Babies and Sunscreen

The summer is winding down, but if you are a parent like me, you have spent the last couple of months slathering sunscreen on your kids regularly. Being fair-skinned, I have had my share of sunburns. Research has shown that 1 blistering sunburn during childhood more than doubles your risk for skin cancer. This fact is another example of the weight of responsibility we have as parents. Skin cancer may not present itself until well into adulthood, but that skin cancer may not happen if we are conscientious to our kid’s sun exposure. Besides – sunburns hurt and who really wants to see their child in pain because you were negligent in protecting their skin.

Another argument for sunscreen is that it isn’t just sunburns that put us at risk for skin cancer. It is also continuous sun exposure over many years. Sunburns put you at greater risk for melanoma, but continuous sun exposure puts you at risk for basil cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Don’t think you’re safe or your kids are safe because you never burn and always tan. You still need sunscreen.

I have now made the case for how important sunscreen is, but we have to remember that sunscreen is made up of chemicals that get absorbed into the skin. I have tried to reduce the amount of sunscreen used by letting my kids play outside in the mornings and late in the day when the risk of sunburn is low. They frequently wear hats to avoid sunscreen on their face, and on those bright sunny days, I encourage them to play in the shade. So far so good. Neither one even has a tan line and we have had our share of outdoor play this year.

A misconception about sunscreen and children is that you need to be using sunscreen specifically created for babies. I have news for you – it’s a marketing scam. Most sunscreens made for kids are the same as the adult formula. It may be created for more sensitive skin, but the fact is there are no restrictions on what sunscreen you can use on your kids. I am guilty of buying Aveeno for babies and Coppertone Water Babies thinking that it was something special.

Knowing how important an effective sunscreen is and that it is full of chemicals, the question is are some less bad for you than others? The answer is yes, and I have found a great resource for finding out which ones you should use. This section on EWG’s website ranks popular sunscreens on their effectiveness, stability, and health concerns. Check it out and find the best sunscreen for you and your kids.


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