As the summer months are nearing in northern hemisphere countries, I’ve been asked a few times about sunscreen. Which is the best one to use for eczema sufferers, and how safe is it to spend time in the sun?
The first thing I want to say on this one: get your mind into the natural way of thinking. What is more natural? Sunshine or sunscreen? We were born into a world where sunshine is freely available, provides us with vitamin D making ability, and helps to increase our mood. Sunscreen, on the other hand, is a product manufactured in a laboratory, and is made of chemicals that are not likely to come into contact with our skin in nature.
Would you eat sunscreen?
The general rule of thumb, is not to put anything on your skin that you would not be willing to eat. Certainly, most of the sunscreens I’ve come across are not edible. There are some types of sunscreen that are not designed to be absorbed by the body, they sit on the surface of the skin instead. You could argue that these are healthier to use – especially for people who are susceptible to skin issues, since the chemicals would not be entering the body, however I think there is a stronger argument to avoid using it at all.
The most common advice is to wear sunscreen with a high safety factor, especially for people who burn easily. However, in the past few years, skin cancer has increased gradually, despite us wearing more sunscreen and spending less time outdoors. This would suggest that the problem with skin cancer is a bit more complex. Sunscreen can prevent us from being able to create vitamin D properly, and often contain chemicals that are likely to be more harmful than the exposure to the sun – a big problem when you have eczema or other skin disease.
Focus on Diet
Sunburn is a form of inflammation, and is affected by our diet. If we are eating a diet free of oils, rich in antioxidants, low-inflammatory foods, with plenty of omega 3, 6 and 9s, this will give us a good resilience to the sun, long-term. Sun affects different people in different ways – I have dark skin, and I can get away with a lot more sun than some people can. Over the past few years, I’ve gradually exposed my skin to increasing lengths of direct sunlight in hot countries, and now I never burn or have any issues with the sun. Overall, my advice is not to use sunscreen, but instead to cover the skin, and moderate your time spent in strong sunlight, if you are not accustomed to it.
As the summer months arrive, don’t be afraid to go out and have some fun in the sun. If you’re in a place with a lot of consistent sun, slowly build up your exposure to it. If you’re a regular use of sunscreen, perhaps weaning yourself off it is the best approach, rather than going cold turkey. And most of all, keep on point with your diet.