other Dermatology associations, have been big on advocating for the use of sunblocks and against sun exposure by all people due to the increased risks of skin cancer.
Sunscreens make me uneasy; chemical solutions to health problems in general make me uneasy. If you HAVE to live a particular lifestyle and nothing is going to alter that behavior then the chemical answers to reduce the health impacts from that bad behavior is reduced -- at least for that one particular health worry. The worrisome part is what impact the chemicals have on your longer term overall health. Skin absorbs most of whatever is put on it. Lauryl sulfate and many other "inactive ingredients" have known carcinogenic implications. The newer UV screening substances ("active ingredients") have no track record for potential side effects.
The largest danger of getting skin cancer is from sunburning, not from the sun itself! The human body was made for sunshine. Vitamin D production is dependent upon the UV light from sunlight. Sunblocks, clothing or chemical, will reduce Vitamin D stores. Meticulously regulating your sun exposure to allow tanning without burning is the best natural way to reduce skin cancer risks without the potential complicating effects from chemicals. The major benefit of getting sun without burning and without chemicals is that your skin can then use the ultraviolet light to make Vitamin D, which carries with it strong bones and teeth, improved immunity, and reduced cancer risks. Your skin makes Vitamin D from sunshine far better than you absorb Vitamin D from supplementation. So, get out there and get some sun -- but be CAREFUL to start with a short amount of time and increase it consistently and gradually.