Posts Tagged ‘
Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Every summer I have the same problem: My children, who attend a day camp at our town pool, get way too much sun, particularly on their face. I’ve begged the counselors, the camp director, and my girls themselves to please reapply frequently. (Constantly’s more like it, since they’re in and out of a pool all day.) I’ve tried a variety of sunscreen sticks, and they wear hats, and the director has made sure that on especially sunny days, the girls spend more time in the shade. Everyone takes it seriously, and yet the girls still often come home with pinker faces than I’m comfortable with.
As we explained in our most recent story about sun safety, the best sunscreen contains zinc oxide, but my kids–particularly my almost-9-year-old–understandably feel self-conscious arriving at camp with a bright white face. And I am never not in a rush getting them to camp and catching my train to work, so any face sunscreen I use has to blend in quickly. So a zinc-based sunscreen hasn’t been an option.
Then a tube of ZBlok sunscreen landed on my desk. ZBlok contains clear zinc. It protects against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. It doesn’t sting. And it rubs in easily! The lotion goes on more clear than the stick, so I need to spend a bit more time than usual rubbing it in. But it’s more than worth it: This past week has been the first where I haven’t cringed at least once upon seeing my children’s faces after camp.
You’re probably wondering how much it costs. A 4-oz. tube is $14.95; a 2-oz. tube and a stick each cost $9.95. (Shipping is free.) $10 for a sunscreen stick is about twice what I’ve been paying all summer, but then again, those products weren’t doing the trick for us anyway.
This discovery came just in time, as we’re going on a beach vacation on Saturday. Now that I’m the one in charge of the sunscreen all day, I’m so relieved to at last have the right tool in my arsenal!
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Friday, July 11th, 2014
Yes, just the other day we said not to use it. And if that precaution makes you feel better, by all means go ahead. But for parents like me, and my college roommate who asked my advice the other day because spray sunscreen is the only kind her son will tolerate, there’s no need to feel bad if you continue to use it. I say this after asking Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., pediatrician, mom, and melanoma survivor, who wrote our most recent story on sun safety. She’s passionate about the topic, so hers is an opinion we especially trust.
There’s no definitive proof yet that it’s harmful (the Consumer Reports story from earlier this week is based on a 2011 announcement by the FDA that it’s studying the effects of spray sunscreen on children; no conclusion has been reached). So ultimately, says Dr. Swanson, it’s a matter of risk/benefit: “I still believe the best sunscreen is the one you like, as data shows you’ll use it more. And really, the best sunscreen is the one put on early and reapplied often. But we need to take new evidence and information seriously. So if you plan to continue to use spray sunscreens, mitigate risks.” Here are Dr. Swanson’s three tips on how to do that:
1. Spray it only outside
2. Only use it away from the face
3. Have kids close their eyes and mouth and hold their breath while spraying it
Photo: Small boy crawling towards water at the beach via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
My mom will tell you she’s “allergic to the sun.”
But this wasn’t always the case. She grew up basking in the Florida sun. Those days, however, caught up with her when I was in elementary school. Doctors found basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, on her nose.
I remember coming home one day in first grade to my mom’s face covered in gauze following her first surgery. “She looks like a mummy,” I would tell my friends on the playground, as I thought of my mom in pain.
With the first day of summer just days away, beach day invitations are starting to roll in. With every response I give, I think of my mom and the subsequent surgeries she’s undergone to remove more BCCs from her face. And when I pack my beach bag, I’ll think of a new study published in Nature on June 11.
The Institute of Cancer Research found sunscreen inadequately protects from melanoma. Researchers found mice exposed to UV rays still suffered damage to the p53 gene despite having sunscreen on. The p53 gene typically helps defend skin from UV rays, and when it’s damaged by the sun’s radiation, risk of melanoma forming increases. Sunscreen is essential because it helps slow impairment to this gene; however, its sun defense isn’t absolute. That’s why it’s key to take precautions beyond SPF to guard us from the harmful effects of the sun.
Nowadays, my mom has changed her sun protection habits. You’ll find her decked out in her favorite cowboy hat, wraparound sunglasses and long-sleeved cover-up dress. She’s a pro at finding the shadiest spot at the pool or beach and highest SPF on the market.
And by her side, you’ll find me wearing the biggest, floppiest hat and Jackie O shades.
Test your sun protection habits with this quick quiz!
Image: Mother And Daughter Under Beach Umbrella Putting On Sun Cream (ShutterStock)
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The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially during the summer. Children are particularly vulnerable; it only takes one blistering sunburn to potentially double your kid’s lifetime risk of melanoma.
