Ah, Summertime!! Lazy days of having fun in the sun, right? Wait a minute – the sun, that means sun screen. The kids need sunscreen. But what is the right SPF (and what does that mean anyway) and aren’t they saying that sunscreens also cause cancer? Which is worse – skin cancer from the sun, or my sunscreen – arrgghhh!! What’s a parent to do?

It’s true that protecting our children’s from the detrimental affects of sun exposure are important, and it is true that sunburns earlier in life do increase your risk of skin cancer (as does having 5 or more sunburns in childhood). Over 80% of our life-long sun exposure occurs in childhood, so we need to be protecting our children’s skin. But how to best do this?

Some general recommendations for safe skin care from the Environmental Work Group – EWG (more about them later):

Infants under six months should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible. Their skin is not yet protected by melanin. When you take your baby outside:
· Cover up – with protective clothing, tightly woven but loose-fitting, and a sun hat.
· Make shade – Use the stroller’s canopy or hood. If you can’t sit in a shady spot, use an umbrella.
· Avoid midday sun – Take walks in the early morning or late afternoon.
· Follow product warnings for sunscreens on infants less than 6 months old. Most manufacturers advise against using sunscreens on infants or advise parents and caregivers to consult a doctor first. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants as a last resort when shade can’t be found.

Toddlers and children
Sunscreens are an essential part of a day in the sun. But young children’s skin is especially sensitive to chemical allergens – as well as the sun’s UV rays.
· Test sunscreen by applying a small amount on the inside of your child’s wrist the day before you plan to use it. If an irritation or rash develops, try another product.
· Slop on sunscreen and reapply it often, especially if your child is playing in the water or sweating a lot.

Sun safety at school or day care
Send a sunscreen to daycare and school. Some childcare facilities provide sunscreen, but you can buy your own to make sure it’s safe and effective. Share EWG’s safe sunscreen tips and product suggestions with your child’s school and caregiver.
Sometimes school and daycare policies interfere with children’s sun safety. Many schools treat sunscreen as a medicine and require written permission to use it on a child. Some insist that the school nurse apply it. Some ban hats and sunglasses. Here are a few questions to ask your school:
· What is the policy on sun safety?
· Is there shade on the playground?
· Are outdoor activities scheduled to avoid midday sun?

Teenagers coveting bronzed skin are likely to sunbathe, patronize tanning salons or buy self-tanning products – all bad ideas. Researchers believe that increasing UV exposure may have caused the marked increase in melanoma incidence noted among women born after 1965. Tanning bulbs expose the skin to as much as 15 times more UV radiation than the sun and likely contribute to the melanoma increase.
To parents of teens: Be good role models – let your teen see that you protect yourself from the sun. Tan does not mean healthy.

So now we know what to do, but how do we know which sun screens are safe and effective? The SPF rating system is confusing and not always accurate. EWG (the Environmental Work Group – ewg.org) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has been performing environmental research for over two decades. Their funding is from private grants/foundations and largely from individuals. They have done outstanding clinical trials to simplify and illustrate the impact on chemicals and humans, you can click here to learn more about how how clinical trials are being designed. Check out their website for a complete guide to everything that touches your skin! You can find information on hair products, make up, moisturizers, nail polish – the works! EWG provides easy to understand rating scales for products on a 1-10 scale of safety. You can also review products to screen for a specific chemical agent, cancer causing risks, or allerginicity. And of course, they also have an app!

EWG has a very extensive sun screen guide and provides excellent education on sun exposure which I encourage you to review.

Some general recommendations or buying sun screen (per EWG,see their site for details and references):
· No Spray Sunscreens
· No Super-High SPFs
· No Oxybenzone and Other Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
· No Retinyl Palmitate (or Vitamin A)
· No Combined Sunscreen/Bug Repellents
· No sunscreen towelettes or powders
· No Tanning Oils

Safer Sun Screen and moisturizers as recommended by EWG:
· Ava Anderson Non-Toxic Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
· Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30
· Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 35
· California Baby Everyday/Year-Round Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
· COOLA Suncare Sport Moisturizer Classic Sunscreen, Unscented, SPF 45
· Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
· The Honest Company Sunscreen, SPF 30
· Suntegrity Skincare 5-in-1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, Tinted
· Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Sunscreen for Body, SPF 30
· Yes to Carrots Nourishing Daily Moisturizer, Fragrance Free, SPF 15

Do you own any of these? Most Toxic sunscreens as rated by EWG:
· Well at Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30, 50, and 90
· Well at Walgreens Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 55 and 100
· Vichy Capital Soleil Soft Sheer Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
· up & up Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 and 50
· up & up Sport Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 15 and 30
· up & up Kids’ Sunscreen Sun Stick, SPF 55
· up & up Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30
· up & up Kids’ Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 50
· Trader Joe’s Nourish Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+
· RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30
· Rite Aid Wet Skin Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 70
· Rite Aid Ultimate Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55, 70, and 85
· Rite Aid Tugaboos Baby Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50
· Rite Aid Renewal Wet Skin Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30 and 70
· Rite Aid Renewal Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30 and 50
· Rite Aid Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60, plus other Rite Aid sunscreen products
· philosophy miracle worker anti-aging lotion, SPF 50
· Neutrogena Wet Skin Spray Sunscreen, SPF 30, 50, and 85+
· Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Daily Facial Lotion, SPF 15
· Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55, 70, 85
· L’Oreal Invisible Protect Dry Oil Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50+
· Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Clear Mist Spray Sunscreen, SPF 15 and 30
· Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
· CVS Age Renewal Firming & Hydrating Moisturizer, SPF 30

The weather is finally great – let’s stay safe out there! Cover up, apply your safe sunscreen, sunglasses and have some fun!

By Amy Spangler, CPNP