Safe Sunbathing Includes More Than Non-Toxic Sunscreen

Is there such a thing as safe fun in the sun (& where can I find a 'safe' sunscreen)?
YES! I advise my patients to avoid eating, drinking, breathing and absorbing chemicals as a general rule. To protect skin from over-exposure, I strongly recommend:
  • eating foods that facilitate protection (from the inside out),
  • seeking out shade when necessary,
  • wearing protective clothing, and
  • using sun screen sparingly.
Examples of protective foods include: green tea, carrots, red peppers, spinach and salmon. (Click here for further info on that).
Examples of protective clothing include: light colored cotton. You may even choose fabrics specifically designed to protect your skin. (Click here for details on that.)

What kind of sunscreen should I use?

Topical sunscreens (i.e. creams, gels, lotions and sprays) should have as few ingredients as possible, unless they are organic and otherwise facilitate wellness. And the sunscreen need to be non-toxic. I recommend products with the main ingredient: zinc, which provides evidence-based skin protection.

What's the deal with SPF?

Don't be fooled by "SPF" (sun protective factor) since the higher numbers don't necessarily mean greater protection in the way you expect. Dr. Weil suggests that 'SPF' greater than 15 is not as protective as the public believes. (For more details on SPF, click here.)

Where can I get more information on how to protect my skin from sun damage?

An organization that keeps your safety in mind: The "EWG" (Environmental Working Group), based in Washington D.C. advocates for health-protective policies (click here for details). For an example of a sunscreen they recommend that is organic and fragrance-free click here.
A website you can trust: For a wonderful, well researched list of products that meet these criteria, please check out's coverage on sunscreen cheat sheets. I encourage you to explore that website at your leisure for the many ideas Katherine shares about a wide variety off topics.

Sun Protection Myths

It is true that the more sun we get, the more potential Vitamin D we may manufacture but absorption is a key factor. Washing with soap and water decreases the body's ability to absorb the Vitamin D it manufactures (within the initial 48 hours after exposure).
"Vitamin D" is really a hormone. Unlike vitamins which are supplied by food or supplements, hormones are actually manufactured by the body. In order to get the most of that experience, many organ systems pitch in. In other words, the body needs to work as a team. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes an entire body to get the benefits of sun exposure.
Vitamin D is necessary for a variety of reasons. It facilitates healthy bones, heart and more. The sun is our friend and inspires to the body to produce it. What role do sunscreens play in helping or hindering the process? These are important questions that have a wide range of answers, depending what schools of thought are followed. Your trusted health care provider is your best resource, especially when evidence-based research supports recommendations.
To summarize: Sun safety can be simple if you keep a few points in mind:
  • Enrich your summer food & drink intake with recommended (sun protective) foods.
  • Get to know your body (fair skin with light hair and eyes tends to burn faster than darker skin with dark eyes & hair).
  • Take special sun protective supplements during the summer months to decrease your tendency to burn.

Dr. Iankowitz is an ANCC board certified advanced practice nurse, in private practice as founder and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC.  Dr. Iankowitz is the editor and author of several articles and books, and founder of Universe'Secretary.