sun protection children

The following is important information if you are using sunscreen on your children.

When we live in such a beautiful sunny place, avoiding the sun is nearly impossible. I am not one to believe that being in the sun is all bad. Sun exposure has its purpose. It is what initiates our body to make the very important hormone vitamin D. Maintaining adequate vitamin D is essential for our overall health. So I say yes to sun…in moderation!

Moderation is the key, as evidence has shown that people who spend more time in the sun are more likely to develop wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer. That being said, a lot has to do with genetics, and the type of skin one has. Parents of fair skinned children obviously need to be more cautious with their children than those with darker complexions.

Sunscreen should be our last option for protecting our children from too much sun, (which will be explained later). My first choice to minimize exposure to the sun is to either have your child play in the shade or wear light clothing and a hat that will protect them, preferably only applying sunscreen on those small exposed areas (face, hands, back of the neck). If possible schedule outdoor activities during the morning or late afternoon and avoid peak sun exposure times. Sunscreen should never be applied to infants under 6 months, and preferably not until after 1 year. Purchasing an umbrella that provides UV protection for the baby is a great idea if you plan on going to the beach a lot.

So how do we choose a sunscreen for those long days at the beach?
Just because it is labeled for babies or kids does not mean it is safe. When in doubt, try and stick with a brand that can be purchased at a health food store with the least amount of ingredients the better. Also, stick with SPF between 15 and 30. It is far better to reapply than to choose a higher SPF that is more toxic. Safer sunscreens usually contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (active ingredients), which provide a physical barrier rather than a chemical barrier and are less toxic than mainstream brands. Yes, these are typically thick and sometimes hard to rub in, but they are better for your little ones. Decent brands include California baby, Adorable Baby, Seventh Generation and Eco Baby.

Unfortunately brands like Banana Boat, Water Babies, and Coppertone all contain chemicals that may have negative health effects on our little ones. The active ingredients usually include one of the following: Oxybenzone, Homosalate or Octinoxate. When applying sunscreen remember you are putting a substance on your child’s largest organ (the skin). Children’s skin is very permeable, and these products are designed to be absorbed, making it very likely that these chemicals will travel into their bloodstream and beyond. In addition to the active ingredients the typical brands contain an array of other chemical additives besides the active ingredients. I have yet to find a ‘spray on’ sunscreen that didn’t contain these ingredients.

Common sunscreen ingredients to watch out for (these have all been associated with negative health effects): Fragrance, Oxybenzone, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Benzyl alcohol, Propylparaben, Triethanolamine,Octisnoxate, Homosalate, Methylparaben, Dimethicone, BHT.

When in doubt do your research, it really doesn’t take too much time using the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep Database http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. This is a great resource for checking all of your beauty/skin care products.

Hope you have a fun summer!

Image Credit: Infinity Photography Hawaii

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