It’s that time again. Our kids are counting down the days until summer… that magical time where they do whatever they want, don’t have to put on shoes, and exist on a diet that is largely ice cream-based. It’s this time of year I find myself reflective and contemplative, pondering the big questions like; When does the relaxing part begin? And; Wait, how is this different from the rest of the year?
All kidding aside, it is a fact that our kids are spending half the amount of time outdoors as we did 20 years ago.1 It may (or may not) shock you to find that the average boy or girl in our country spends an average of just 30 minutes playing outside per day, and more than 7 hours in front of some kind of electronic screen.1 This shift to an indoor childhood is increasing the obesity rate and consumption of ADHD and depression medication in American children.1
So… let’s get them outside! But not without sunscreen.
Even though we’re not quite there yet, summer isn’t the only time you are susceptible to damage from the sun. UV rays are always present, but the combination of more time spent outdoors and less clothing make spring and summer prime-time for sun damage. But… there’s no need to fear! The benefits of spending time outside greatly outweigh the risks, and a few simple tips can keep you and your family sunburn free! (And if you’re bored, replace the word sunburn with pre-mature wrinkle. Now I’ve got your attention, right?)
All you have to do is physically block UV rays from reaching the skin to prevent cellular damage.
Stay in the shade during mid-day when the sun’s rays are strongest. Cover up exposed skin with long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses. And every morning (even cloudy ones!) apply an all-natural sunscreen that contains physical blockers (instead of chemical) and reapply every 2 hours throughout the day for maximum protection.
Of course, I’m always aiming for World’s Greatest Mom, but I’ll graciously accept the nomination for Okay-est Mom on the Block. So, if you’re like me and the thought of listening to your toddler shriek while you coat her in sunscreen every morning just to walk through the grocery store parking lot on a cloudy day is already making you regret buying only one bottle of wine last week, just Velcro that hat under her chin and slather her in sunscreen when you send her outside to play in the sunshine. Reapply after a couple hours outdoors or more frequently if she’s playing in water.
Equally as important as actually using it is knowing how to select a safe and effective sunscreen for your family.
Most sunscreens use a combination of chemicals to protect skin from the sun’s rays, but these chemicals react with the body by mimicking hormones (possibly disrupting the endocrine system) and can even cause skin allergies.2 The chemical with the greatest potential impact, oxybenzone, was added to almost 70% of the chemically-based sunscreens profiled in the Environmental Working Group’s listing of sunscreens for the year 2016. There is even evidence of oxybenzone being present in the breastmilk of mothers who used beauty and skincare products containing the chemical, creating concern about the level of exposure to both a developing fetus and nursing child.3
The chart below, produced by the Environmental Working Group (an American organization specializing in research and advocacy in the area of chemical toxicity, among others) shows the most common chemicals included in popular chemically-based sunscreens and the possible issues they can cause.
Other factors to consider when selecting a sunscreen this summer include the product’s ability to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, the shortfalls of spray-based options including an inhalation risk and uneven coating, and the incorporation of Vitamin A into the ingredient list which may be linked to an increase in skin lesions and tumors.
So, now that you’re contemplating cancelling your beach vacation or possibly buying full body wetsuits for the entire family, what is a mom to do to protect her kids from the sun and harmful chemical additives? Read on. (But hey, go you for considering wrestling your kids into those skin-tight wetsuits reminiscent of a sausage casing. You are confident in your momming skills and what could be more important?)
Use a sunscreen that is mineral rather than chemically based. These products use a physical mechanism of sun-blockage rather than chemical. Lucky for you, I’ve saved you some time and compiled a list of 5 top options for kids based on effectiveness and safety of ingredients according to the EWG. To see the complete list of 22 kid’s sunscreens that made the cut, click here.
1. Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+
2. All Good Kid’s Sunscreen SPF 33
3. All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
4. Badger Kid’s Sunscreen Cream SPF 30
5. COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen Unscented Moisturizer SPF 50