The Scarlet Letter


Let’s talk about vitamin A, sunscreens for our face and body, high SPF factors, and our health. With summer just around the corner, we can be prepared.

Part 1: We’ve all heard of Retin A.
Most of us know that it’s used to improve skin texture, diminish wrinkles, and reduce dark spots… not that anyone I know has any.  If you’ve ever used it, you also know that you apply it only at night, and thereafter, avoid the sun the way Dracula does.

I learned from the Environmental Working Group (an American environmental organization specializing in research and advocacy in the area of toxic chemicals and corporate accountability) that we should avoid using ANY skin or lip product containing vitamin A since it can cause excessive skin growth, and in sunlight, the retinyl palmitate version of it can form free-radicals that damage our DNA.

The side-effects of too much vitamin A are a serious enough consideration that in Germany they are barring it in lip and body-care. In Norway they’ve cautioned women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.  In the USA, years after the EWG brought up these concerns, the FDA still hasn’t completed it’s follow-up studies.

My thought is this –  rather than wait for the FDA, we can avoid using daily skin-care products that contain vitamin A, which we know must avoid interaction with the sun. It’s up to us, always, to take care of ourselves.

Look through and discard all of your skin care products meant for daytime use that contain vitamin A in any of it’s forms: retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinol acetate, linoleate, and retinoic acid.

If you are using skin treatments with vitamin A for medical purposes, follow your dermatologist’s orders, applying at night (on dry skin) and practice sun avoidance when using these powerful ingredients. They have become so ubiquitous that we forget their capabilities.

coupleumbrellaPart 2: Don’t Be Fooled by High SPF labels!

Years ago, when working with closely with Aveda Products, I asked why their sunscreen only came in a SPF 15 and 25. Horst (the founder) replied, The chemicals it would take to make it higher are worse for your skin that the sun.”  I’ve always remembered that.

Higher SPF products DO NOT offer equivalently high protection –  that 100 SPF is really only about a 37. And, the side-effects of all this chemistry are allergic reactions, tissue damage, and hormone disruption.

Basically, sunscreen should be our last resort…  but, if that’s the case, how are we to protect our skin, and especially a child’s tender skin, when we go out to play?
I have done some research and these five sunscreens available at Walgreen’s, Walmart, Amazon, Toys R Us, Whole Foods, and Target and all reasonably priced, have the best scores on :

  1. Nature’s Gate, Aqua Vegan SPF 30 and Sport Vegan, SPF 50.
  2. Badger Kids Sunscreen 30 SPF (smells like a Dreamsicle)
  3.  Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
  4. Alba Botanic Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance Free SPF 30

I have used Nature’s Gate for years, and am currently using Alba Botanica and love it.
Other things to do are to are:

  1. Wear clothes in lightweight fabrics and light colors. There is also reasonably priced clothing with built-in SPF now.
  2. Plan around the sun, avoiding the peak hours of 10:00  a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  3. Always wear sunglasses.
  4. Use lots of cream sunscreen and reapply often. Skip the sprays, they’re less effective.
  5. Find, or bring your own, shade. Always KEEP INFANTS IN THE SHADE. Cover their heads. They aren’t protected by melanin, and we shouldn’t use sunscreen on them.
  6. And last, but not least, while you’re sitting in the shade relaxing, preferably under a big, sexy hat, sip on a cooling summer cocktail, sans the straw, of course!

XO Donna




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