Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunscreen: My Thoughts

I've always been a bit sceptical of the sunscreen craze.  And let's be real here.  It really is a craze.  Ask anyone over the age of 30 and they'll tell you they hardly ever wore sunscreen when they were younger unless it was a beach or pool day.

Now we're told to slather ourselves with the stuff from dusk to dawn no matter the season, no matter the activity.  Even just driving in a car is said to pose a risk.  It's darn near impossible to walk down the make-up or lotion aisles at Target and find a product that doesn't boast some sort of SPF.  Why is it necessary that my eye shadow contain sun protection?

Full disclosure here: I love the sun and I love a little tanned skin.  But that being said I do fully realize when my love affair has crossed the line into vice.  It is possible have too much of a good thing.

And that's exactly my point.  I think the sun is a good thing.  I don't see it as an evil that I need to avoid.  There's no doubting the fact that every person in my family is happier and healthier when there's full sun in the sky.  This includes the winter season.

When William was four months old I had my first sunscreen experience with him.  We took a trip to Florida and went to the beach.  Before our trip I purchased a "mild" sunscreen safe for sensitive skin on newborns and infants that was supposed to be like pure water on his skin.  Five minutes after application I could see that this was anything but pure water on his skin.  He developed big, red blotches all over his face and both of his eyes were nearly swollen shut.

To this day I have avoided daily sunscreen use for both of my children because of that experience.  I will use it when they are outside without shade for more than a half hour at a time or if they are playing in pools or lakes because of the reflection intensity.  And even then I will only apply it on the most vulnerable parts of the body: face, shoulders, and back and only during the sun's most intense rays: during the morning and early afternoon hours of spring and summer.

Instead of constant sunscreen application, I opt for play where shade is readily available or I use hats and other clothing.  Neither of my kids has ever suffered a sunburn worse than a little pink on their cheeks that lasts no longer than the day of exposure.

For so long I've been embarrassed to admit my sunscreen philosophies because it goes so far against popular opinions.  Until now.  I've finally done my research on the topic and have found my own gut instincts to be not too far from what real science is discovering.  See: Sunscreen Exposed: 9 Surprising Truths.

In my opinion the most surprising truths are that: (1) the FDA has no evidence that sunscreen protects against skin cancer, (2) sunscreen inhibits the absorption of vitamin D from the sun which can subsequently suppress your immune system [See: Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention] and (3) vitamin A, a common sunscreen ingredient for reducing signs of aging, may actually speed up the development of skin cancer.

Of course I don't think we should all banish sunscreen all together.  There are better sunscreens available out there.  Unfortunately almost none of them are found on the shelves of any popular drug stores.  Read a list of best sunscreens with links to purchase on Amazon.

When it comes to the sun and sunscreen I'm going to use the "everything in moderation approach" and no longer feel like a bad person for not slathering up.

I'm curious about your thoughts on sunscreen.  Do share my thoughts or adamantly disagree?  Have your opinions changed after reading some of the links?

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