Don’t you feel horrible when your kids get a little pink from the sun?
It’s a difficult balance to strike, wanting them to get Vitamin D from the sun and also be protected from the harmful effects of the same darn sun.
Sometimes I forget that I’m not afraid of sunscreen itself anymore, and I should slather it on a little more liberally. My 4yo (whoops, 5yo! Happy Birthday, little girl!) wore a borrowed bathing suit this week and had more back skin exposed than usual, and although I thought I had gotten it well, it wasn’t quite good enough for the very liberal dose of noonday sun we got.
Her sunburn didn’t hurt her, but it made me feel awful – because I know it might hurt her later.
It also made me think more about common sense and sun exposure. Even with last week’s sunscreen safety post, we still have a few issues to explore.
Here’s a conversation I was drawn into at Jo-Lynne’s post about sun safety:
Hmmm, I have mixed feelings on this post. I have worked in Dermatology Research at the VA Medical Center with the Chief of Dermatology for more than 15 years and preach regularly about sunscreen use. I am not aware of any true clinical research to support the whole “chemical sunscreens cause cancer” theory. Also, by stating that sunscreens may cause cancer could lead to people not using it all which puts you at a much higher risk of skin cancer. Also, a base tan is NOT protection from the sun. A base tan is sun damage. That fact is indisputable. I respect everyone’s opinion and to each his/her own.
I’m the gal who tested out the 28 (now 43 actually) sunscreens that Jo-Lynne linked to in this post, and I’ve written quite a bit on sunscreen. I hope you don’t mind me jumping in too.
I think you make a really good point about people ending up feeling almost afraid of sunscreen and then not putting it on enough and getting burned. Finding the balance between getting some sun exposure for the Vitamin D benefits and getting the sunscreen on is tricky, so I can even see that result in our own family sometimes. I hate that feeling of, “Arg, I waited too long to put on sunscreen and they’re looking pink!!” when I look at my kids (happened today in fact, sigh). I give myself the “bad mom award.”
I’m surprised to hear that you’ve never come across any research that sunscreen causes cancer. I feel like oxybenzone in particular is pretty well established as toxic. Heather Dessinger does even better research than I do generally – do you see anything substantiated over here: Many Healthy Sunscreens Accelerate Skin Aging or here: Sunlight Prevents Cancer ?
I was just reading somewhere about how the production of melanin offers protection for the skin from the sun, i.e. the base tan theory. I wish I could remember exactly where.
Ultimately, I have a lot of questions about the theories that (a) sunlight causes cancer and (b) sunscreen prevents cancer. My neighbor and I were talking, and just common sense wise, why is it that so many people get their skin cancer in areas that aren’t really exposed to the sun (buttocks, for example) and plenty of people DON’T get skin cancer on places like their nose, even if, like my neighbor, they never wore sunscreen as a kid and got burned and peeling every summer, all summer long? I know that’s just anecdotal, but I’d love to hear the dermatology response, because I’m sure there’s information I just don’t understand about that.
The statistics on skin cancer have not really decreased as sunscreen use has increased, which I suppose could simply mean that a lot of people are now seeing the consequences of former poor sun exposure practices – is that the general dermatology theory? That it was too late for folks who damaged their skin long ago?
I’m curious – what active ingredients do you counsel patients to look for in sunscreen? And what is the best way to get our necessary Vitamin D from the sun? Are there certain times of day that are good or bad, can Vit D get through sunscreen at all, and how many minutes of sunlight do people need?
I’m not trying to be lippy or oppositional; I just really want to understand all the sides of the issue, and I think it’s wonderful that Jo-Lynne has a visitor with real clinical knowledge. Feel free to point me to journal articles demonstrating research that sunscreens prevent cancer, etc.
Thank you so much for your time and knowledge!
When I turn on my common sense, I just can’t believe that we should be protected by sunscreen 100% of the time:
- Research has proven that the BEST way for our bodies to get Vitamin D is to synthesize it from the sun. We NEED the sun.
- Although I realize that a fallen world has made the sun’s rays more harmful, I still can’t believe that God would make it so complicated to be safe outside.
- I’ve even read that Dr. Mercola recommends people NOT be outside before 10 and after 4, the usual hours when folks feel safe, because the sun’s angle causes more cancer even though no burns. I don’t buy it. I believe God would create a system that makes sense, like the warning sign of a burn telling people that they’re doing something harmful to their skin.
I’m really hoping “Kim” will respond, and I’m looking forward to learning more answers to my questions, especially the one about skin cancer showing up in places that people don’t get sun exposure.
My common sense solution?
- Get some sunshine without anything on your skin.
- Wear natural mineral sunscreen the rest of the time or cover up or get inside.
- Do NOT use any chemical sunscreens; read up on sun safety and the science behind these things.
- Don’t stress out about it.
- Get plenty of antioxidants on your skin and in your body to combat all the effects of both the sun and sunscreen.
- If you get a little pink, use a lotion with antioxidants, virgin coconut oil, and soothing properties like aloe or essential oils.
One reader commented that when she stopped wearing sunglasses, her Vitamin D levels finally increased to a normal level. This is something I want to know more about! I’ve read in a few places that sunglasses aren’t actually good for us, and I’ve mostly stopped wearing them (partly because they’re either lost or too dirty to do me any good anyway).
The information coming at you about sun exposure and sun protection are going to change every year, I guarantee that.
Your strategy needs to be one of gathering facts, remembering that the natural world does have patterns and rules, and using your common sense ALWAYS.
Now we’re off to the zoo, all day in the sun.
We’re wearing sunscreen and hats. Have a great day!