Long days in the sun, enjoying the swimming pool, and participating in car wash fundraisers are all memories ingrained in my mind from my own childhood. But what followed all of them?
Sunburns so bad my skin was bubbled.
Weeks of squirming in my own clothes because it would touch a sensitive spot.
Layers of skin peeling and flaking.
…and searching for a safe sunscreen that actually worked.
I don’t want this reality for my kids. Granted, I know all kids get sunburns eventually, but making the best decisions possible to keep the kids safe in the sun is important. And that starts with a little research on what sunscreen does in general, which sunscreens are actually more harmful than a sunburn, and a general understanding of how to protect the family even without a tube of cream.
Affiliate links included for your convenience and so we can afford to stock up on sunscreen this summer!
Choosing a healthy and effective sunscreen for the whole family
I personally have chosen Goddess Garden as our family’s go-to sunscreen. It is top rated and recommended by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and is an easy way to get the protection I want without the ingredients I don’t want.
But there are a lot of great sunscreen options that EWG recommends and gives a great ranking for that you can feel safe using with your family. In fact, every year they put out a new report and highlight the best brands.
How to protect even the most sensitive skin from the sun
Practicing proper skin protection and sun safety for kids is probably one of the most important things you can do for your family this summer.
In helping keep your family healthy both today and long-term, it is important to make wise decisions. And while most of us are not going to forgo sunscreen altogether, especially not on our kids, choosing an effective and safe sunscreen is vital to their well-being.
Don’t unnecessarily expose the skin.
Spend time in the shade and cover up when possible. And choosing the appropriate clothing can go a long way. Adding a hat, especially a wide-brimmed one that covers both shoulders and face, is a great way to protect yourself. Of course, you will still want to apply sunscreen to areas of skin that are even indirectly exposed to the sun. Also choosing a thin sun cover-up for yourself, baby, and kids when not in the water is another great way to protect the family from the sun (like in the cover image).
Use Sunscreen With Non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
Nanomaterials are those that can be absorbed into the skin and be harmful, but using a non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen means that you and your children will be using something that both protects and is safe.
Run away from toxic ingredients like Oxybenzone.
The EWG skin deep research facility has named Oxybenzone the worst chemical offender in sunscreen. There are others on the list as well that rank poorly.
Know Sunscreen Terminology.
You should know what Water Resistant and Waterproof mean. In fact, you are rarely going to find a safe sunscreen that is also “waterproof”. Water resistant means it should have a time associated with how long the typical person can go, in water, in average sun before needing to reapply.
You should also know what SPF means. So like the FDA mentions, you could be exposed to the same amount of sun in an hour at 9 am as you would 15 minutes at 1pm. So SPF relates to the amount of exposure, not the amount of time in the sun.
Don’t forget the forgettable places.
Behind the ears. The lips. The tops of your feet and thighs. Behind the knees. And even on top of your hands and along the part in the hair on the scalp.
Know the statistics on childhood sunburns.
Just one bad burn in childhood or adolescence can double the chance of skin cancer later in life. This is why I take sun safety for kids so seriously. I got the worst burns as a child and I do not want that for my kids. Today I not only am concerned about them and getting a safe sunscreen, but about keeping an eye on my own skin and using one for myself.
Think about water contamination and if your sunscreen is biodegradable.
Using sunscreen means what you’re using is going to get into the water where you’re swimming. So when we go spear-fishing, we want to protect the reef, keep the fish healthy, and also not introduce a bunch of unsafe, foreign chemicals into a natural habitat. It’s also about exposing others to chemicals too! Think about both yourself and others when you’re choosing a sunscreen to put on your skin. So finding a company that not only does that but cares about that is important.
Understand who burns and skin cancer affects.
It doesn’t matter if you have light skin or dark skin, anyone can get skin cancer. In fact, while lighter-skin tones are more susceptible to skin damage, darker skin tone usually don’t get diagnosed until after a cancer has progressed a lot further. A safe sunscreen can go a long way in guarding against becoming one of these statistics.
Don’t forget yourself.
One of the best things we can do for our children besides protecting them from the sun is to protect our own skin. I want to be around for both the major and the mundane moments in the lives of my children, and with skin like mine, I know protecting it is the best way to protect those future memories. But also know that the best way to teach your kids about sun safety is to model it yourself and let them be involved. And sometimes that means getting sunscreen in your eye… (don’t worry though it didn’t burn or hurt).
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!