What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Downside of Sunblock

We live in beautiful Ontario, Canada where we have a boat, a pool and we vacation close to 3 months of the year in Florida.  The problem is I have melasma, hyperpigmented patches on my face.  The recommended treatment for melasma is to use some type of lightening system (chemical, natural) then protect the face with the highest SPF broad spectrum sunblock you can find.  I have gone all natural as far as actually treating my melasma including using a custom made turmeric mask (more on that in the next post).  I am still using an SPF 110 sunblock and therein lies one problem.

Aside of the melasma, did you know that strong sun exposure can cause your hair to turn grey quicker?  'Tis true!  It works in reverse of tanning by bleaching out the melanin that gives hair it's colour.  Both my husband and I noticed more greying after being in Aruba

Chemical sunblocks contain a few chemicals that can actually cause more problems then they solve including making your skin more susceptible to skin cancer.  I've been paying premium prices for the ultra high SPF protection and while I heard of some of the chemical warnings, I did not know that the skin cannot absorb anything higher than SPF 50 protection.  Essentially, I have been wasting my money for extra protection my skin wasn't able to utilize.

The second problem with sunblocks is it reduces the production of Vitamin D.  In fact, many living in northern climates as we do have a Vitamin D deficiency.  The body makes Vitamin D via sun exposure so it stands to reason that in northern climates where your are covered from head to toe during the winter months and your face is protected with a high SPF sunblock, sun exposure is blocked so your body can't make Vitamin D.

The third problem is some of the chemicals in sunblocks can make you physically sick.  Not only can they cause allergic reactions, they can cause gastrointestinal problems because they are absorbed through the skin.  The worst part is, as I found out, you might not suspect your sunblock is the cause of your gastrointestinal problems.

Finally, sunblock can block your pores creating rashes and skin break-outs.  They can cause you to feel hot and sticky even if they say they are dry.  Beware of those who say they are dry with a lightweight feeling as those sunblocks can really end up drying your skin as well.

We are moving away from using chemical sunblocks wherever possible.  There are a multitude of ways to avoid strong UV exposure.  Be aware that UV exposure comes through windows including vehicle windows and from indoor lighting.  UV exposure can also be strong between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM even with cloud cover.  We spent most of the month of October at our vacation home in Florida.  I was beyond pleased to be asked "Weren't you just in Florida?  Where's your tan?"  Now, those who live in Florida year round know how to avoid the sun.  I was also impressed during our Aruba vacation how folks avoid sun damage without resorting to using a lot of sunblock.  Here are a few things we are doing to avoid chemical sunblocks at both of our homes:

  • avoidance - We tend to avoid being outdoors when the UV rays are the strongest.  If we are in one of our vehicles we use the drop down shades on the side windows to block UV rays.  At home, we filter out direct sunlight so we still get the warmth during the winter months with greatly reduced UV exposure.
  • shade - I'm a shade seeker.  I don't like being in the direct sun.  If walking, I tend to walk on the shady side of the street.  If waiting, I stand under the shade of a tree and even at the pool both at home and at our vacation home, I'm the one sitting in the shade.  We have devised ways to create shade on the boat, at home on the decks and around the pool, as well as on the golf cart so we don't have to be in direct sun to enjoy the great outdoors.
  • clothing - Did you know there are actual SPF ratings for various fabrics?  What you wear especially during the strong UV exposure hours can make a huge difference.  Covering up is inexpensive and surprisingly can be cooling especially for women if you wear summer frocks that let the air in while blocking the UV rays.  During the heat of the day, put on a long sleeve, white cotton shirt to cover your arms.  Wear long but light weight pants or skirts as well.
  • hats - A broad brimmed hat is a must to keep the sun off your face.  I have several of them as does my husband who is an avid golfer meaning he gets a lot more sun exposure than I do.  I like the straw hats with wide brims because they tend to be a bit cooler on the head while shading the face and neck.  
  • parasols - Parasols are a fancy type of umbrella designed to keep the sun off your face.  They were very popular during Victorian times where milky white skin was seen as a beauty asset.  They remain popular in cultures cultivating the milky white skin (eg. Japan, Asian cultures) but can be seen world wide now as folks travel.  I was surprised to see several of them during our visit to Disney World this past October.  Now, parasols make perfect sense because they provide you with instant shade something that is difficult to find at theme parks.    They are available in ultra compact sizes and if you don't want to splurge on an actual parasol, an ultra compact umbrella will achieve the same thing. 
  • natural skin correctors - There are a number of natural skin correctors that reverse the damage from sun exposure.  They include: turmeric, honey, milk, lemon juice and aloe vera. Of those, aloe vera is very effective when used both before and after sun exposure.  Vitamin C, E and L-cysteing as well as pomegranate extract, ellagic acid and ferulic acid are natural ways to reduce melanin production as well.