So I was shocked to hear about the North East Independent School District in Texas banning sunscreen from 72 schools. Local mom Christy Riggs is protesting the policy after her daughter suffered a bad burn from a field trip. The students were out in the sun for more than six hours, but the school district argues that sunscreen can cause allergic reactions, so it must be treated like a medicine–which means only kids with a doctor’s note are allowed to use it at school.
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I understand the good intentions behind this decision. Allergies are a hot issue right now, and if students were to share sunscreen, it’s possible that a few might end up with reactions. But the risks of all the students suffering from severe burns while being out in the sun without protection are far higher. Applying the lotion before school is not enough, as it will wear off after a few hours. It seems absurd to focus on healthier school lunches and increasing kids’ physical activity, but then put children in jeopardy of serious damage from the sun’s rays.
Keep your family entertained this summer with our Activity Finder.
Surely, there’s a safer, healthier way to handle this situation. Many schools simply ask for parental consent to apply sunscreen to kids. Others provide a specific sunscreen and let families send in their own if they want a different kind. I hope the school district reexamines their policy at the end of the year and comes up with a better method. Until then, San Antonio parents will need to apply sunscreen generously in the mornings, and dress their children in proper clothes to protect bare skin outdoors.
Do you support the sunscreen ban?
Image: Girl anoints her face via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
Woody Allen once said, “I don’t tan, I stroke.” I know how he feels. With fair skin and light eyes, I’ve had more than my share of sunburns over the years. As a kid, I spent summers at the beach and outdoors playing tennis and other sports at camp. The most common way to divide up teams back then was into shirts and skins, meaning there was a good chance I’d be baking the vast majority of my body in the sun. Sunscreen? It seldom (if ever) made it out of my dopp kit. SPF 8 was considered intense protection at that time. I recall laughing at the lifeguard at our lake for wearing zinc oxide on his nose. What a dork.
Well, I’m not laughing now. With a family history of skin cancer, I need to get regular screenings and biopsies from my dermatologist. I’ve also reformed my sun-worshipping habits as an adult. I apply sunscreen to my face, ears, and other exposed parts every morning, even in the winter. At the beach I wear a long-sleeved protective shirt that I would have mocked as a kid. And we invested in an SPF tent and tote along a beach umbrella, which makes for a mighty communal schlep through the sand.
Still, I’m not complaining. Thankfully, neither are my kids. Maybe they’ve gotten tired of my wife’s and my nagging and realize that submitting to head-to-toe sunscreening (is that even a word?) is a non-negotiable. Perhaps they’ve seen Grandpa’s many excisions. Whatever. I’m happy. This summer, when my 8-year-old had her first experience at sleepaway camp, we were concerned that her sun-smart habits might slip without our supervision. Since she, like her dad and Woody, burns easily, we wondered what she’d look like at pickup. To our pleasant surprise, her skin was nearly as pale as when we dropped her off (except for a cute sprinkling of Huck Finnish freckles), and her sunscreen supply was virtually depleted.
I only wish all families were so diligent about protecting their kids from the sun’s increasingly harmful rays. Skin cancer is fast on the rise, and not just among older adults. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing at a 2 percent annual rate among children, according to an article published in Pediatrics. Granted, melanoma is still rare in childhood. But its incidence has increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s risk of developing it later in life. As we reported in The Great Coverup, most of the damage that results in cancerous tumors occurs from sun exposure (and lack of sun protection) prior to age 18. So it’s largely too late for you and me. But it’s not too late for your kids—if you take these precautions, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Seek shade, especially during the midday hours (that’s where our tent and umbrella come in).
• Cover up by wearing protective clothing (or at least a T-shirt and long shorts).
• Get a hat, though don’t expect a baseball cap to prevent exposure to the neck and ears.
• Wear sunglasses, which block out UV rays—and might prevent cataracts later in life.
• Apply sunscreen. The SPF number doesn’t matter too much (so long as it’s 15 or higher), but make sure the label says it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Also remember to apply it generously (we can go through a tube in a single day) and reapply it every couple of hours, including every time your kids come out of the water.
We’re off on a beach vacay next week, where we’ll doubtless see lots of families whose kids wear swimsuits and nothing more. I expect to get a bit of flack about that from my kids. But as long as I’m willing to look dorky in my SPF shirt, I know they won’t win this argument. What about you: Do you take all of these sun-safety precautions with your child?
Image of boy peeling skin via Shutterstock
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