With summer almost here we have rounded up our 3 favourite tips for staying healthy and smart in the sun during this warmer season. It can be confusing to figure out the truths about sun exposure and how to keep your kids natural and green in the heat. How much sun is too much? What about Vitamin D? Do chemical sunscreens protect or cause skin cancer? The science is still out on much of this debate. Read more about the sunscreen issue on The Green Mama (one of our most read articles of all-times). Below we have rounded up some traditional wisdom and scientific data to help you make intuitive choices for your family during the sunny days ahead.
1. Siesta and UV Index
Plan your days activites around a midday siesta from 11am and 4pm on days when the UV index is highest. The UV index is a measure of the strength of the sun’s rays. When the UV index is high you need to think about limiting your exposure if you want to avoid a burn. I always check Environment and Climate Change Canada’s online UV bulletin for my region if I am planning a long day outside. With this being said, it is also true that we need to have some exposure to sunlight to help build immunity and create Vitamin D in our bodies. Some midday sun exposure is ok and actually healthy. Just make sure you are not selecting extremely high UV days to spend outside with no protection.
2. Sun Clothes and Shade
If your kids need to spend the midday outdoors (birthday parties, camps, soccer practice, so many reasons!) your next best option is to create a physical barrier between the harmful rays and your family. For us this means always wearing sun smart clothing for outdoor activities. I find that loose long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide brimmed hats in natural materials like linen or cotton are a cool and sun protective approach to warm weather dressing. Not all materials are created equally, Skincancer.org has a nice resource page that describes the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) labels on garments and which fabrics are best for sun protection.
I usually don’t opt for synthetic or man made fabrics, but the one exception is extra coverage swim wear with a high UPF rating for my son to frolic in the splash pads dotted throughout our neighbourhood. Any rash guard or sunsuit with a UPF rating of over 30 is a great choice. Coolibar is a sought after brand for high UPF clothing and is the only company that has been certified sun safe by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
There are a variety of sunshades, beach umbrellas, and pop-up shade tents on the market, at thrift stores and even garage sales. I keep a sheet and some clothes pins in my beach tote to erect a free DIY sun shelter with the help of trees, drift wood, or other found materials.
3. Best Sun Blocks for Kids
When siestas, shade, and sun smart clothing are still not enough it’s time to protect your kiddos skin with a good old fashioned sunblock. Sunblock is different from Sunscreen, but the labels are often used interchangeably or misused to describe a product. The technical difference between a block and a screen is in the ingredients, with a sun block using natural minerals such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide that block and deflect suns rays, and a sunscreen using chemicals to absorb the rays. When it comes to a more natural approach with less carcinogenic chemicals, sunblock is the way to go. The only disadvantage is that many people feel that sun blocks are too sticky, remain white on the skin, and are hard to apply.
Here are The Green Mama favourite Sunblocks for Kids 2016:
For me Badger is the ultimate healthy sunblock for my family. It has the cleanest ingredients list of all the sunscreens listed here and is the most affordable. Unfortunately it is also the thickest, stickiest, and hardest to rub into your little ones skin. Apply liberally with patience 🙂
This is the natural sunblock that behaves most like a sunscreen. It is the thinnest and easiest to apply of all the blocks listed here. It has a fairly natural ingredients list but it does use a mix of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, and I usually try to go with Zinc Oxide only for children.
Like Badger, Erbaviva’s sunblock formula only uses Zinc Oxide which is a plus. It also has a totally organic ingredient list.
Green Beaver has another strong natural sunblock to consider. I love that it is a Canadian Company. Since it uses only about 50% certified organic ingredients and combines Zinc Oxide with Titanium Dioxide it makes our 4th spot on best sunscreens for kids 2016.
When choosing sunscreen for your family always look up your sunblock on EWG’s skin deep database. Never apply sunscreen or sunblock on a baby under 6 months of age. Be weary of sunscreens that claim to have a SPF higher than 50. Ultra high SPF often comes with too many chemicals. It’s always better to generously reapply SPF 30 blocks than to invest in higher SPF screens.
Learn more about what you wish your mother would have told you about sunscreen on the blog. As always, take all advice with a grain of salt and do your own research.