Your Sunscreen May Be Causing More Harm Than Good

Your Sunscreen May Be Causing More Harm Than Good

You probably know that wearing sunscreen is important, especially as you start to spend more time outside during the summer months. But what if you only think your sunscreen is doing its job? 

According to a report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), over half of the sunscreens on the market today contain toxic ingredients. Furthermore, an astonishing 2019 report reveals that after about one day of using an unsafe sunscreen, your body has already absorbed the toxins into your bloodstream. So, not only could you be using a sunscreen that provides very little protection from harmful radiation, but you could also be making matters worse by slathering dangerous chemicals all over your skin!

Given the EWG’s recent eye-opening report, it is important to make sure you know how to spot an effective sunscreen versus a faulty one. In order to make this as quick and easy for you as possible, I have created this basic guide, or “cheat sheet” for choosing the right sunscreen. 


Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in your cells. This increases your risk of developing wrinkles, fine lines, burns, and skin cancer. In fact, skin cancer accounts for roughly one third of all new cancer cases in Canada. Furthermore, the percentage of Canadians with skin cancer is growing at an alarming rate.

So, next time you are tempted to skip the sunblock, remember that wearing (safe) sunscreen could save your life. 


spf written in sand

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which refers to how long you can wear a particular sunscreen and be protected from ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun. 

Understandably, people see the acronym “SPF” followed by a high number and assume that they are buying a quality sunblock. However, this term is often misleading… Sometimes SPF only refers to protection from certain types of UV radiation. 

Put simply, the sun generates two types of UV rays that impact your skin: ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. 

UVA rays are the worst type of solar electromagnetic radiation. This is why it is important to use a sunscreen brand with ingredients that shield you from both UVB and UVA rays! Make sure that the brand you buy is “Broad Spectrum,” since this refers to coverage against both UVA and UVB rays.


Overall, mineral sunscreens are much safer than chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens seep into your body through your skin, and many of them contain harmful ingredients that essentially poison your bloodstream.

In contrast, mineral sunscreens contain safer active ingredients: Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide. Another benefit of mineral sunscreens is that they usually remain on the outer surface of your skin. They “work their magic” by reflecting the sunlight away from your skin rather than soaking chemicals into your skin.

Even though they are preferable, mineral sunscreens are not 100% perfect. Often, they appear in your sun lotion in the form of nanoparticles, which can be harmful to marine ecosystems and may even pass your brain-blood barrier. These are generally safe, although spray mineral sunscreens may incite lung damage when inhaled. 

Due to the complicated nature of choosing a “safe” sunscreen, I have created the following list of the best and worst sunscreens in 2019 to help you select a safe sunscreen without wasting too much time in the sunblock aisle!


Take a look at the following list of eight quality, ultra-safe sunscreens. Each one has its own unique benefits. Of course, each one of these safe sunscreens is mineral based, free from harmful toxins, and provides broad spectrum protection.

UVA and UVB rays

1. Lovefresh Sun + Sport Stick SPF 30

Another nutrient linked to autoimmune diseases is selenium. Selenium aids your immune system in a variety of ways, including:

  • Protection from viral diseases like the flu and HIV
  • Defense against bacterial and fungal infections, such as yeast infections or C. albicans in vitro
  • Reduced susceptibility to allergies and asthma
  • Lessened risk of developing colorectal, prostate, lung, and carcinoma cancers
  • Improved immune response in elderly individuals

Hopefully you are feeling inspired to eat selenium-rich foods after reading a list of such powerful health benefits! The good news is that there are plenty of natural food sources for all types of diets. If you eat fish, I recommend yellowfin tuna, halibut, shrimp, salmon, and oysters. Sardines and clams are also valuable sources of selenium. For meat-lovers, opt for organic and free-range chicken, beef, and turkey. Good dairy-based sources of selenium include organic cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt. If you are a vegan, you still have plenty of options for foods rich in selenium: brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, brown rice, legumes, oatmeal, and spinach are all great ways to work this nutrient into your diet.

5. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps your body produce white blood cells, making it an essential part of preventing autoimmune disease! It also aids in regulating mood, sleep, energy, and brain health. Individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or following a vegan or vegetarian diet are especially vulnerable to Vitamin B deficiency. 

In order to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin B12, make sure to eat a well-rounded diet that includes the following foods:

  • Organic, free range eggs
  • Lamb liver (also a great source of selenium!)
  • Grass-fed, organic beef
  • Tempeh
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
  • Seafood, including clams, sardines, and tuna
  • Fortified foods like nutritional yeast, cereal, and nondairy milk
  • Nori seaweed

6. Zinc

Zinc is a trace chemical element responsible for many facets of your immune system. It helps create white blood cells, keeps your skin barrier healthy, and facilitates lymphocyte gene regulation. Lymphocytes are a specific kind of white blood cell that exist in your lymph nodes, blood stream, and all throughout your body. They are a crucial part of your immune system’s ability to resist illness and infection. 

Since your body doesn’t hold excess zinc “to save for later,” you need to consume it on a daily basis. Here are some good ways to get it:

  • Organic milk and cheese
  • Hemp, squash, pumpkin, and sesame seeds
  • Almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pine nuts
  • Free-range eggs
  • Legumes such as lentils, peas, and beans
  • Seafood like shellfish, crabs, oysters, shrimp, and mussels
  • Organic red meat such as beef and lamb


In addition to regularly consuming those six key nutrients, you should also eat foods that promote a healthy digestive tract. Gut health, your immune system, and autoimmune disease are closely linked. In fact, most of your immune system is located in your gut. If left unchecked, gut bacteria can cause autoimmune diseases that lead your body to attack and destroy healthy tissue. 

Leaky Gut Syndrome is an especially threatening condition, and it has been linked to autoimmune inflammatory responses like colitis and lupus. Therefore, in addition to making sure you are getting enough of the nutrients listed above, you should also focus on nourishing a healthy gut microbiome.

A recent Yale study reports that a dangerous bacteria called Enterococcus gallinarum is capable of moving from inside the gut and into the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes. Using genetically susceptible mice as subjects, researchers noted that once the bacteria moved outside of the intestines, it caused inflammation and auto-antibodies. After observing this mechanism of action, they were able to successfully squash the rogue bacterium via a targeted vaccine and antibiotic. These discoveries have exciting implications for treating autoimmune liver disease and systemic lupus disease.

But while these new treatment options are encouraging, prevention is always best. You can nurture your gut health by:

  • Eating plenty of fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso soup
  • Consuming foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics
  • Identifying your own personal food sensitivities and adjusting your diet accordingly
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Addressing chronic stress through therapy, mindfulness practices, a healthy sleep schedule, and regular exercise
  • Participating in the Healthy Gut Institute e-course, a program designed to show you how to heal your gut in an organized, sustainable manner


Maintaining a healthy gut and incorporating the aforementioned nutrients into your diet is key for preventing autoimmune disease and protecting your overall health. However, designing a sustainable meal plan that fits your specific needs, promotes healthy intestines, and checks off all the right boxes (think “non-GMO” and “free-range”) can be incredibly challenging. At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I will work with you to create the best nutrition plan for you based on your own unique health concerns. 

I hope you will take the opportunity to schedule a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session with me, which can take place over the phone or at the clinic. I look forward to telling you more about the services I offer.

Please schedule an appointment today! Your best health awaits you.

Dr. John Dempster BSc., ND, FAAFM

The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine