Summer is finally here, which means beaches, outdoor activities, and an increased risk of sunburns. There is a lot of controversy about the safety of sunscreen, especially after Gisele Bundchen (the supermodel) referred to sunscreen as poison and Lululemon’s bags have the statement “sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine.” All these claims can make parents confused on how to protect their children during the summer months. I’ve decided to debunk some common sunscreen myths so you can make an informed choice on how to protect your child this summer.
FACT OR FICTON?
Getting a sunburn isn’t that big of a deal.
FICTION! Recent studies have shown that one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, in adulthood. This is why sunscreen and protective clothing (t-shirts, hats, sunglasses) are so important for children.
Also avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11 am- 3 pm), as a recent animal study found that sunscreen does not completely protect the skin from UV rays. The study was done on mice that had a genetic predisposition to melanoma. The study demonstrated that sunscreen slowed the growth of skin cancer, but did not completely protect the skin from UV radiation.
I have a tan so I don’t need to wear sunscreen.
FICTION! Tanning is the body’s protective mechanism against UV radiation. Tanning actually indicates that DNA damage has occurred on a cellular level, and the body produces a pigment called melanin in response to the damage.
SPF 60 is better than SPF 15.
FICTION! Many people believe that SPF 30 doubles your protection in comparison to SPF 15, and therefore SPF 60 would provide even more protection. However, this is not true. SPF 15 blocks approximately 94% of UVB rays. A SPF 30 blocks 97% and a SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. In Australia, companies are only allowed to market sunscreen as SPF 30+ because the amount of protection between SPF 30 and 50 is minimal, but people believe they have more protection with SPF 50, and don’t reapply sunscreen as frequently.
Sunscreen contains harmful chemicals that could affect my child’s health.
The safety profile of chemical sunscreens has not been established, so it’s best to avoid chemical sunscreens, especially those containing an endocrine disruptor called oxybenzones. A better alternative is to use organic nano-free physical sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (it’s the same ingredient use in diaper rash cream). A great resource is EWG 2014 Sunscreen guide: http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/
Key Points To Keep Your Child Sunburn-free and Healthy This Summer
- Use a SPF 30 that is a broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB protection). If possible, try to buy organic and nano-free sunscreen
- Choose physical sunscreens over chemical sunscreens
- Choose creams versus sprays. Children can inhale the chemicals in sunscreen when it’s in a spray form
- Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply every 2-3 hours
- Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day (11 am- 3 pm)
- Wear protective clothing when possible: hats, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts
- Toss any sunscreen older than 6 months. Older sunscreens have less active ingredients, which increase your risk of a sunburn