Summer is just around the corner and Kellen and I will be spending more time outside than we do the rest of the year. Portland doesn't really get consistently warm weather until July, but it's always important to protect yourself and your kids from the sun. Too bad applying sunscreen on my son is like wrestling a buttered Thanksgiving turkey!
When Kellan was younger, I made sure to use organic sunscreens specifically made for children. Lately, I've just used whatever is handy. So I wondered if I should be more diligent about using a natural sunscreen.
Once I started doing research, I was completely overwhelmed. Not only is there no real evidence that organic sunscreens are better for your child and the environment, but there is evidence that many popular sunscreens may actually be harmful. I have to admit, after reading dozens of online articles from the American Medical Association to Baby Center, I suffered from information overload. Add to that the very real possibility of vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight, and you have a recipe for confusion. Here's what I came away with after all that reading:
There really is no such thing as a "natural" sunscreen - products are either physical barriers, which are less irritating to children's skin and less likely to cause an allergic reaction, or chemical barriers, which penetrate the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology does not specifically recommend using a physical barrier sunscreen, but I have read plenty of articles which experts believe this is a better choice for young children. Make sure the sunscreen you choose protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Use protective clothing - hats and tightly woven clothing are very effective ways of protecting your child's skin. I admit to being too lax about insisting that Kellan wear a hat, but I'm going to encourage hat use this summer. I'll wear a hat too.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest time of the day - this is especially difficult when you are on vacation or have very active kids, but try to stay in the shade or avoid the outdoors in the afternoon when UV rays are strongest.
Now when I'm wrestling my little turkey over sunscreen, I'll try not to get exasperated. It's just a small price to pay to ensure a healthy appreciation of the sun.