Sun Damage is like Pregnancy. The only true form of prevention is abstinence. And just like sex, it is unlikely we will stay away from the sun.
Can I get an “Amen!” for modern science and its invention of birth control and sunscreen? As modern moms, we are able to enjoy many a guilty pleasure without paying too high of a price– providing we choose and execute properly.
Staying out of the sun is just plain unrealistic. Our kids need to be outside, running around, having fun for their health and our sanity. As the conscientious women we are, we must find a compromise.
Living in Southern California, I go through a lot of sunscreen. I sell it. I buy it. I slather it. I am stealth, like a jungle cat stalking my 5 year old, ready to pounce and contain to expertly cover every inch of his exposed flesh. It is my least favorite part of the morning routine, the swim routine, the beach routine and the soccer routine. And just like taking a pill every day, it’s tedious, but a necessary part of life.
Given that we know that the majority of sun damage occurs before we are 18 years old, it is bordering on child abuse not to make sure our children are protected. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your risk of developing melanoma later in life. Another not-so-fun fact is that 90% of pre-mature aging is caused by the sun. This makes sun protection a big priority. I am a big fan of preventative maintenance and this one starts from day one (well, OK, 6 months).
So, we get it. We tote our SPF religiously. It’s in our moisturizer, our make-up and body lotion. There are special formulas for our infants, toddlers and teenagers. Numbers range from 2- 50 + as market shelves abound with the latest and greatest. How do you choose?
Efficacy without sacrificing convenience or quality.
This is where we must become really good label shoppers. Recent studies have linked certain ingredients in sunscreens to CAUSING cancer. (Great! Damned if we do, damned if we don’t). It is important to choose a broad spectrum product meaning it covers both UVA and UVB rays. Remember, SPF is only rated for UVB rays so the product must specifically indicate that it is formulated for UVA. SPF or Sun Protection Factor, is a number measured by time not distance so a ridiculously high SPF does not guarantee better protection. If you burn in 10 minutes with no sunscreen, an SPF of 15 will give you 150 minutes of protection. An SPF of 50 gives you 500 minutes. A nice idea but the solution has long worn off by then. To be safe, reapply every two hours, more frequently after swimming and heavy perspiration.
Ingredients to AVOID:
PABA (paraaminobenzoic acid)
Octyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate)
Although they are on the FDA’s list of approved sunscreens, they only protect from UVB rays and are known skin irritants and potential carcinogens.
Out of the 17 approved sunscreens*, the only two that really make sense to me are:
These ingredients are natural minerals and have shown very little irritation to the skin. They cover both the UVA and UVB spectrum. And in most cases, unless you are allergic to dirt, your skin will accept these products beautifully.
My favorites are the companies that use nanotechnology. With this process they are able to make the particle very tiny so that the traditional white residue caused by the zinc oxide blends perfectly with the skin but still retains its value.
Try Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 ($55). It is a mineral powder that comes in a retractable brush that easily packs in your purse. The powder will not run or get into your little one’s eyes and since it is translucent, it goes over your make up for reinforcement at the park. They also have the “Rock and Roller” ball that covers larger areas in a flash. Check out their full line of mineral make up and sunscreens at www.colorescience.com
Another easy applicator is the SPF 30+ Sunblock Stick by California Baby $14.99. This stick is ideal for swiping scars and touch ups on noses and ears. All of their sunscreens are non-chemical and tear free. www.californiababy.com.
*For complete information on sun care check out www.skincancer.org. This site thoroughly explains the significance of UVA, UVB and SPF. It also has a kids section to engage your children and educate them on the benefits of sun protection. Pictures of skin cancers are provided along with guidelines to follow to identify suspicious spots on the body.