The BEST and WORST Sunscreen Ingredients

Why Sunscreen Matters

With Memorial Day just around the corner and summer a stone’s throw away (or already here depending on where you live), your sunshine time is increasing daily.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know sunscreen is important.

What you may NOT know is that your sunscreen choice can make a HUGE difference.

Choose the wrong sunscreen and you increase your chances of skin aging (hello wrinkles and sunspots), sunburn, and skin cancer.

Since nobody wants that, I’m helping you choose the best and most effective sunscreen options.

The Best Sunscreen Ingredient

Not all sunscreens are created equally. Some sunscreens are superior (meaning they contain the best ingredients, are broad spectrum, and clean ingredient-wise) while others have much to be desired.

I’m going to give you the 20,000 foot level on this one. If you want the nitty gritty details, check out this post.

There are two main active ingredients in various sunscreens - chemical and physical.

Chemical sunscreens — as their name suggests — utilize chemicals that absorb UV rays after they enter the skin. Examples of chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, dioxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and padimate O.

Physical sunscreens, in contrast, form a protective layer on the skin and reflect UV rays before their enter the skin. They form a physical barrier of protection against UV rays. Examples of physical sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

Most people use chemical sunscreens, which is a MISTAKE.

For a sunscreen to be effective, it needs to block UVA and UVB rays. In other words, it needs to be broad spectrum. Even better is to pick a sunscreen that blocks UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays.

The only FDA approved sunscreen that protects against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays is zinc oxide (a PHYSICAL sunscreen).

This means zinc oxide is the most comprehensive sunscreen and the ingredient you should pick (barring the unusual allergy or contraindication).

THE SPF YOU SHOULD PICK

SPF (or sun protection factor) assesses a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB rays.

So what do the SPF numbers mean? Different SPF numbers are associated with different percentages of UVB ray blocking.

SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays. Increasing to SPF 30 takes you to 96.7%. And SPF 70 blocks 98.6% of rays.

Going beyond SPF 30 has very small gains in sun protection. Furthermore, sunscreens with SPF over 30 typically have more negative side effects.

For this reason, most folks are fine with SPF 30. However, if your dermatologist has suggested otherwise, please follow their instruction.


INGREDIENTS TO AVOID IN SUNSCREEN

Now you know the best active sunscreen ingredient (zinc oxide) and most appropriate SPF (usually 30).

So what else should you remember when picking a sunscreen?

You should remember there are some ingredients to avoid.

Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

  • Dioxybenzone - this chemical sunscreen has estrogenic effects in the body.
  • Methylisothiazolinone - this is a preservative found in many sunscreens (including those marketed for children). This preservative is highly allergenic and sensitizes skin.
  • Octinoxate - this chemical sunscreen is being banned in Hawaii for harming coral reefs.
  • Oxybenzone - this chemical sunscreen is being banned in Hawaii for harming coral reefs. Also, it has hormonal effects in the body (estrogenic effects in women) and may alter sperm production.

Go Forth & Pick the Best Sunscreen for You

Remember zinc oxide, SPF 30, and my “ingredients to avoid” list. This way when you pick out new sunscreen for your Memorial Day weekend plans, you can make the best choice possible to keep your skin in tip top shape.

In health and happiness,
Skye

You Should Eat These 3 Things to Decrease Your Risk of Cancer

Cancer is terrible. Truly.

What else is terrible? The fact that 1/3 of cancer cases are preventable. This means 5 million cancer cases in the United States each didn’t need to happen.

There are evidence-based ways to decrease cancer. And I feel it’s my duty to share this knowledge with you.

Three foods can really and truly decrease your risk of common cancers.

CANCER PREVENTING FOOD #1: Fruits

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This is good news for you.

Fruit tastes delicious, has great nutritional value, and prevents cancer. Really.

What counts as fruit in these studies? Fresh, frozen, canned, raw and cooked fruits. This doesn’t count nuts, seeds, or dried fruit.

Fruit consumption decreases the risk of esophagus, stomach, and lung cancer.

Fruit probably decreases the risk of other cancers — such as nasopharynx, colon, and rectal cancer.

Fruit works it’s cancer protecting magic through many mechanisms. Polyphenols and carotenoids contained in fruit have antioxidant and antiproliferative effects. Not only do they have these effects, but they also modulate hormone metabolism, immune function, and play an important role in DNA synthesis.

Load up on fruits everyday for cancer protection! Some of my favorites include organic blueberries, mangoes, apples, bananas, and huckleberries.

CANCER PREVENTING FOOD #2: Non-Starchy Vegetables

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Your mom was right. You should eat your vegetables.

Why?

