To sun, or not to sun, that is the question.
When I asked companies to partner with me on this sun protection review project (see the natural sunblock review as well), they had no idea I was not only reviewing their products, but the idea of sun protection itself.
I find myself dangling between the two extremes. I applied sunscreen daily when I put on my toddler’s clothing a mere four years ago, but I am now rather deep into the traditional foods world, and with it a body of people and research that is generally skeptical of chemicals and highly in favor of natural Vitamin D from the sun. Many advocate zero sunscreen use and claim that with a proper diet, particularly healthy fats, along with a modicum of shade during the heat of the day, one should not get a sunburn. They would scoff at the big hats and full coverage swimsuits and sun shirts we’ve been testing the past month.
When I first put a short-sleeved, short pant suit on my toddler daughter and slapped a hat on her head, I had an uncomfortable feeling. Does it look like I’m afraid of the sun? Is this geeky? Is it over-cautious? Or am I an awesome parent doing the safe thing?
I pondered the sun danger question over and over in my head as we played outside this summer. How much skin should show? Should I encourage shade? How often to use safe sunblock and how often to skip it? Is there a place for sun protective clothing at all, or is it just fear inducing?
Often I waffled, thinking one day that I’m covering my kids too much and then when a hint of pink shows up on their cheeks, getting anxious and feeling thankful that I have hats for them.
I think I’m landing staunchly in the middle of the issue: there is a place for all of it – sunblock (as safe as possible), sun protective clothing, and unprotected exposure to the sun, especially if you can balance shade and time in the sun and be smart about what time of day you’re outside.
Traditional Amount of Vitamin D?
If we need the sun to help our bodies make Vitamin D, and we need sufficient Vitamin D for good health, then clearly we need the sun to touch our skin. But how much skin needs to be showing to make proper amounts of Vitamin D? Must we bare tummies and backs just to be healthy?
I tried applying the traditional foods paradigm to sun exposure and protection and wandered down an intriguing path: How did God design our bodies to work with Vitamin D? Was His intent that we all frolic naked in the Garden and get perfect doses of Vitamin D each day on the full expanse of our skin, or would He prefer us to be modest and only get sun on our faces, arms, and maybe lower legs?
I have a hard time believing that humans were designed to need sunshine on our entire bodies just to manufacture an essential vitamin. Even though Adam and Eve didn’t wear clothing, God knew that the Fall was coming, and quickly, so it makes sense to me that a modest exposure to the sun ought to be sufficient. (No, that’s not research-based. I bet there’s research out there. Maybe you can find some for me?) 😉
Why I Love Sun Hats and Shirts
Advantages to sun protective clothing include:
- When you’re already getting burned (or are burnt), you can hide.
- Easier to carry with and have kids put on than sunscreen
- Uses less sunscreen (less time to apply and less money spent)
- They’re cute!
The number one reason to have some sun protective shirts at your house is for the rock-in-your-stomach feeling when you realize that your child has already been out in the sun too long and is beginning to look a little pink. At this point, you know a reapplication of sunscreen isn’t going to do any good, but you want to stay at the beach/pool/water park a few more hours. Having the swim shirt saves you! (Your child’s skin, actually.)
The Modesty Bonus
Tell someone they should wear a modest swimsuit instead of a bikini and you’ll likely get an eye roll and a bikini. Tell someone the sun is going to give them cancer and they should limit their exposure, and it’s pretty easy to get them to wear a sun shirt, which just happens to be incredibly modest! The trend toward sun protection also caused more manufacturers to produce modest swimwear under the guise of coverage from the sun rather than roaming eyes, so there are more attractive (darn cute!) options out there if you’re shopping for modest bathing suits.
Here is our family’s little runway show of the products we got to test out:
Men’s rash guard from Coolibar
Child’s Chlorine Resistant Bucket Hat from CoolibarWomen’s Dakine Rash Guard and Toddler Platypus Sunshirt from Alex & Me
Solartex hat and suit
Solartex hat and Coolibar hat
Nantucket sun two-piece suit, Tunga Bucket hat from Sungrubbies
I don’t have a picture (note to self: take picture!) of the sun sleeves from Nantucket Sun that our family tested, but here’s the idea from their website:
To Be Continued…
In the true spirit of the lazy days of summer, why call a week a Monday through Friday thing? Sunshine Awareness week at Kitchen Stewardship has sort of been moseying along, and it makes sense that it will cross a weekend. Plus, it’s very typical for me to make you all wait in suspense for something!
I’ll be back Monday with the inside scoop on what I thought of each product, company, and fabric!