Trust Me on the Sunscreen

Winter is over. I’ve been waiting for winter to end since it began. Having three little kids in the winter is a lot of work just to get out the door. Winter means struggles to find three sets of matching socks and three sets of matching mittens. It means fewer fights over which sparkly hat or scarf is appropriate. It means tying shoes or worse, using adult-sized force to squeeze a tiny foot into a snow boot. Exhaustion set in before the day even began.

Rejoice. Hurray for flip flops! Spring is here — which, on the downside, means sunscreen. For the last five years, I’ve struggled with thick, white kids’ sunscreen. It cakes my wedding rings and leaves the kids a strange whitish blue color. Water beads up on their skin after a fresh application. Nothing makes a parent feel more guilty than seeing their offspring burned to a red crisp.

But what about the countless chemicals that seep into a child’s pores with every gluey application of sunscreen. Most of us are aware enough now about sunscreen dangers but still fear burning our young children who love nothing more than playing outside all summer long — despite all the claims that all kids do is sit inside and play video games. Last summer, I thought it was a choice: burned child today, potential side-effects of too many chemicals a decade from now. I’ve used the winter to do some research so I wouldn’t have to make this choice again.

I’ve found there are ways to protect your kids — and yourself for that matter — without having to use chemically-laden sunscreens. Most obvious, there are hats — wide-brimmed ones that cover the face. Simple. There are also bathing suits that protect from the sun, although if you’re slave to fashion as my kids are they won’t let those things on their bodies. They want their yellow polka dot bikinis, (for real). This is summer. The days of wardrobe struggles are on hold until winter comes back.

So, enter sunscreen.

The deal is to make sure the active ingredient is “non-nano uncoated zinc-oxide.” The key word to remember is non-nano. You’ll see the word “non-nano” right next to zinc oxide in the active ingredients. It shouldn’t be hard to find, so if you’re having trouble spotting “non-nano,” chances are it isn’t non-nano. In simple terms, non-nano means the sunscreen isn’t filled with a bunch of chemicals. Because it’s non-nano, 35 is the highest SPF. In order for companies to give the public a higher SPF, they must manufacture the sunscreen with chemicals. Eek!

The great thing about most sunscreens that use non-nano SPF is that they are generally also filled with other natural ingredients, read: no parabens. Yay! I recommend Badger brand, but, believe it or not, there are lots of choices. Of course, because zinc-oxide is the main ingredient, it does turn your skin a whitish color. The more you rub, the more the white hue fades. Still, it’s better than turning red later or subjecting yourself to potential cancer. (There are also all natural self-tanning products that are paraben-free. Who knew the au natural world was so interested in tan skin? I didn’t.)

Don’t forget that Vitamin D is essential for us humans. So soak up the sun early in the morning or later in the afternoon, sans sunscreen, to let your body ingest the sun’s nectar.