Because vegetables convincingly decrease the risk of several cancers such as mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Furthermore, vegetables probably decrease the risk of other cancers (think nasopharynx, colon, lung, and rectum).

This is great news for several reasons. One, vegetables are more affordable than many other food groups (like dairy and meat). Two, you can grow you own if you want to. And lastly, vegetables have a whole host of other health promoting benefits.

So what counts as vegetables in terms of cancer prevention? Primarily, the non-starchy ones. This means all vegetables excluding potatoes and pulses (beans, lentils, and peas). And it includes fresh, frozen, canned, raw or cooked varieties.

CANCER PREVENTING FOOD #3: Dietary Fiber

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Dietary fiber. Not the sexiest sounding of all the foods. However, dietary fiber can pack a serious cancer preventing punch.

Colon, rectal, and breast cancer can all be prevented by eating sufficient dietary fiber.

Overall, dietary fiber prevents cancer by preventing insulin-resistance, decreasing inflammation, and by optimizing colonic microflora. Specifically, it is hypothesized dietary fiber reduces the levels of circulating steroid hormone, therefore playing a protective role in hormone-dependent cancers. In terms of colorectal cancer, dietary fiber is thought to increase stool bulk and dilute carcinogens through water binding, decrease intestinal transit time and carcinogen activity, as well as having anti proliferative properties.

You may be wondering exactly what counts as dietary fiber. That is an excellent question.

Many different foods contain dietary fiber. Fruit and vegetables contain dietary fiber. So do beans and legumes. Whole grains (wheat, brown rice, quinoa, popcorn, etc.) also count. Nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, and pecans, are higher in dietary fiber. Oat bran is also a source.

How much dietary fiber is considered sufficient? At least 25 grams a day.

FROM KNOWLEDGE TO POWER

Now you know the three foods to eat NOW to prevent cancer. Fruit, vegetables, and dietary fiber.

How do you plan to maximize cancer prevention through diet? Maybe it’s adding a green smoothie to your morning. Or trying my morning glory oatmeal (hint: it contains fruit and dietary fiber sources). Maybe you add up how much dietary fiber you’re getting.

Whatever you decide, may it help you (and your loved ones) prevent cancer.

xo,
Skye

Looking for more cancer prevention? Check out The ONE Thing You Should Do this Weekend to Prevent the Most Common Cancers.

 

The ONE Thing You Should Do this Weekend to Prevent the Most Common Cancers

Do you know someone who has (or had) breast cancer? Or lung cancer?

My guess is you answered yes to one or both of those questions.

According to the National Cancer Institute, lung and breast cancer are the most common in the United States.

Okay . . . this isn’t meant to depress you. So I’m going to turn this discussion around. Over the last few weeks we have covered what you should NOT do in terms of cancer prevention. Now we’re getting to the fun part.

The part where we talk about the FUN (and of course, evidence-based) things you CAN do to prevent cancer.

Because, as you know by now, 5 million cases of cancer can be prevented each year.

So what is the ONE thing you can do this weekend to prevent lung and breast cancer (the most common cancers)?

Physical activity.

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You know, exercise, ejercicio, moving your body. You get it, right?

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PREVENTS CANCER

It’s true. Physical activity prevents cancer.

How?

Great question.

It is hypothesized that physical activity directly effects levels of various hormones and growth factors in the body. Physical activity also improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin as well as decreasing oxidative stress and inflammatory markers. Furthermore, physical activity indirectly decreases cancer risk by lowering the risk of being obese or overweight.

Bottom line: physical activity both directly and indirectly decreases the risk of breast and lung cancer.

What Counts as Physical Activity?

If thoughts of slaving away on a treadmill are filling you with dread, don’t worry.

Because there are TONS of ways you can get physical activity.

According to the studies showing physical activity reduces cancer risk, any bodily movement that results in increased energy expenditure (above resting) counts.

So if you like treadmills and running, do it! If that’s not your cup of tea, do something else. Go for a hike this weekend. Ride a bike. Take a vigorous walk. Go to a yoga class. Take a spinning, barre, or boot camp class. Dig out your roller blades from the back of the closet. Grab some weights or use your body weight for resistance training. You get the picture. Find something you enjoy, but is also physically challenging, and do it!

And while you’re at it, do it on both weekend days.

OTHER REASONS TO MOVE YOUR BODY

If preventing breast and lung cancer isn’t enough, there are literally hundreds of other reasons to engage in physical activity.

Here are just a few reasons to move your body:

  • Exercise decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Exercise help keep blood pressure at healthy levels
  • Physical activity is associated with improved mood
  • Physical activity decreases perception of pain

Seriously. It’s hard to argue against exercise.

