Summer is coming and with Memorial Day weekend in front of us I thought I would quickly share this link for a great resource for families: the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Sunscreen Safety Guide called “Skin Deep” There are lots of great tips and resources on the site but the part of the guide I like the most is the sunscreen database that allows you to search for specific products and get their safety rating. There has been lots of information in the media about how safe some of these sunscreens are (many of them are filled with some scary chemicals and considering we are spreading those on our skin, and our kids, daily in the warmer months) its worth paying attention to. But I should warn you: this is not always feel good stuff. You may find your favorite product for the beach does not score that well. I would suggest if it ends up with a low safety score, just move on and DO NOT read all the stuff that is in the product. Honestly, it will just freak you out and if you have already used it what is the point. Just move on and find a better one before the summer starts…and that IS something to feel good about!
That is exactly what happened when I first came across this guide a few years ago. I was alarmed (actually broke out into a cold sweat) at what was in many of the mainstream products considering many of them were on my shelf. I used the database to find a new go to product and now we use Blue Lizard as our sunscreen of choice. My husband likes to point out this is an Australian made product and those Aussies know A LOT about sun protection! (see below for one of my favorite Aussie expressions)
I listed below the main points I took away from the guide. There is a huge volume of information on this guide and I did not read through it all but these were the things that stuck with me:
- Zinc/mineral based sunscreens are the safest in terms of chemical overload. I always look for sunscreens that use this as their main ingredient. As I mentioned above our favorite is Blue Lizard.
- Stay away from the Sprays: not only is there risk that you do not get enough on you (spraying them on the beach means lots is taken up by the wind and misses your body) but you also may be breathing in some of the particles (nanoparticles). Obviously I don’t need to elaborate on why breathing in sunscreen chemicals is not good for you. I know they are super convenient for squirmy kids that do not want to sit still but the creams are still better. When my kids were little I would give them a book to look through while I applied and now that they are teenagers they text! And yes I still apply it on my 14 and 16 year old since I don’t think for one second they have the patience to do it thoroughly. (I’ve learned this the hard way when I was presented with a red faced boy after a day at the pool with friends when I was assured sunscreen was applied.)
- Don’t over rely on High SPF’s : SPF’s with a 50+ give people false security they can stay in the sun longer without reapplying. Not true according to the guide. There is some science on why this is true and I won’t go into it all here (its all in the guide) but basically the rules are still the same: reapply, reapply, and reapply.
- Baby Sunscreens are not just for Babies: Even if you do not have babies anymore, baby sunscreens are generally made without as many chemicals and offer better protection. I think less chemicals is a good thing no matter if you are 6 months or 60.
Lastly, although its not in the Guide, take a tip from the Aussies: Slip-Slop-Slap! Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen, and Slap on a hat. It was a public health campaign started in Australia in the 1980’s and has become recognized internationally. Its simple really and makes perfect sense. Teach it to your kids and next time you are getting ready for a day outdoors, just yell out the old “Remember Slip, Slop, Slap!”. They will thank you for it later! (much later in the case of teenagers…)
Wishing you a fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend in the sun!