Monday, June 27, 2011

Simple Sunscreen is best...if you know what you're doing!

We were going to the zoo a couple years ago so I slathered my child up in the sunscreen. He was 2 at the time & I was still using the paba-free Baby Blanket sunscreen for super-sensitive little people skin. A few hours after we got home he started running a fever & was red all over. Wait...he was just red in areas that were exposed to the sun. Did I not re-apply when I should have? My child was sun burned & I was responsible. I felt horrible. The next day the burn was gone (so was the fever) & he was no longer burned (not tan either). Weird. That night I took him to an outdoor soccer game. You can bet I slathered the lotion on this time! Fever back, red skin back. Now I'm starting to get a clue: he's having a reaction to the sunscreen! The baby sunscreen at that! What am I going to do? I consulted the doctor & he recommended Neutrogena sensitive skin sunscreen (for adults). We tried it & we haven't had any additional problems. This year I even tried the spray with helioplex & he's been fine with it, though I have been wondering what we are sucking in our lungs each time we spray. I have a sunblock stick to use on the face.

Enter new FDA standards & information around sunscreens. What is in this stuff, is it tested & how does it all really work? Here's my summary:

  • We need protection from the UVB & UVA rays. UVB are what give you sunburns. UVA penetrate deeper & give you premature aging, sunspots & skin cancers.
  • SPF numbers apply to UVB protection only.
  • There is a difference between sunscreen & sunblock. See next 2 bullets.
  • Sunscreens soak into your skin & absorb the rays. These contain more chemicals, but are generally lighter. There seems to be some question about the safety of these chemicals & not a lot of testing. Some say they remain on the surface & don't penetrate the bloodstream. Others aren't so sure.
  • Sunblocks contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They sit on the skin's surface instead of being absorbed so they are considered a more natural option.
  • You can find lists of recommended sunscreens & those to avoid. It seems to me the environmental groups recommend ones that avoid chemicals harmful to the environment regardless of how well they actually protect & dermatologist groups recommend ones that protect your skin, regardless of what else they are doing. There's not a lot of research and it seems everyone has an agenda.
I did my research & then went to the store with my new-found information. Overwhelming sums it up! I finally settled on Neutrogena pure & free baby because its only active ingredients are titanium dioxide & zinc oxide. I figure simple is better. 

To learn how to use sunscreen to get the ultimate tan without burning, read my earlier blog on that one. 

Also, if you have an infant under 6-months, sunscreen is not safe for him/her. When we lived in Florida I felt like this was talked about a lot. Then we moved to the Midwest & I've never heard it uttered (except by myself). I'm not sure if it's not talked about or if everyone just assumed I was not a 2-time mom from Florida & I knew.

If you want to read up on some of these things on your own, I found these websites thorough yet comprehensive:

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