Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sun & sunscreen

Summer hasn’t yet officially started and my daughter already has a bit of a farmer’s tan. Ah the shame of being such a negligent parent that I allow sun to damage my daughter’s young skin.

Problem is, I’ve read enough about the damage that sunscreen can cause in terms of hormone disruption, free radical damage, etc. to be wary about slathering it on – especially on my daughter whose skin is more sensitive to chemicals than my own.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)— a U.S. non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization — has put out some highly critical reports on sunscreens. They recommend only about 8% of sunscreens on the U.S. market this year. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find most of their recommended products here.

EWG claims that there is no assurance that high SPF values are actually truthful or even more effective, that ingredients like oxybenzone common in many sunscreens is one of the worst culprits for absorption damage, and that sunscreens can damage DNA and skin cells.

Discouragingly, information about this stuff is rather hard to find. Health Canada, in their guidelines on sunscreen, doesn’t even mention that chemical sunscreens can have negative effects.

As it is, I’m being cautious about what I buy, or buy into.

With Miya, and myself, I tend to avoid putting on sunscreen unless I know there will be extended sun-exposure. I try to keep us out of direct sunlight and avoid un-shaded parks and playgrounds, as well as mid-day sun. I also look for lightweight clothing that can keep her covered but still cool – and get her used to wearing a hat at all times.

In buying sunscreen, I look for those which have been approved by groups like EWG. But one of the down-sides with these safety-approved sunscreens is that they aren’t easy to apply or very appealing to wear. These mineral sunscreens – those containing zinc and titanium – are deemed safer since they do not disrupt the body’s hormones, are stable in sunlight and do not appear to penetrate the skin. Unfortunately, they tend to be thick and pasty, leaving the wearer looking rather corpse-like.

So while we love the summer sun, we’ll still stick to the shade.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard, read and experienced positive things with the new Green Beaver sunscreen. Tom and I used it the other day and were pleasantly surprised that we didn't look significantly more "December-ish" than we did before we applied it! That said, Tavish and I will see you in the shade in our sun hats! :)