Those who know me think that I’m just a degree shy of bonkers when it comes to protecting my kids from the sun. But because studies have shown that 1 in 5 Americans will develop some type of skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, I believe that I’m more sane than most.
Even though fall is upon us and winter will soon be rearing it’s head, the sun still shines – and if you don’t live in subzero temps and aren’t walking around with your entire head covered, at the very least your face will certainly be exposed to the sun on a regular basis.
The best way to avoid sun damage – whether in the form of sun spots, aging skin, sun burn and, of course, skin cancer – is to truly limit sun exposure. Yes, the sun provides us with Vitamin D which helps us absorb calcium, but those who are deficient can eat foods and take supplements in order to get those benefits, and excessive, unprotected sun exposure confers much more harm than good.
In the warmer months, if you try to get your kids to avoid the sun’s dangers by keeping them inside from 10am to 2pm (when the sun’s at its strongest), dressing them in long-sleeve shirts and pants, and forcing them to wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, you’ll have a mutiny on your hands. And in these colder months, kids enjoy plenty of winter sports activities and the sun’s reflection off of the snow right unto a young face can be a recipe for a painful sunburn. And, of course, if a beach vacation is on your holiday schedule, be aware that the sun reflects right off the ocean too.
Unfortunately, it ain’t as obvious as grabbing any old sunscreen off the shelf at your local store. It turns out that the sun’s rays aren’t the only thing that’s messing with your children’s bodies as they build sandcastles or go snow tubing. It’s also the chemicals inside many bottles of sunscreen that should cause parents to lose sleep.
So in keeping with reality and safety, I offer some basic – but very important – info for safeguarding your kids from the sun. Committing these guidelines to memory is really a walk in the park. And the tips are sure to protect your family when you’re taking, well, a walk in the park…
- AVOID oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which are known hormone disruptors as well as allergens
- AVOID vitamin A as well as retinyl palmitate and retinol (forms of vit A), all of which can hasten the development of cancerous tumors when exposed to UV rays
- AVOID aerosal sunscreens, which can be inhaled into the lungs
- CHOOSE sunscreens that offer broad spectrum protection. This means defense against UVA and UVB rays, both of which are implicated in causing sun damage, including deadly melanomas
- CHOOSE mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the main ingredients
- CHOOSE sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 to 50, apply one ounce to all exposed parts 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming/excessive sweating
Some great brands of effective and safe sunscreens are Badger, The Honest Company, Aubrey Organics and Vanicream. These products might cost a bit more than the conventional sunscreen, but considering you rub the stuff into your kids’ skin regularly (well, you should be), it pays to make sure the product getting absorbed into their bodies is safe.
Keeping your children from getting burned by the sun is of the highest priority. So when the outdoors comes calling and your kids grab a bathing suit or a pair of ice skates, keep them safe from the sun and from chemicals. It’s the rational thing to do.