My Thoughts on Sunscreen, Part 2

My Thoughts on Sunscreen

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, your location, 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.

Where you are

It may be helpful to know that our family lives in Canada. I learned an interesting statistic from our naturopathic doctor a couple years agothat most people in cloudier regions like the Pacific Northwest take all the way until September to get their Vitamin D levels back up to optimal levels after the lack of sunshine in the winter. , That’s a big deal! We’re spending over half of our year with inadequate levels of Vitamin D, which is highly protective for the immune system, against cancer, etc.

For us, because we lack sunshine for 8 months of the year, when it comes out in the summer, we really need to take advantage of it. We still need to be protective and cautious during the mid-day heat and full glare of the sun, and consider our length of exposure, of course. But we seek it out more freely, because of where we live and our seasonal sunshine patterns.

Now, if you live in a southern California, in Florida, in Australia, etc. you’re going to need a different strategy than what we have. When you’re dealing with near constant sunshine, you’re closer to the equator, and experiencing more intense rays of the sun, being proactive and protective is much more important.

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!).

If you are someone that burns easily (or you have children that are especially fair and prone to burning), you’re going to need to take more precautions than someone whose skin can handle longer periods of sun. That just goes without saying, I think. Burning is definitely something you want to avoid.

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.

Now remember, the research on this has gone back and forth and is not conclusive yet on whether antioxidants truly help to prevent cancer or not. This isn’t a protective measure to rely on, but I do think it’s worth attempting to up your antioxidant level in general, whether it’s proven or not.

Find a high-quality natural sunscreen for when it’s needed

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)
  • Badger – This has become my go-to brand of choice, when I don’t make my own. I love the ingredients and we find it gives excellent protection when we need it. The one I linked to is a Sport SPF 35 and we find it particularly great for the beach or hiking, so that it stays on for longer despite being wet or sweaty.

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:

Personally, our family will be avoiding sunscreen in our regular day to day, though we use it for those times when we are in the sun for extended periods of times, especially during the peak of the day. 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!

My Thoughts on Sunscreen

So now, more thoughts? I loved all the dialogue that got going last time!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. Maybe you should read the Wikipedia page on Antioxidants instead of spreading unscientific and unsupported ideas…”Since fruits and vegetables happen to be good sources of nutrients and phytochemicals, this suggested that antioxidant compounds might lower risk against several diseases. This idea has been tested in a limited manner in clinical trials and does not seem to be true, as antioxidant supplements have no clear effect on the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease”

  2. Thank you very much for this post! I have only recently learned the importance of keeping yourself protected against the sun and I find this article very helpful..

  3. I know this is an old post, but I had to chime in here. Higher skin cancer rates are most likely caused by less nutritious food & spending more time in the sun with more skin exposed as well as the reliance on sunscreen that doesn’t really work like advertisers claim, not the ozone. What type of clothing do you usually see on people in old pictures, especially in rural areas? Not shorts and short sleeves, you see long sleeves on men & women, long pants & long skirts, hats & sun bonnets.
    Truth about the ozone & global warming:
    Just like the propaganda put out about sunscreen & suns rays as well as other topics such as what food is healthy, there is a lot of propaganda about the ozone & global warming.
    Yes, man made chlorofluorocarbons are what causes a lot of the ozone hole, however, the danger is not as bad as it is claimed. There is no evidence of thinning anywhere except at the south pole & sometimes a little at the north pole. The “ozone hole” only occurs in those 2 locations (& sometimes doesn’t even appear). The suns rays are not increased in other places & is no more dangerous now than it was many many years ago. The only place it is more dangerous is where the ozone has thinned & that is only during the 3 months of the year when it is thinner. I got this info from a scientist: Dr. Jay L. Wile
    Global warming is not happening as they claim. In the 70’s, they claimed global cooling using the exact same terminology except cooling words instead of heating words. But they had to change it because things started warming up. Now they are having to change again because things are cooling down, hence the change to “climate change” instead of “global warming.” They have even tried to manipulate temperature readings to prove global warming by putting temperature monitors near a/c exhaust units & hot parking lots. A few months ago I saw a chart on the farmers almanac site that showed cooling & warming trends over a long period of years — the earth goes through cooling & warming cycles.

    • The scientific community as a whole agrees that global warming is a real, and present danger. Any ideas to the contrary are because of nonacceptance by those outside of the scientific community.

  4. I had melanoma removed a few years ago, so I want to protect myself and my girls from the harmful effects of the sun–UV rays and radiation. I like California Baby, but it’s really thick and heavy-duty, not a daily use sort of thing.
    What are your thoughts about soap that protects from from the sun? When I’ll be out for a while, I use St. Ives under my regular sunscreen. Supposedly it’s waterproof, developed by a dad whose surfer sun never put on sunscreen.

