alternative sunscreenYou’ve known for years that too much sun causes skin damage, so you put the days of slathering yourself in butter and stretching out by the pool behind you.

Nowadays, you’re more likely to be slathering yourself in sunscreen, and staying in the shade.

The problem is you might be doing more harm than good every time you apply sunscreen.

The upsetting reality is that most of the well-known and common sunscreens can be just as bad, in their own ways.

The Problems with Traditional, Chemical Sunscreen

First and foremost, many of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens may cause health issues once they are absorbed through the skin.

Studies have shown that they can react with your hormones and may even interfere with the reproductive system. One prevalent chemical, oxybenzone, has even been linked to higher risks of endometriosis, a painful condition affecting the uterus.

Even if you aren’t worried about hormone imbalances or endometriosis, that same chemical can create sensitive skin issues leading to allergic reactions.

Also, prolonged exposure to these chemicals may eventually cause them to be less effective – so you’re running all the risks and not even getting the benefits any longer.

While those are the worst of the problems with chemical sunscreens, they’re still not the only ones. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient – unless it’s added to a chemical sunscreen. If this is the case, then it can cause serious issues.

When used in this capacity, Vitamin A may actually contribute to the development of skin cancer. So the very steps you’re taking to avoid skin cancer could be helping it along.

And the SPF rating that is supposed to tell you how long you can stay out and how effective the sunscreen is? Well, SPFs above 50 don’t matter. High SPF numbers are misleading because after a certain time, you’re not protected any longer. But people think they can apply once and stay out all day.

So what are you supposed to do to avoid sunburn and skin damage? Hide indoors all summer long? Luckily, there are effective sunscreen alternatives you may not know about.

Create Your Own Shade

Clothing is the most obvious sunscreen alternative, and yet it’s one people often miss. At the beach or pool, make sure you have a cover-up for when you’re out of the water. Or set your own trend and wear a swim shirt that covers at least your shoulders and chest.

If you’re going to be outdoors a lot – because you live at the beach, like to hike, or plan on spending the summer in the garden – consider investing in UV ray protective clothing.

Just like sunscreens are rated in SPF, clothing is rated in UPF – Ultraviolet Protection Factor. It’s a way of knowing exactly how much sun the garment blocks. The higher the number, the less sun exposure. And there are many brands of clothing created especially to provide high UPF.

However, you don’t have to buy special clothing. You probably have adequate sunscreen alternatives in your closet already.

A general rule is that the tighter the weave, the fewer rays will make it through to your skin. But that doesn’t mean the clothing itself should be tight. In fact, wearing tight clothing can lower its ability to protect you, because the material gets stretched out, letting more sunshine in.

When it comes to creating your own shade, nothing is easier or more fashionable than a hat. Be sure to choose one with at least a three-inch rim, so your ears and nose are always covered. Go wider if you want, and protect your shoulders and chest as well.

Look to Your Foods

You probably don’t think about your diet being part of your sun protection routine, but it can be. Foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats can help protect you against sun damage and act as sunscreen alternatives.

Reach for dark fruits, bright vegetables, nuts, and avocadoes. Just don’t use these as your only sunscreen alternative.

Instead, be aware there are foods you can take from the kitchen for your skin that will help protect against sun damage.

Raspberry seed oil actually has an SPF that rivals some chemical sunscreens. Wheat germ oil, sesame seed oil, and coconut oil are also effective, if not as long-lasting.

If you’re going to be out for any length of time, be sure to reapply liberally and often.

Don’t Forgo the Drugstore Completely

In response to the needs of consumers, several companies are now making natural, or mineral based sun lotions.

Instead of harmful chemicals, these contain zinc and/or titanium, which help protect you and do so safely. And the best part? Many of them are as affordable as the chemical sunscreens you’ve been using.

On the label, be sure you look for either, or both, of those ingredients. Avoid products with chemicals like oxybenzone, homosalate, retinyl palmitate, or octocrylene. Another good rule is to avoid chemicals that end in “-one” “-ate” or “-ene.”

Finally, look for one that has an SPF between 30 and 50. Any lower and you aren’t getting as much protection as you could be. Any higher, and you don’t really gain anything. Regardless of SPF though, reapply often, especially after you’ve been in the water.

Don’t hide from the sun – embrace it. Just do so safely, with sunscreen alternatives that work and keep you healthy.