Sharon Ufberg, DC discusses steps patients can take to protect themselves against the damaging effects of the sun.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

As practitioners, we are the most trusted source of information for our patients. Yet it is difficult to find the time to speak to every patient about the best practices they should be incorporating into their day-to-day lives for optimum health. Focusing on their primary complaint often takes precedence over general wellness advice.

Why not make a commitment to creating one handout per month for your patients? Any topic that interests you or that is relevant to the season. I’m going to make it easy for you to start. Here is one I wrote that you can use for August all about sun and sunscreen advice:

What can you do to make healthier and more informed choices about sun safety?

• An easy first step is to have a look at the Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide and find a safe and effective sunscreen to use this summer. Don’t be shocked when all the sunscreens you have been using for years are on the list with hazardous ingredients.

• Start by wearing a long sleeve shirt and hat whenever you are going to be exposed to the sun for a prolonged period of time or out in mid-day when the rays are strongest.

• Remember that some exposure to the sun is healthy. Choose early in the day or in late afternoon to get some sun and Vitamin D without getting burned. Spend more time in the sun as your skin becomes accustomed to the exposure.

• Sunscreens, even the good ones, need to be reapplied frequently to sufficiently protect your skin.

• Avoid all products that list Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone in their list of ingredients.

• Look for products that use zinc and titanium minerals to help give some protection from harmful UVA rays.

• Never use spray or powder sunscreens to avoid inhaling the chemicals into your lungs.

• Use the EWG website as a reliable source for more information about safe products and ingredients.

• Stay away from beauty magazine tips that are not properly screening their skincare product recommendations.

Earlier this summer I posted a piece aptly named, “The Sunscreen Scandal, are we getting all the facts?” on the Huffington Post. It generated a lot of comments and some very good additional information that is worth sharing.

One interesting comment came from blogger RMankovitz. As director of Montecito Wellness he wrote in:

“Among all the bad news regarding sunscreens, the good news is the latest development in sunscreen technology. Known as Berrynol, it is totally plant-based, and non-toxic to the user and the environment. It is so safe it is edible. This patented breakthrough is based on how nature protects plants from UV damage. It relies on cyanins, which make blueberries blue and raspberries red. The remarkable advantage of the Berrynol technology is that it not only filters UV, it also stops the reproduction of cancerous skin cells, while not harming healthy cells. Hopefully, ingredients like this will be designed into future sunscreen products. For research details, For a video presentation of Berrynol at the 2010 WBT (World’s Best Technology) Showcase, see thisvideo clip.”

Another interesting comment came from blogger puristics who wrote:

“Make sure you choose products with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They create a physical barrier to the sun against UVA/UVB exposure rather than a “chemical” barrier. And they’re the only sunscreens considered safe enough for marine life in delicate marine ecosystems. If they’re safer for the fish, aren’t they a better choice for us too?”

Your patients will definitely appreciate getting some good advice from a trusted source. I am very interested in hearing from practitioners about the other topics that patients are concerned about and asking for more information. Feel free to email me at