As a woman in my 30s who is thinking about getting pregnant again after recently having a miscarriage, I’ve been taking a careful look at everything that goes onto my skin and into my body. To be clear, I do not believe that the miscarriage was caused by anything I did or didn’t do, but it has led to a time of reflection. I started therapy, went to a psychic (who asked if she could “mentally peer inside” my uterus; this was on Zoom, so I agreed), and began seeing a naturopath.
All this to say, I have been doing everything I can to make sure my reproductive system is humming along at its full capacity. My new regimen includes drinking tons of water, eating more greens, skipping that second glass of wine (sometimes), and avoiding endocrine disrupting chemicals (or EDCs) when I can.
It’s easy enough to avoid certain well-known endocrine disruptors like BPAs or parabens by switching to glass packaging and natural cleaning products, but avoidance gets tricky when the EDCs are in something I know I need to be using every day – that skincare essential that we all both love and hate: sunscreen.
Do You Need to Wear Sunscreen? Yes!
The facts don’t lie. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and having just five or more sunburns doubles your risk of melanoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Harmful sun exposure is not only a problem for those with fair skin. People with all skin tones need to wear (and reapply) sunscreen regularly. “People of color have a reduced risk of skin cancer compared to white people, but their risk is not zero,” dermatologist Dr. Dina Strachan says. The danger is even greater given that BIPOC patients are often diagnosed with skin cancer in later stages of the disease, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The catch-22 is that while everyone needs to be wearing sunscreen daily, a little bit of time outside sans SPF is also important for our body’s production of a vital hormone: vitamin D. (Yes, despite its name, vitamin D is actually a hormone.) The amount of time you go bare also depends on your skin tone, but the bottom line is, a little bit – around 15 minutes a few times a week – goes a long way.
While skin cancer prevention is the most important use of sunscreen, this easy skincare step has a variety of other benefits. Unprotected sun exposure causes wrinkles, premature aging, and hyperpigmentation, and can lead to sun damaged skin and UV damage on a cellular level.
“The incidence of photosensitive conditions such as lupus and polymorphous light eruption are more common in people of color,” Dr. Strachan adds. “Cosmetically, people of color may not develop wrinkles as easily from sun exposure, but they may develop discolored skin, both dark and light spots.”
The solution is as easy as applying SPF every single day. But when it comes to protecting your whole health, the type of sunscreen you wear also matters.