With gorgeous weather arriving an summer nearly upon is, it’s time to start thinking about sun safety again. Of course, this is something you should consider year-round, but it’s especially important in the summer. And if you’re anything like me, you probably have a cupboard with several bottles with varying amounts left in them, and probably more than a couple are expired. For me, sunscreen is one of those things that I desperately need (given that my natural colour is somewhere around the colour of snow), but am always paranoid about, given my skin’s sensitivity to the majority of body products. And now that I have kids, I want to be extra-cautious about what I’m spreading on their skin, too. It’s a balance I am very aware of – I want them to be protected, but I’m not willing to just use anything. So, what’s a mom to do? Here are some ideas for deciding what you need for sun protection.
1. When you can, cover up. Long sleeves and pants or long skirts made with lightweight fabric can be cool and breezy even on the hottest days, and provide protection from the sun without the need for sunscreen. And what’s more fun than a big floppy hat? Many manufacturers of outdoor apparel also have UPF factors listed for their clothing, too, so for those more prone to burning (like the fair-skinned, or children), this can be a good choice. Make breezy hippy chic or rugged outdoor mountain-girl your style this summer, and you’ll need a lot less of the creams and lotions.
2. Know what the different types of sun protection products. There are chemical sunscreens – these use chemicals that absorb harmful UV rays, and are often the types of sunscreens that we are most familiar with. They are often sprays or lotions, and easy to apply. There are also physical sunscreens, and these use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Physical blocks reflect the UV rays and are often considered ‘safer’, but may come at the cost of being thicker and harder to apply. Broad-spectrum sunscreens usually have both chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks.
3. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Summer Sun. You can have a look at the EWG’s ratings and reviews of various products, and make an informed decision about what you’re slathering on your skin. (Note: this links to the 2012 data, hopefully the 2013 info will be up soon.)
4. Choose a sunscreen you will use, and don’t feel like you have to pick just one. In my cupboard I usually have at least three – a sport/waterproof one, a spray, and a thicker zinc-based block. I make the kids sit still for the zinc block in the morning, but when we’re at the park or pool and they just want to go go go, I know I won’t be able to get it on them for a reapplication so I carry a spray.
5. Choose your SPF wisely. We all know a higher SPF means greater protection, but what do the numbers really mean? Here’s a handy chart for figuring out the pros and cons of some of the more popular SPF numbers:
SPF Against UVB Rays
% of UVB Rays Absorbed
|SPF 30||97%||Excellent general-purpose sunscreen for all activities and conditions. Contains fewer sun-blocking agents than higher SPF sunscreens, so skin can breathe and perspire more freely.|
|SPF 45||98%||A good choice for active use at higher elevations. Includes more sun-blocking agents and may feel heavy. Greasy or warm on skin. Good for children and winter activities.|
|SPF 50||98%||Good for extended high-elevations exposure, thin-skin body regions (nose, ears) and children. Includes a high quantity of sun-blocking agents; may feel heavy, greasy, or warm on skin and reduce its breathability.|
(table from REI.com)
Choosing the right product can be hard, especially when you’re trying to stick to something as green and natural as possible, so hopefulyl the above will help you choose the right products for your family. Have a wonderful, sunburn-free summer!
(Photo © Can Stock Photo Inc. / ampak)