Saturday, July 09, 2011

A sun smart guide to a summer without regret

Summer is time for building sand castles at the beach, playing in the lake and taking swimming lessons.  It's all great exercise but the sun can take a toll on young, delicate skin.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation,  just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.  With a family incidence of moles and displastic nevi (a precursor to cancer) I wasn't taking any chances with all the arms, legs and noses I'm responsible for.  I am always thinking about how to minimize the amount of sun exposure for my kids while not turning into the fearful killjoy who threatens to lock the children indoors.  A smart mom (or dad) needs to manage the risk, letting kids enjoy life while taking preventative steps wherever feasible.  Along the way, I've found some products to make playing outside safer.

Our first line of defense is trying to schedule outdoor play first thing in the morning.  Our kids are early risers so heading to the beach when we're on vacation at 8AM (sigh) isn't a problem and that keeps us out of the most intense rays of the day.  Next, we create a shade situation where the kids can choose to play.   A large
umbrella like this one and/or a pop up tent like this one can help provide some shade for little diggers.  But since nobody stays in the same place very long, both boys are used to wearing their sun protective beachwear.  I am a big fan of Coolibar hats and long sleeve rashguards from Lands End.  I wash them gently so the specially designed fabric doesn't lose any of its sun protective properties as the weave breaks down.  I replace them seasonally and now and then test them by holding them up to a lamp or window to see how much light filters through.  I strongly recommend getting children accustomed to sun protective gear sooner rather than later.  My kids have been wearing long sleeve rashguards to the beach their whole lives so they don't know to complain about it!

The last line of defense is sunscreen and I've tried plenty of them.  I've also read a lot about them because there's a lot of information out there about the chemicals used in sunscreens and whether or not they may be too harsh for a child's skin.  I prefer to balance out the physical and the chemical blocks used in my products while the jury is out on micronization and nanoparticles.  If you care to read more, check out

My husband's dermatologist likes Blue Lizard sunscreen and I really like it too but it's relatively expensive and hard to find in stores.  It rubs in easily and doesn't leave a white residue.  More accessible
choices which I also like are BabyGanics Cover up Baby which is also available at my local Toys R Us and Badger sunscreen face stick which I can pick up at Whole Foods.  The Badger stick is easy to swipe over little noses anxious to get back to playing.  All of my personal picks are also on the Environmental Working Group's list of "Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens." 

Do you have any must-have techniques or products to keep your kids safe in the sun?
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