Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunscreen (update)


In honor of Summer's arrival, I am going to dust off, tweak, and rerun my sunscreen post.

I still maintain that a little sun exposure here or there is not the end of the world, it feels great and gives a dose of vitamin D. That being said, no one should get too much unprotected exposure. Sunburns are not only painful, they can lead to skin cancer. The scientists are telling us that too much time in the sun, even if we don't burn, should be avoided. The most recent studies are even more alarming, demonstrating that the increase in melanoma cases being seen have an absolute connection to sun exposure.

Sun can do the most damage to our skin between the hours of 10am and 4 pm. Reflection from water and/or snow can make any exposure more intense.

The link below will lead you to  a great little site that can tell you what the risk is on a particular day depending on where you are. 

Your best bet for preventing sunburn is of course is to stay in the shade when possible and also wear a big floppy hat and loose protective clothing. Have a parasol or a shade umbrella over strollers and baby carriers. Pay attention to babies in back packs; they might be getting more exposure than you are aware of. 
Eyes can get damaged from the sun. Do your best to get your child used to wearing sun glasses. The lighter the eye color, the more sensitive they are likely to be, but everyone should wear eye protection.

The fact is, even if you are very careful, if you are out enjoying life, it is very difficult to eliminate all sun exposure. If your child is under 6 months old and the choice is sunburn versus sun screen, choose the sun screen every time!  If you are using a sunscreen for the first time, do a test patch on one small area on a thigh or wrist a couple of hours before sun exposure. If you slather your child with a new sunscreen, spend a day out  in the sun and then they break out in a rash, we would have to figure out if it is heat? sun? sun screen? Doing a test patch first assures you that it is not the sunscreen that is causing the rash. For older kids, the use of a sunscreen should be routine. Nurse Jen had a great idea that works with her little girls. They apply a daily sunscreen to their face with make up brushes. What used to be an ordeal has turned into something fun. Great habits now will avoid wrinkles and potentially serious skin problems later on.

I have read quite a few studies that state that It is not worth getting any SPF that is over 30. These studies suggest that they don't offer a significant increase in protection, just more chemical exposure. This post is not going to review various brands. There are some great ones out there and new ones are coming out all the time. The cost does not necessarily correlate with the better choices. Get a lotion that protects against the UVA and UVB rays.
I suggest picking a good children's brand from a place like Whole Foods, Natural Resources or any place that examines all the ingredients of the products that they sell. Avoid the sprays. Recent studies show that inhalation might occur (not healthy) and some of them are actually flammable; stick with the lotions or sticks. Apply the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going out. For significant sun exposure, sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours, even if they claim to be waterproof. 

We need to be a little more protective of our fairest kids. If your child is out with a nanny or friend, don't hesitate to remind them to be on the "sun protection patrol". Trust me, sunburns are just as painful for the grown up who lets it happen on their watch.

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