  5. Great tips, but again the thought of moving away from the use of sunscreen totally scares me. I watched my Mom struggle with skin cancer for 10 years before she lost her fight. She burned very easily and had since childhood, so I don’t know if she would have ever been able to adapt to a lifestyle without sunscreen.

    Melanoma is a horrible disease :(

  6. We like Badger sunscreen. It works very well on my fair skinned children (even at the pool) who like to spend as much time as possible outdoors. It is a physical barrier sunscreen rather than a chemical sunscreen. Here’s a link to their info:

  7. Again, I TOTALLY agree. In The Maker’s Diet the author talks a lot about how great it is for our bodies to get into the sun and into the dirt. My child did really well this summer with sunscreen only in the middle of the day and at the beach. However, I am not so sure I would have tried it on a baby – their skin fries before you can catch it… It just makes you wonder what mommies in Israel and Egypt so long ago did to protect their babies! :)

  8. Shirley Mom of 6 says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful information Stephanie! I’m going to link your post about sunscreen from my blog. This is GREAT info!! This year I’ve let my little ones play outside when it is warm enough 60 or so even without their shirts if they want. They are all getting beautiful golden skin yet no one has been burned yet. I watch the amount of time they are in the sun, and throw a shirt on if the sun is really intense. I’ve been surprised how tan they are already getting (we live in Northern Wisconsin). I am very fair and so are 4 of my 6 children. I plan to do the big hat for my gardening time this summer.

    Thanks again for the info!!

  9. One thing to remember about the sun is that there are more harmful rays (due to depleted ozone etc.–and I’m not really on the global warming bandwagon, but it is true that the amount of radiation has been steadily increasing) now than there were in the days before sunscreen. So while I think that some sun exposure is good for vitamin d purposes, we have to remember that the sun isn’t exactly in its original created state. I’m sure that when God originally designed us and the sun, He didn’t do it thinking that Adam and Eve were going to slather stuff all over their skin every hour to protect themselves, but instead made it a truly beneficial relationship. Since the fall and over time, as things are in a state of decay, I think that the hazards of the sun have been increasing, and we need to care for ourselves accordingly. :)

    The tip about watching WHEN you are in the sun is probably one of the more crucial things to remember about the sun; I’m glad you discussed it. People should familiarize themselves with their region and when the suns rays are the most harmful and take precautions as necessary :)

    How do you get toddlers to wear hats? Mine just rips hers off no matter what…

  10. Nola, I am spoiled and can order from US websites and have them sent to my MIL who I see often. Amazon has a good deal for 2 bottles of it, for basically the same price, and it qualifies for free shipping (well, almost).

    Does anyone know of a good Canadian website for buying California Baby that’s not so pricey?

    Mrs. Taft, I do agree that our world is not in the same condition that it used to be, and that the sun may certainly be more harmful than it used to be. I would just rather avoid that harm through, well, cautious avoidance when necessary, and more natural methods otherwise. I don’t like the idea of using a sunblock all the time because even the natural ones have not-so-great ingredients, and I can’t afford to be buying them all the time for our whole family to wear, and I really do think that the Vitamin D issue is big. I’d rather find other ways to reduce the risk, and get us out in the sunshine when it’s most appropriate. I get what you’re saying, though, and definitely agree that we need to be more aware of the sun these days.

    And I’m not sure if I’m any better at keeping hats on toddlers than anyone else, though I do try to buy ones with straps whenever I can!

  11. Rebekah says:

    Thanks for all the helpful info!

  12. Interesting about the food. But we don’t eat any junk, and eat all the things you talked about and still burn very easily. We’re just really, really fair skinned.

    I looked at my “natural” sunscreen (that we used in limited amounts) and also found some concerns. Its better than others but still not the best. I have also heard good things about Caliornia baby but where can you get it online in Canada? The only place I was able to find would cost $25 CDN plus shipping for about 2 ounces! Ouch!

  13. Thanks for the resources! I am determined to use more natural products this summer and to get the kids inside before 10 and out when Daddy comes home at 5ish. We also built the sand box over in a shady spot this year (I used to dread when they’d ask to play in it as it was right in direct sun). Very helpful information!

  14. Excellent post. I notice that my kids and I don’t burn nearly as bad as I used to when I was eating junk food constantly (10 minutes meant a good burn). My kids, due to food allergies can only eat preservative/dye free foods and eat tons of fruits and veggies–they barely burn at all unless out in full sun in the heat of the afternoon. They are also used to wearing hats, as do I, and stay in the shade when the sun is the hottest. Looking into SkinDeep and what they have to say next.


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