Even better is physical activity can be free. That’s right —no matter your budget, you can do something.

YOUR TURN

My personal practice is to do something every single day. Some days that means hiking. Other days it’s running, biking, or going to an exercise class.

What do you do? What do you plan to start this weekend? Shoot me a message — I’d love to hear all about it!


In health and happiness,
Skye

Is Your Multivitamin Giving You Cancer? I'll Show You How to Check.

Your multivitamin could be giving you cancer. No joke. I’m serious as cancer.

What part of your multivitamin is the culprit?

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The seemingly innocent vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, can act as a carcinogen.

Does your multivitamin contain beta-carotene? You’ll have to look on the label for yourself, but my guess is it does. Many mainstream multivitamins utilize beta-carotene for some or ALL of their vitamin A. You may be shocked to learn some of the largest multivitamin companies use beta-carotene.


Why Beta-Carotene Is a Problem

Depending on your personal history, beta-carotene supplementation is associated with several different types of cancers.

If you are a smoker, beta-carotene supplementation at doses greater than 20 mg a day convincingly increases the risk of lung cancer. This is independent from the increased lung cancer risk attributed to smoking itself.

If you don’t smoke, you still may not be safe. If you have been exposed to asbestos, your risk of lung cancer increases convincingly, too. And it’s likely you have been exposed to asbestos.

The tricky thing with asbestos exposure is you may have NO idea if you’ve been exposed. According to The Mesothelioma Center, most everyone in their lifetime has been exposed to asbestos. The most common exposures are due to home or commercial renovation or remodeling and sandblasting. Asbestos exposure is more common than you think. Even though I am extra cautious, I was exposed to asbestos from neighbors doing unauthorized construction and leaving asbestos venting in an open dumpster.

Lung cancer isn’t the only risk. Beta-carotene supplementation in doses greater than 20 mg a day probably increases the risk of stomach cancer in smokers and those exposed to asbestos.

Where does this information come from? Multiple scientific studies reviewed in this article.

How to Check Your Multivitamin

Do you want to check your multivitamin right now? I don’t mind … I’ll still be here when you get back. Look for “beta-carotene” or check the list for vitamin A and see what the source is.

If the source is beta-carotene, you need to do some calculating. Multivitamin labels may list the beta-carotene in micrograms (mcg), milligrams (mg), or even as international units (IU) of vitamin A.

I’ll make this easy for you.

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If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in milligrams, just make sure your total daily milligrams are less than 20 a day. Keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in micrograms, you need to do a little math. Divide the number of micrograms by 1000 to get the number of milligrams. For example, if your multivitamin contains 3000 micrograms of beta-carotene, divide 3000 by 1000. 3000 divided by 1000 is 3. Therefore, your multivitamin contains 3 milligrams of  beta-carotene. So long as your total daily exposure is less 20 milligrams, you should be okay. Remember, if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in international until (IU) of vitamin A, the calculation gets trickier. You need to convert IU’s to milligrams. You do this by multiplying the number of IU’s by 0.0006. This will give you the number of milligrams of beta-carotene, which you want to be below 20 from all sources. Again, keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

Which Multivitamin Should You Take?

That’s a great question.

You may NOT even need a multivitamin. But if you do want to take one (because you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or exclude entire food groups, for example), there are things you can do to pick the best and safest option.

Check out my Multivitamin Buying Guide and My Favorite Multivitamins.

Spread the Word

Do you have a friend or family member that uses a multivitamin or other supplements? You probably do.

Please, please, please send them this post so they can make sure they’re not inadvertently increasing their risk of cancer.

Or share this post on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media. Because many cases of cancer can be prevented and we need to get the word out.

In health and happiness,
Skye

Is Happy Hour Giving You Cancer?

Don’t get mad at me, please.

Alcohol is a tricky subject and a rather polarizing one. You may love your drinks, totally oppose drinking, or fall somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of your personal (and likely valid) opinion, there is evidence about alcohol and cancer. Even though I know you may be mad about this post, I truly feel it’s my duty to share it with you.

Because, as we covered last week, cancer is preventable. Approximately 5 million (you know . . . the number five with six zeroes after it) cases of cancer can be prevented each year from lifestyle changes alone.

As one of my readers, you know I am absolutely passionate about preventing illness. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I hadn’t shared an important part of the cancer prevention picture.

So today’s cancer prevention is all about alcohol.

How to Get Cancer: Drink Alcohol

Eek. I may have just caused you major stress/annoyance/incredulousness. But hear me out.

