Sunscreen is an essential part of warm weather months. For me, just the smell of sunscreen is nostalgic. It reminds me of my favorite time of year as a child- my mom always used Coppertone Water Babies on us. If you’ve ever used it, you know what I mean. Delicious. You know, In a not-weird way.
We all know sun protection is important. It’s important for everyone, not just that redhead with freckles or the itty bitty baby with the delicious cheeks. It’s important for EVERYONE. Even if you tan well, even if you have olive or black skin. Every. One.
And that importance should be emphasized throughout all stages of life. Personally, I think one of the heaviest emphasis should be put on childhood, as children spend so much time outside. Did you know that even one blistering sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer? But where do we even begin? How do we know which sunscreens are best for our families? Learning about how sunscreen works helps us make some of these calls.
The sun is a known carcinogen, meaning in excess, exposure can cause cells to mutate and cancers to form. The sun has two rays that cause problems. UVA rays, otherwise known as the “aging ray”, can penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays. They are responsible for premature aging of the skin. UVB rays are also known as the “burning ray”, causes damage and is responsible for the burning of the skin.
When picking a sunscreen, it’s important to pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This means that it is going to protect from both uva and UVB rays.
What else should you look for in a sunscreen? Well, another important factor is the SPF or the sun protective factor. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
SPF measures the amount of time it takes for your sun to burn. In the example of the SPF 30 above, it means it would take tour skin 30 times longer to burn than if it were not protected. This can get confusing, as that number is really only promised for a few hours.
What about the higher number SPFs like 75 and 100? Do they offer more protection? The simple answer is yes. But, while they “offer more protection” as stated earlier, it loses its effectiveness after about 2 hours. At which point it really doesn’t matter if you have all that extra protection. If anything, higher SPFs can give people a false sense of security and they may not apply it as frequently as needed, creating a potential for burns and damage.
In recent years, many questions have arisen in regard to the safety of sunscreens. I’ll keep this short and sweet. The main culprits that are being looked at are 4 chemical sunscreens that have been shown to absorb into the bloodstream and stay there for at least 24 hours. Research needs to be done in toxicology and so forth to see if these chemicals are wreaking any havoc, but thus far, data has been non-conclusive. What is a chemical sunscreen, anyway? Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into your skin to a deeper level and absorbing and reflecting the UV rays before they have a chance to damage your skin.
If the thought of chemicals has you worried, you should try to opt for a physical or mineral sunscreen like titanium or zinc. These guys work by sitting atop your skin and reflecting the rays away. Most pediatricians and derms alike tend to prefer these for kiddos and those with sensitive skin. Children under 6 months should not be getting much sun exposure at all, and therefore sunscreen is not generally recommended for those under 6 months. Shade and sun-protective clothing are the best options for these littles.
But, my vitamin D!
Living in northwest Ohio, you’re likely no stranger to the idea of vitamin D deficiency. Seasonal Affective Disorder, anyone? The most commonly touted way to get your vitamin D is through sun exposure. But how much is enough? Experts say that about 10-30 minutes of sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D. I think the lower end of the spectrum is likely fine when supplemented with a healthy diet and vitamin D supplements either on its own or in a multivitamin. So, No, you don’t need to bask in the sunshine unprotected to “get your vitamin D”. The same goes for kiddos!
You too, Mama.
This should go without saying, but just a gentle reminder that you matter too, mama. I know we all worry so much about our children and what’s best for them that a lot of times our well-being gets cast aside. Your skin health (well, all health) matters too! So when you’re lotioning up those sweet cheeks, slather some on yourself too. Take care of yourself so you can be around to take care of them!
Last, but most definitely not least, here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular, effective, and safe sunscreens to help you and your whole family get through these warm-weather months burn-free!
For the kiddos:
- Aveeno Baby– this one is JUST Zinc Oxide. It’s great for kids and those with sensitive skin, or even for those looking for a non-chemical sunscreen option.
- Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby– this is another zinc oxide. Neutrogena has been trusted for years as leaders in excellent skin care.
- Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Spray– This is mostly mineral-based with few chemical sunscreens. It’s an SPF 50 and the spray makes it easy to apply to squirmy wormies!
- Supergoop Sunnyscreen 100% mineral Spray– This one is my personal favorite. Supergoop has found a way to make a totally mineral sunscreen into a spray form that isn’t horribly hard to rub in!
- Elta MD UV sport SPF 50– My all-time favorite to run in. It stays put and gives great protection. Not to mention it rubs in like a dream.
- ThinkSport SPF 50- Totally mineral-based. Great for those athletes who are a little more concerned about the proposed risks of chemical-based formulas.
- BeautyCounter Mineral Sunscreen stick– the stick application makes it so easy to quickly apply. I love recommending this to my golfers to keep in their bags for easy reapplication.
For reapplication over makeup& miscellaneous products:
- Colorescience Sunforgetable Total Protections Brush-On Sheild– ok I know I said a few of the above products were my favorite ( I’m a sunscreen junkie, what can I say?!) This one really takes the cake. I mean for REAL takes the cake. It’s a multipurpose all-star. I primarily use it for applications throughout the day so I don’t have to redo my makeup. I also use it on my part, oh, and when my kids won’t sit still to let me reapply. This bad boy lasts for ever and is so amazing. Worth every single penny!
- Bare Minerals Mineral Veil– This is a great setting powder and has the added benefit of having an SPF of 25! (not ideal as a base layer, but is great for layering and/or reapplication)
- Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy– Another all-star from Colorescience! This brightens the undereye area (obviously needed every single morning), reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and has a 100% mineral-based sunscreen with an SPF of 35 in case you missed the delicate area under your eyes.
Happy COVID-19 summer, mamas! Let’s make this a (burn-free) summer to remember!