If you missed the first post in this series, you can read it here.
Based on my discussion last time about my concerns with the use of sunscreen (which brought up great discussion- thanks for all your comments!), you may well be wondering what am I suggesting for sun safety.
I believe that being aware of the sun, your own natural tendency to burn, the time of day, the length of your exposure, what you are wearing, etc. all together will allow you to make the best decision you can to keep your family healthy and safe while playing in the sun this summer.
Here are the things that I would take into consideration:
Time of day and length of exposure: It is just not wise to spend large amounts of time out in the heat of the day, when the sun it at it's peak. If you have ever visited a country with very hot weather, somewhere close to the equator especially, you may note that they tend to stop work or school in order to rest during the mid-day. They recognize that this is not the best time to be out and act accordingly. We should also do the same.
It would also be helpful to slowly build up your exposure to the sun. As the weather is becoming increasingly warm, start by spending smaller amounts of time in the sun (as little as 5-15 minutes) and gradually increase that in 10 minute increments. This is especially good advice for children, and babies, who are not accustomed to much sun exposure and tend to have very delicate, pale, and sensitive skin.
What you are wearing: Since our desire is to be modest anyways, it shouldn't be too hard to cover ourselves up a bit to offer our skin greater protection! Light, flowy shirts, skirts, pants (cotton or linen, for example), are great. Light colors or white are preferable over dark colors, which only absorb the heat.
Hats are crucial, especially for kids but for us as well (I'm speaking to myself here- I'm really bad at wearing a hat!). Choose ones with wide brims, that help to shade the face and neck.
When I lived in Japan about 4 years ago, I was so surprised to find that all of the Japanese women wisely wear brimmed hats and even carry umbrellas to shade themselves in the sun. They prefer to stay pale in the summer, and consider dark tanning unattractive!
And I think it's fine to go for a swim and have moderate sun exposure in a bathing suit for a period of time that you know that your skin can handle, just make sure you cover up afterwords or head for the shade.
Avoid burning: As I mentioned before, the rays from the sun actually help our body to make Vitamin D, an absolutely crucial nutrient, so we're not out to avoid the sun. What we really want to avoid is burning, which is an unnatural state for our skin (if burning wasn't bad for us, God probably won't have made it so painful- ouch!).
Eat your fruits and veggies: Anti-oxidants help to protect our skin from radiation received from the sun. The more anti-oxidant rich foods we eat, the greater the level in our body for natural skin cancer (and other types of cancer) protection. The highest levels of anti-oxidants are found in the most deeply colored produce.
Here is a quick list of foods that top the list:
Fruits– berries (blueberry, acai, cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cranberry), prunes, raisins, currents, purple grapes, avacados
Vegetables– Leafy greens (esp. kale and spinach), sprouts, red bell pepper, beets, brussel sprouts, onions
Other foods/beverages– cocoa/ dark chocolate (yes, Stephanie is telling you to go ahead and indulge in a little dark chocolate, just stay off the Oh Henry and Kit Kat bars, ok?), white tea, green tea, rooibos tea, oolong tea, black tea
I have actually heard anecdotal evidence of moms who's kids eat really well, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, that live in hot places and say that their children can play all day in the sun and just don't really ever burn. I would say part of that is that they are accustomed to the great amount of exposure, but part of it is that their bodies have an increased natural level of protection.
Find a high-quality natural sunscreen for occasional times: If you know that your children will be out in the sun much longer than usual (on a vacation, for instance), or that they (or you) have a tendency to burn particularly easily, you may want to seek out a sunscreen that you feel comfortable with for the odd day that it seems appropriate to use.
Here is a link to a list of the best (and the worst) from Skin Deep. Note that there are three ratings– a health hazard (based on the ingredients in the product, lower numbers are best)), a sun hazard (based on how effective they are- again, a low number is good), and then an average score, taking both the health and sun hazard scores into account.
Based on my own research through Skin Deep, here are some of my thoughts on brands (there are other brands out there with great ratings, but not that are readily available to me or most consumers)
Aubrey- Don't love the ingredients
Alba- Bit weak on protection, also not keen on ingredients
Jason- The Sunbrellas Mineral Based Sunblock looks pretty decent, but I don't like their Family or Kids sunblock. I would stick to the mineral based one.
California Baby- Overall, this might be my favorite, for good ratings, pretty clean ingredients, protection, and ease of buying (many of the really high rating ones you have to buy specially over the internet, but at least this one is more readily available).
TruKid- I had never heard of this one, but I was so impressed by their skin deep ratings and their ingredients! The price was also reasonable. The only drawback is that it seems you have to buy it from their website, but this one may be worth it. (Edit: I just found this on Amazon, so it may be available in other places too)
As I researched these posts, I came across several great articles and resources for you to do more of your own research into this important topic. Check them out:
Best and Worst Sunscreen Lists
Trash Your Sunscreen and other Summer Sun Tips (sunscreen toxicity, Vit D and sun tips)
Sunlight and Melanoma- The Surprising Connection (very interesting article at Weston Price on the effects of sunscreen on skin cancer)
Personally, our family will be avoiding sunscreen as much as possible, though I will probably find a brand that I am comfortable with for that rare, needed occasion. We will actually be trying to spend some time in the sun every day, taking the above precautions, for all that beneficial Vitamin D, and just for the sheer enjoyment of being outside in the summer time!
So now, more thoughts? I loved all the dialogue that got going last time!