Alcohol can act as a carcinogen. It’s true. The mechanism of alcohol-mediated carcinogenesis has to do with the metabolites of ethanol. When you consume an alcoholic drink, the ethanol is changed into several metabolites. Acetaldehyde, one to the main metabolites, is a carcinogen. Further effects of alcohol consumption that are thought to contribute to cancer are redox changes, formation of free radicals, liver injury, elevation of sex hormones, folate deficiency, and an interaction with smoking.

There is compelling evidence to suggest alcohol consumption increases the risk of several specific cancers.  One of these cancers is breast. That’s right. Alcohol consumption is associated with a probable increased risk of breast cancer. See my chart below for specifics.

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You may be wondering where this data came from. It came from over 100 scientific studies and meta-analyses. References can be found in this review article from 2016.  

So . . . What counts as an alcoholic beverage?

Good question. According to the studies used to correlate cancer and alcohol consumption, the following beverages were considered alcoholic:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Spirits
  • Ciders (alcoholic)
  • Local drinks (such as sake and mead)

Action of the Week: Decrease Your Alcohol Intake or Abstain

What does this information mean for you? It means that if you want to decrease your risk of cancer (specifically breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, liver, and colorectal), you want to limit your alcohol intake.

And studies show no alcohol is even better for some cancers.

How do you feel about this? Shocked? Annoyed? Onboard? Enlightened?

Whatever you are feeling, it’s okay.

And what you do next is entirely up to you.

But at least you can go forward armed with the scientific evidence.

If you drink and are open to cutting back, I have some ideas for you. Try a mocktail (cocktail without alcohol) instead of your normal cocktail. Have a shrub. Experiment with various sparkling waters. Add fresh fruit or herbs to your water. Get crazy. Have fun!

If you drink to relax, brainstorm other activities to help you destress. Maybe it’s meditation, taking an exercise class, baking, cooking, reading a book, or making a relaxing cup of tea. Trial things out and see what works for you.

Give it a try this week! And stay tuned for more on the cancer prevention series!

In health and happiness,
Skye

How to Get Cancer - Part I

We all know someone who has cancer. And maybe even someone that has died from cancer.

If it seems like cancer is everywhere that’s because it is. Roughly 15 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year.

While cancer treatment has improved tremendously in the last decade, still there is no absolute cure. You probably already knew that.

But did you know one third of cancer could be avoided by changing lifestyle and diet habits?

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That’s right. What I just said is cancer is preventable in many cases. Really and truly.

Because I would prefer to prevent cancer, I’ve done the research and incorporated the evidence into my life. And today I’m starting a cancer prevention series just for you. Over the next few weeks I will lay out the evidence and offer simple and sustainable ways for you to make lifestyle changes to prevent cancer.

I’m always shocked when people I work with don’t realize that some cancers can be prevented. Knowledge is power and cancer prevention is one of my passions. If you have a friend, family member, or other loved one that you want to help, please refer them here.

Each week, I will offer you one or two action-oriented methods to prevent cancer and the evidence to back it up. In return, you will use the next week to take action and make changes.

Without further adieu, let’s dive in and get started!

How to Get Cancer: Eat Ultra-Processed Food

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It should come as no surprise that processed foods are bad news. We know they are linked to obesity, increase blood pressure, and heart failure exacerbations.

Now we know consumption of processed foods increases the risk of cancer.

A little over a month ago, a study was published that assessed the association between ultra-processed food and cancer. This study include over 100,000 participants that were followed for six years. The results were startling.

A 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake was associated wth greater than 10% increase risk in overall cancer and breast cancer.

Why? First of all, processed foods are high in total fat, saturated fat, added sugar and salt. Secondly, processed foods contain contaminants that are carcinogenic (such as acrylamide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Third, processed foods often are packaged in materials that are carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting (such as bisphenol A). Lastly, processed foods often contain nitrites, which are hypothesized to be carcinogens.

Which foods were considered to be ultra-processed this the study?

  • Mass produced packaged breads and buns
  • Sweet and savory packaged sweets
  • Mass produced confectionery and desserts
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages
  • Meat products with preservatives other than salt (such as meatballs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks)
  • Instant noodles and soups
  • Frozen or shelf stable meals
  • Food products made mostly from sugar, oils, fats, and processed oils

Action of the Week: Ditch Ultra-Processed Foods. Immediately, If Not Sooner.

What does this study mean for you? It means that if you want to decrease your risk of cancer (overall and breast), you must decrease your consumption of ultra-processed foods.

So take an inventory. Do you eat any of the ultra-processed foods mentioned above? If so, say sayonara to them. Instead, replace the ultra-processed foods with organic vegetables and fruit. Drink water, sparkling water, or tea instead of sodas and sweetened beverages.

Give it a try this week! And stay tuned for more on the cancer prevention series!

In health and happiness,
Skye