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Sunscreen Alert: Chemicals Reach Deep Down into the Bloodstream

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This time of year, many like to enjoy the sunshine. But too much can lead to future problems like skin cancer. Doctors commonly point to wearing sunscreen as protection, but there are new concerns about those products.

Our skin can pay a hefty price for summer fun in the sun. Just one blistering sunburn in your younger years can increase the risk for deadly melanoma skin cancer. 

Dermatologist Whitney Bowe told CBN News although skin cancer diagnoses are on the rise, it doesn't have to be that way.

"Ultraviolet exposure from the sun's rays is really the number one most preventable and avoidable cause of not only skin cancer," she said, "but also signs of aging, so things like fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, loss of elasticity." 

Questions Concerning Chemical Sunscreens

Dr. Bowe, author of Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin recommends using sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays. However, she points out the US Food and Drug Administration is now questioning chemical sunscreen with ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. 

"They're actually calling on sunscreen manufacturers to really take a closer look at the safety of some of those ingredients," said Dr. Bowe.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed some sunscreen chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream. That's why the FDA states these products "need to undergo further testing to help determine if they increase the risk for cancer, birth defects or other adverse effects."

Mineral Sunscreens Aren't Perfect Either

While chemical sunscreens warrant further study, the FDA considers a different type of sunscreen, mineral, "generally recognized as safe and effective." Dr. Bowe says these types of products typically don't absorb as easily as chemical sunscreens.

"Mineral are actual physical blockers. They act as a shield," she explained. "They sit on the skin and they reflect, or scatter, the UV rays. Those are the ones that contain zinc oxide, titanium oxide." 

Dr. Bowe says mineral sunscreens have their drawbacks.

"They can be a little difficult to rub in. They can leave you looking a little bit like a ghost."

For that reason, many consumers don't use enough of the mineral sunscreens and wind up getting burned. 

Avoid the Need for Sunscreens by Covering Up

Dr. Bowe says concerns about the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens, not to mention the time and expense of using them have people looking for a better way to protect their skin. 

"A lot of people ask me, 'How do I limit the amount of sunscreen I'm using during the summer?' and that's when I tell people you have to think outside the sunscreen box."

Dr. Bowe helped develop a line of sun-protective clothing made of fabric that's lightweight, breathable, quick-drying, and UPF 50 plus. That means it blocks 98 percent of the sun's harmful rays. 

"It's convenient, but it also gives a lot of my patients peace of mind," explained Dr. Bowe, "Patients who are concerned about the safety of slathering sunscreen literally from head to toe and reapplying it all day long, which we recommend doing."

Dr. Bowe says covering up with a wide-brimmed hat, lounge pants, and a coverup dramatically cuts down on the hassle of applying sunscreen. She says the long-sleeved swim shirt, also known as a rash guard, is a summer must-have.

"For myself, for my daughter," she said, "when I'm wearing one of these, I'm only applying sunscreen on my face, on my neck, on the tops of my hands, and on my legs. And when I send her to camp I say, 'McLean, you only have to reapply your face and your legs after you swim! She doesn't have to worry about literally applying every single inch of her skin."

Revolutionary Skin Cancer Vitamin

Dr. Bowe recommends taking a supplement called Heliocare Advanced to reduce the risk of skin cancer, pointing out that doing so does not take the place of wearing sunscreen and otherwise protecting the skin, but rather in addition to those healthy practices. The active ingredient is nicotinamide.

"It's been shown that nicotinamide, which is a form of B3 (niacin), if you take it every single day, it can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer," she said. "And we're talking studies that have been in The New England Journal of Medicine. This isn't just another beauty supplement."

Know Your Moles

Dermatologists recommend regular skin cancer screenings. Furthermore, The American Academy of Dermatology says to check your moles at home and if you see any of the ABCDEs of skin cancer, see your doctor right away because early detection is key to successful treatment.

A = Asymmetrical: One half is unlike the other half.
B = Border: An irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
C = Color: Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown, or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter: Greater than 1/4 inch, the size of a pencil eraser
E = Evolving: Changes in size, shape, or color

New CBD Products Offer Relief

If people do happen to get too much sun that leads to painful pink or red skin tones, Dr. Bowe says new CBD products can bring relief. 

"The cannabis plant has two main compounds that people are familiar with. There's THC, which gets you high, and CBD, which doesn't," she explained, "But CBD can actually help to dial down inflammation. It speeds up wound healing and it also has analgesic properties which help with pain."

She recommends applying CBD oil topically on the skin through either a spray or oil. 

"So I tell patients when you come home and you think you've had a little too much sun during the day, take a shower, pat dry, and apply some of your CBD." 

Choose Sports Drinks Wisely

If you choose a sports drink this summer, make sure it contains no more than two grams of sugar. 

"Most sports drinks are loaded with sugar, and sugar causes something called glycation," she said. "The sugar molecules bind to collagen and target it for destruction. So it's a great way to accelerate the aging process."

To keep sugar from prematurely aging our skin, Dr. Bowe recommends consuming fewer than 30 grams of sugar each day.

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