Skin cancer isn’t something you want to mess around with, and you need to protect your child’s future by shielding them from sun damage now. A few serious sunburns during childhood can increase risk of skin cancer in adulthood dramatically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem for eco-friendly parents is that protecting a child from the sun without using chemical-stuffed sunscreen seems impossible. Luckily, there are some more sustainable sunscreen options on the market today, and sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect your child from the harmful UV rays they experience in sunny or cloudy weather. Before we skip to the sunscreen, let’s talk about some of the non-chemical ways the CDC says you can protect your little one from the sun.
Cover up better
There are lots of interesting options on the market these days for breathable clothes that still have a tight enough weave to protect the skin from the sun without sunscreen.
Long-sleeved swim clothes and play clothes are a great option if it’s not absolutely too hot for them. Longer shorts can protect more of your child’s skin from the sun, and wide-brimmed hats are always great for protecting the face, ears, and neck.
Find clothing that your child is comfortable in, but encourage them to wear more clothing to protect themselves from the sun whenever you’re outside.
Get to the shade
Instead of playing outside every day of the summer in a sunny area, find a shady park where you can have just as much fun. Playing in the shade protects you from the heat and the UV rays, and it can actually be great on really hot days.
When you head to the beach, take along a beach umbrella or a canopy tent so you can spend some of your time in the shade. You can even build a sandcastle under the wide shade of a big beach umbrella!
As soon as your child starts to look a little pink, you should know you might have a sunburn on your hands. Even on cloudy and cool days, sunburn is a possibility, so your child should always be protected by sunscreen and clothing that will keep them from getting a lot of UV damage.
Pay close attention to when you put on sunscreen, too, and re-apply it according to the package directions. Don’t wait too long, or you risk having the sunscreen wear off, leaving your child exposed to UV damage and sunburn.
Organic and sustainable sunscreens have come a long way in the past few years. They used to be pretty much worthless, but now they can hold up well against conventional sunscreens.
There are lots of sunscreen options recommended by the Environmental Working Group that include minerals and other natural ingredients. On the 2011 list, you’ll find many supermarket options that give you good sun protection and are made with sustainable ingredients.
According to the EWG, the best thing you can do is check the label on your sunscreen options. Sunscreens with vitamin A additives can be risky, as can sunscreens with benzophenone-3, homosalate, and octyl-methoxycinnamate. It’s also a good idea to avoid spray and powder sunscreens, which can be inhaled into the bloodstream, even though they’re simpler to apply.
As of now, the FDA doesn’t actually regulate sunscreen production or the claims sunscreen companies are allowed to make. As a result, three out of five US made sunscreens wouldn’t cut it in the European market, where sunscreens are more strictly regulated to have excellent UVA protection and to live up to their SPF ratings.
[Daniela Baker reminds you to check out your sunscreen on the EWG website to see if it makes the cut, and it not, use the list to choose a healthy, environmentally-friendly, and effective sunscreen for your child this summer.]
How do you protect your child from the sun? Leave a comment below with your tips.
Image: Dplanet:: at Flickr