As a resident of the “Sunshine State”, an avid traveler and outdoors mom, our family is always in the sun. I’m a big advocate for safety outdoors, especially after a scare with a spot of melanoma removed from my scalp five years ago.
With sunshine season upon us, let’s unblock some of the confusion when it comes to sun protection.
I’ve compiled this list of sunscreen do’s and don’ts to make sure we’re providing our precious babies, toddlers and kids with the best sun protection possible.
Use a Good Old-Fashioned Sun Hat
I was shocked to learn that one of the top places for melanoma to develop is on your scalp, under your hair. ALWAYS use a sun hat when going outdoors. As my doctor said, “the bigger the better!” Protect your babies' and kids’ skin and scalp not only from burn, but from harmful rays.
Know the Difference Between Rays
UVA Rays are the harmful ones that, according to the Environmental Working Group, “penetrate deep into the body, accelerate skin aging, may suppress the immune system and may cause skin cancer.”
UVB Rays can burn your skin, but are not the penetrating kind. The scary thing is most sun blocks are misleading with their high SPF numbers, which only block the UVB rays, not the harmful UVA Rays.
Sun Shirts are a Must
Since my boys were babies, we’ve used long-sleeved sun shirts anytime we play outside in the water. It’s less you’ll worry about in reapplying lotion to their arms and backs, the places they’ll get most exposure. Now, even my teenager knows sun-time means a water shirt. It’s just second nature.
Invest in Good, Portable Shade
I’m a huge fan of a portable canopy, and really loved the one we had with the built-in floor and screens when my boys were babies. We still travel with a big beach umbrella in the car, and use it as often as possible. Use sunshades in the car and for your strollers, too!
Be Prepared Ahead of Time
Chances are, the local drug store or resort pool won’t sell a healthy option in sunscreen, so you’ll need to purchase the best ahead of time at a health food store or online.
Look for the Right Numbers
According to the EWG, “The most worrisome thing about high-SPF products is that they give people a false sense of security and beguile them to stay in the sun too long. High-SPF suppresses the skin reddening and pain of sunburns, but they raise the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering barring SPF above 50+.”
Read and Understand the Labels of Sunscreens
There are some scary chemical ingredients included in some sunscreen products today. Many of them are labeled for use on babies and children, but are full of chemicals we shouldn’t be applying to baby’s sensitive skin.
Apply Liberally, and Reapply
Use sunscreen lotions for best effect and coverage. Sunscreens do wear and wash off. Get them back on while skin is dry and let it have time to absorb into the skin, or they don’t do any good! Remember those hidden places like the back of the ears and in between toes!
DON’T Avoid Using Sun Protection
It’s just a must. Get your babies covered up and protected, even on cloudy days which can actually be the worst kind for the sun’s UVA rays.
DON’T Use Aerosol Sunscreens with Propellants
Aerosol sprays contribute to harmful chemicals ingested into sensitive and young lungs. Best to avoid these altogether. If you must spray, make sure you’re in a very open area and have baby’s nose and mouth covered.
DON’T Use Sunblocks Containing Harmful Chemicals
Especially avoid Oxybenzone and Retinyl palmitate. Oxybenzone can act like estrogen in the bloodstream and causes allergic skin reactions. Retinyl palmitate is an inactive ingredient which causes extreme sensitivity to sunburns. Just avoid them altogether.
The EWG recommends the sunscreens below, available here on Babywise, in their most recent list of the Best Scoring Sunscreens Lotions for Kids.
This season, soak up the sun, and stay safe and protected friends!