Summer Solstice. So this week was the official first day of summer. Lots of us have been out of school and in summer mode for almost a month now!
Summer brings watermelon, water balloons, flip flops, ocean, pool … SUN. Great source of vitamin D yes but also a dose of harmful skin damaging rays. I am not the mom who neglects to apply sunblock to my kids. I am also not the mom who is chasing my kids every 30 minutes to reapply. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Might have something to do with my upbringing. Don’t mean to date myself but I did not grow up in the age of sun protection. My parents never applied lotions or had me wear protective gear. I applied tanning oil … dare I say baby oil to get tan. I sprayed peroxide and lemon juice in my hair to go blonde. I burned. I blistered. So did everyone else. As a teen/college student I frequented tanning beds! As I age I can see the damage that was done. And I am diligent about getting my annual skin screening with my dermatologist.
Go to any big box store this time of year and see aisles and displays full of sun screens and sun blocks and skin soothers. Lotions, sprays, sticks. Then there is the gear. Kid tents. Swimsuits with SPF. Rash guards. Hats. Sunglasses. Cover ups. What brands are the best? At what point are we being safe and when does it become overkill?
Who do we believe? The makers of these products? Doctors? CDC? Well here is some info for you to help you navigate the sunny landscape.
UVA: UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), and suppression of the immune system. Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA throughout our lifetime. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent. They are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass.
UVB: UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer. UVB, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, tends to damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging. Its intensity varies by season, location, and time of day. The most significant amount of UVB hits the U.S. between 10 AM and 4 PM from April to October. However, UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice, which bounce back up to 80 percent of the rays so that they hit the skin twice. UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass.
Sunblock: Sunblocks are formulated to shield against UVB rays
Sunscreen: Sunscreens protect against UVA.
Broad Spectrum: Broad-spectrum protection is formulated sunscreen that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
SPF: The SPF on sunscreen bottles stands for Sun Protection Factor, and refers to how well the sunscreen protects against one type of UV radiation, called UVB (it may be helpful to think B for burning). UVB rays cause sunburn and several types of skin cancer.
The Numbers: Imagine that your skin normally begins to burn after 10 minutes in full sun without any protection. A 30 SPF sunscreen would provide 30 times the protection of no sunscreen.” That means 30 times longer before you start to burn, or in this case, 300 minutes. No sunscreen can stop all dangerous radiation from reaching the cells in your body. SPF 15 translates to blocking about 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 blocks nearly 97%, SPF 50 about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%.
Skin Color/Tone: The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that all kids — regardless of their skin tone — wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Protecting Babies: Younger babies (younger than 6 months) should use other forms of sun protection. If your baby is 6 months or older, liberally use sunscreen. Also, avoid exposing your baby to the sun during peak hours — generally 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — and dress your baby in protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses.
Baby Sunscreen vs Adult Sunscreen: The difference between baby sunscreen and regular adult sunscreen is the ingredients used to prevent the effects of the sun’s rays. Baby sunscreen uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to form a physical barrier against the sun’s rays; these ingredients are not absorbed into the skin and are better for babies.
Applying & Re-Applying: You can be in the sun without sunscreen for up to 20 minutes a day. Humans need the sun to get their daily dose of vitamin D. However, after 20 minutes, you must apply sunscreen. Be generous and reapply after swimming or sweating profusely. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every two hours.
Sunblock/Sunscreen Side Effects:
- Can stain clothing
- Allergic Reactions
- Sunscreens Can Make Acne Worse
- Eye Irritation
- Increases The Risk Of Breast Cancer (under debate)
- Pain in Hairy Areas
- Pus in the Hair Follicles
Natural Sunblock/Sunscreen Alternatives: Below is a list. For more details see this link: sunwarrior.com – natural sun protection alternatives
- Wear Clothing
- Eat Well
- Red Raspberry Seed Oil
- Carrot Seed Oil
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Aloe Vera
- Other Seed and Nut Oils
- Natural Over the Counter Sunscreens
Fabric Colors: Many dyes absorb UV, which helps reduce exposure. Darker colors tend to absorb more UV than lighter colors, including whites and pastels, but bright colors such as red can also substantially absorb UV rays. The more vivid the color, the greater the protection; a bright yellow shirt is more protective than a pale one. They found that red and blue shades performed better than yellow, particularly in blocking UV-B rays, which are the most harmful. Protection increased as the shades were made darker and more intense.
UV Repellent Laundry Detergent: Apparently you can wash your clothing in this UV Repellent Laundry Detergent and it is supposed to add sun protection. I have never tried it – have you? Helps block more than 96% of the sun’s harmful rays … UBF of 30 (ultraviolet Protection Factor) which is a measurement of a fabric’s capability to prevent harmful UV rays from reaching your skin. It is similar to SPF ratings for sunscreen. Simply add one package of Sunguard to a warm- or hot-water laundry load, along with detergent, and you wash in skin protection for up to 20 future washings. Sunguard permeates fabric without changing the color or comfort of clothing, and is safe for even the most sensitive skin. You can buy it at Walmart or Amazon. Check out a link here: Rit Sunguard Laundry Detergent
Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors.
- Seek shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent. Use these options to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
- Cover up. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
- Get a hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don’t protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
- Wear sunglasses. They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Apply sunscreen. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.
- Turning pink? Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. To prevent further burning, get your child out of the sun.
- Tan? There’s no other way to say it—tanning your skin is damaging skin. Any change in the color of your child’s skin after time outside—whether sunburn or suntan—indicates damage from UV rays.
- Cool and cloudy? Children still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.
- Oops! Kids often get sunburned when they are outdoors unprotected for longer than expected. Remember to plan ahead, and keep sun protection handy—in your car, bag, or child’s backpack.
So are you overwhelmed yet? I sure as heck am! I think it boils down to doing what we can. No matter how diligent we are, our kids are going to get exposed to the sun. It is our job to create routines and set examples so that our kids can learn to protect themselves when mom is not watching. We apply when the situation warrants it. We teach them how and when to apply. We pack lotions in their backpacks, our diaper bags, in our cars. Same with hats and sunglasses. The rest is extra credit. Do what you can but don’t let it consume you. Do your best mama – you are doing great!
PS: Did you know you can get free sunblock/sunscreen samples in the mail? Some brands and services will send you free samples in the mail by request.