I rarely use sunscreen.
If I’m just tooling around on a typical day, I might end up in the sun for short 20-30 minute exposures, which is rarely enough to burn the skin. So I just don't wear sunscreen in a situation like that.
However, if I’m doing a longer workout, like an outdoor bike ride, run or swim session that lasts longer than an hour, I do wear sunscreen. In these cases, the super healthy sunscreen that my wife makes at home is typically enough to keep me protected.
But during long, hot and sun-exposed triathlons, in which I’m under intense UV exposure for 5-10 hours at a time, I often need something more waterproof and sweatproof, with a higher SPF.
However, I’m concerned about potential toxic ingredients in these waterproof, sweatproof, high SPF sunscreens…
…so a few weeks ago, I shot a video about sunscreen, in which I explained some of the most common dangerous products in sunscreen and how to avoid them.
You can watch the video below, and then we'll get into the real question: is the risk of sunscreen, and some of the other choices we make in fitness, worth the reward?
After I posted this video, I received some feedback, particularly from the company “KINeSYS”. They actually gave me quite valuable information that I want to share with you on this post, along with a link to an article from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Here is the letter I received:
“It is unfortunate that the FDA has dragged their feet on the sunscreen monograph update for years. When they released the 1999 sunscreen monograph, KINeSYS jumped on it right away (only major difference being that in 1999 SPF 30 was the max, now it was increased to SPF 50 in 2012).
It has annoyed me to no end, that other sunscreen companies were able to mislead the consumer, SPF 60, 70, 80, 100, while we've maintained an SPF 30. Without the FDA trying to educate the consumer, the EWG (Environmental Working Group) has become the authority on sunscreen? I am a fan of their mission, but in regard to sunscreens, it doesn't factor any risk/reward.
The sun? Chemicals? Minerals (chemicals)? And it completely favors mineral blocks, calling them “natural”.
Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide (for those who want to believe) can be considered natural, and Ben, I now know you make your own sunscreen. Ti & Zn are mined from the earth, but crude Ti & Zn ores have to be purified via chemical & physical processes into pure mineral that are used in sunscreens.
The zinc contained in the feed material is leached in an aqueous ammonia solution. Ammonia is stripped from the solution by steam injection and the zinc precipitates as a basic zinc carbonate, which is then transformed into zinc oxide by calcinations and other processes before being U.S.P. grade and suitable for cosmetics. There is no amount of hammering you can do to make the minerals small enough to put into a cream.
We make a 25% pure Zinc oxide ointment, with Soybean, Coconut Oil, Sunflower, even cruelty free Beeswax, using Rosemary and Peppermint as preservatives & no parabens, but we market it as: a 100% mineral block, (not organic or natural), and as for “chemical free”, there is simply no such thing once you understand that Zinc & Titanium need to be processed using chemicals.
This is also why we don't market “reef safe”, as there is no study that is accepted by the FDA or Health Canada in regard to reef safe. Minerals are not biodegradable (they are minerals!) – they do, however, bioaccumulate in the coral & ocean floor. Other companies have issues with false statements like reef safe – and you can read this article for more information on that: http://www.tropicalseas.com/pages/the-badger-ing-of-reef-safe-sunscreens
You also mentioned in the video that oxybenzone can be an endocrine disruptor or mimic estrogen, This protocol that is referred to is based on five genetically mutated mice fed whopping doses of oxybenzone, which showed the estrogenic mimics you are mentioning. It was calculated that would take a human 250 years to be exposed to this much oxybenzone!
You will notice from our Active & Inactive ingredient list, we try to minimize the number of ingredients, and even though we make a SPF 30, with 25% pure zinc oxide, I would never call it chemical free or natural, let alone organic.
I believe all our products are safe & effective and I know that it comes down to choice and risk/reward: 1) the sun, which we know can damage the skin and cause unpleasant sunburns, 2) the chemicals in sunscreen, which are not proven to be as harmful as the sun or 3) minerals, which are micronized or nano-sized via chemical process (and there isn't enough information available on their long term effects.)”
The reason I want to share this letter with you is it really got me thinking, especially the part about risk and reward.
For example, I’ve chosen to compete in long distance triathlons, often internationally. For me, the reward is the enjoyment and pleasure I derive from racing, traveling, meeting new people, engaging in rich cultural experiences, and expanding my knowledge of fitness and nutrition to be able to help my clients, readers and listeners.
However, this means that I not only take on all the long term, chronic endurance exercise risks that I describe in this “Top 10 Reasons Exercise Is Bad For You” post, but it also means that I must…
…consume higher amounts of acidic, inflammatory sugar (especially during races)…
…expose my body to huge amounts of circadian disruption and travel stress…
…spend long periods of time swimming in a chlorinated environments….
…spend elongated periods of time in the hot sun….
….wear sunscreen that has chemicals and minerals in it…
…and generally take on small doses of risk on a daily basis.
For me, the risk is worth the reward, even if it means I may subtract a few months off my life, or risk higher amounts of physical stress than if I’d lived at home in a bubble.
So what about you?
Do you take risks in life that you know are risks, but you take them anyway because they're worth the reward?
If so, share your risks below, and talk about the reward you get from those risks.
Or, you can simply ask any questions you’d like about travel, sugar, chlorine, chronic exercise, sunscreen or other potential “risks” that you may take on a daily basis. I'd love to hear your thoughts.