Doesn’t April sun seem so harmless?
The sun is barely out of the gate, but spring’s UV rays are almost as strong as in the height of summer.
Nowadays, sunblock season is year-round. Basically, it’s any time we’re in the sun, for winter activities like skiing or sledding and early spring jaunts to the park. Since the crocuses are out, and the kids are, too, it’s time to get your family’s sunblock back on the kitchen counter or by the front door for easy reach.
Since sunblock is a hot topic these days, we’ve compiled a short primer. Some of our research has been eye-opening: It surprised us to learn that many “organic” sunblock brands contain oxybenzone, an ingredient found in some cosmetics and plastic food packaging, and that it acts as a hormone disrupter, says Slate. Adding insult to injury, the organic sunscreens have another potential risk factor: As they absorb UV light, they become “excited” and unstable. But the truth is, UV light also produces the same effect on unprotected skin.
So how do you get around this? Do like you already do, read labels! Look for these words and see if you can choose products that don’t contain: oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, octocrylene and octylmethoxycinnamate (OMC).
As worrisome as these words are, it’s always far better to use any sunblock, rather than no sunblock. Sunburn poses a much greater risk for a child than do the chemicals.
What to buy? The Environmental Working Group’s guide is a wonderful resource for sunblocks that don’t contain these chemicals. Some informative websites include the EWG’s website and The Healthful Mama’s blog. Always necessary: choose a sunblock that offers “broad spectrum,” which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. For more sunblock information, including the use of sunblock sprays, click here.
Here are more tips when choosing and using sunblock:
- The Environmental Working Group warns against sprays because of the risk that the chemicals could get into eyes or mouth or lungs. But some children are off and running, so if you must use the spray, use the spray, but have them close their eyes and mouth, and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming and toweling.
- The EWG also suggests avoiding “combo sunblock/bug sprays,” and sunblock wipes.
- You’ll hear this next advice in the dermatologist’s office, as well as from the EWG: the higher level SPF’s — anything over 50 — aren’t worth it.
- The Healthful Mama uses this as her go-to sunblock: Episencial/~$12 for 2.7 ounces. Her advice: It’s best for “everyone.” It’s “creamy, blends well, stays on all day, and isn’t greasy.” Drawbacks? “None that I can see!” she says. She admits it earned a “2” for toxicity by EWG, but she says she’s okay for using it on her whole family. How does it work? Unlike chemical sunscreens, sunblocks made of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on the top of the skin, as opposed to being absorbed by the skin, which usually takes around 15 to 30 minutes to start protection. The positive? Barrier sunblocks start protecting as soon as you put them on, plus, they automatically protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- What’s good for watersports? The Healthful Mama recommends: All Terrain AquaSport/~$10 for 3 ounces.
- The New York Times wrote an article called “The New Rules for Sunscreen,” and it included this information about being endorsement-savvy: The Skin Cancer Foundation gives a “seal of recommendation” to sunblocks, but only if their manufacturer has donated $10,000 to become a member of the organization. Hmmm.