green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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Sunscreen is More Dangerous than the Sun

In recent years, sunscreen has received increasingly bad press, including claims that sunscreen chemicals cause more cancer than the sun itself. It’s true that many sunscreens contain toxic chemicals. However, you’ve got to keep your chemical fears in perspective. Almost all sunscreen studies thus far have been based on petri dish or animal test data, not human data, while skin cancer risks due to sun exposure have been linked in human studies. Many sunscreens do contain some icky stuff, but sun damage is nothing to sneeze at and far more dangerous than many families know.

Consider these facts from the American Cancer Society:

  • More than 2 million cases of skin cancer occur annually in the United States.
  • There are more cases of skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined.
  • 1 in every 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point during their lifetime.
  • 5 or more sunburns during your lifetime doubles your risk of developing skin cancer.
  • A full 80% of lifetime sun damage occurs in childhood.
  • Childhood sunburns are linked to skin cancer in adulthood.
  • Melanoma is the second most common cancer for women in the 20-29 age bracket and one person dies every 67 minutes from this disease.

The American Cancer Society, among other health organizations notes that the best way to help protect your skin from sun damage and to protect yourself from skin cancer is to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety practices, which includes wearing properly applied sunscreen. All this said, chemicals in sunscreens are a fairly moot point, and a bad excuse. Nowadays there are plenty of low chemical, natural sunscreens on the market. See the guides below to find a low-chemical sunscreen.

+ EWG Safe Sunscreen Guide

+ Safe Mama Sunscreen Cheat Sheet

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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Safe Sunscreen is Too Expensive

In conjunction with the theory above that sunscreen chemicals cause more cancer than unprotected sun exposure, I’ve heard many green families make statements such as, “I’d use safe sunscreen, but it’s too expensive!” This is a 100% warranted statement as “safe” sunscreen can cost anywhere from $6 to $12 an ounce. Luckily, this excuse for not wearing sunscreen is a bad one. Not only did EWG release a list of safe and affordable sunscreens last year, but they organized the safe sunscreen guide with little price notes, so it’s easier than ever to find an affordable sunscreen. Also, your have to put costs into perspective. The American Academy of Dermatology points out that, “The estimated total direct cost associated with the treatment of melanoma in 2010 was $2.36 billion in the United States.” On top of that, kids and adults visit doctors every year due to sunburns, another cost to factor in, not to mention you’ll have to deal with upset and crying kids, because sunburns really hurt. Lastly, researchers recently found that side effects of sunburns may cost the economy as much as $40 million+ each year in lost work days. If you’re not wearing sunscreen because you think you can’t afford it, check out our affordable sunscreen guide.

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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You Only Need Sunscreen in the Summer

Most families only wear sunscreen in the summer, but really your skin needs year-round protection. In the winter you’re less likely to get a sunburn, as the sun sits at a different angle, but radiating ultraviolet light rays are still present. Also note that in the winter, UV rays easily reflect off the snow. Cutting your exposure to UV rays all the time, not just in summer, is what helps lower your risk for developing skin cancer.

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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A Little Sunscreen Goes a Long Way… Wrong!

The majority of families who do wear sunscreen aren’t wearing enough. The American Melanoma Foundation notes that most people only use about 1/3 of the recommended amount of sunscreen. I believe it. I’ve seen people ask the following question online countless times, “Is expired sunscreen from last year safe to use?” For one thing, you need sunscreen year-round, so you shouldn’t have ANY leftover sunscreen from last summer. Secondly, if you’ve got expired sunscreen, there’s no way you’re wearing enough, because when worn correctly, sunscreen won’t have time to expire. The Mayo Clinic says that you need to apply sunscreen generously and frequently, using 1 ounce (the amount in a shot glass) for an adult, while half an ounce is the correct amount for a smaller child. When outside for extended periods, you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours. This means if you you spend all day at the beach, one 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen (the whole bottle) is the amount you should be using for one adult or two kids.

+ How to Apply Sunscreen Correctly

+ CDC Guide to Correct Sunscreen Use

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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Vitamin D Deficiency is More Dangerous than Sun Damage

One of the most popular excuses I’ve seen regarding sunscreen avoidance is that vitamin D deficiency is not only running rampant, but that it’s way more dangerous than unprotected sun exposure. I get why people worry. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause weak bones and although the links aren’t clear, some believe that vitamin D deficiency is associated with asthma, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. However, this vitamin D situation is seriously blown out of proportion. Here’s the real deal – the Mayo Clinic, along with numerous other health organizations notes that as little as 10 minutes per day of sun exposure is considered enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency. If you’re not outside at least 10 minutes a day, I’d rethink your activity plan. Vitamin D is also found in many foods such as fish, eggs and fortified milk. You can also discuss vitamin D supplements with your doctor.

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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There’s “No Sun in my Area

I live in Portland Oregon, known for rain and clouds — so the sunscreen excuse I hear most often is, “I don’t need sunscreen because there’s no sun here.” People living in other non-sunny places say it too. The real fact is that the sun shines across the entire world, not just in Arizona, California and other “hot” areas. It’s true that not all sunlight is “equal” in UV concentration. UV intensity partially depends upon the time of year, as well as where you live and UV rays are almost always strongest during the summer months in the USA. That said, UV rays don’t go away when summer ends. UV rays do exist all over the world and during all kinds of weather, meaning you’re exposed even when it’s cloudy and chilly. For example, even on typical cloudy days in Portland, I’ve seen the EPA issue UV alerts due to stronger than average ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If you want to check the UV exposure risks in your own area, head to the EPA UV Index and enter your zip code.

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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My Family Wears Sun Protective Clothing

Sun protective clothing and summer eye protection is a great idea. However, protective clothing is unlikely to 100% protect you from the sun. This is especially true of kids who tend to mess with clothing, pulling it off and up and tearing their hats off. Additionally, unless you’re wearing a ski-mask, gloves and heavy shoes, it’s very likely part of your skin is still exposed to UV rays. Lastly, as you wash sun protective clothing, some of the sun protection factors may wear down. Also consider activities like swimming, where clothing won’t help. Most health organizations suggest you wear both sunscreen and sun protective clothing for full coverage.

green kids, kids sunscreen, natural sunscreen, safe sunscreen, skin cancer, spf, sun damage, sun dangers, sun protection, sun safety, uv rays, sunscreen myths
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We Stay Indoors All Summer Long

Staying inside all summer long will for sure cut your risk of sun exposure and skin cancer, but seriously, what a miserable summer that would be. On top of that, remember, you’re exposed to UV rays year-round, so if staying indoors is your sun protection of choice, you’ll be staying inside your whole life. Not much fun, right? Is it more important to limit sunscreen or increase outdoor time is a question I’ve thought about a lot. While you have to answer this for yourself, here’s what I think…

Most health organizations recommend you avoid the hottest summer sun between 10am and 4pm each day. Logically, how on earth does that work? My son goes to an active outdoor-based summer camp and plays sports year-round. He likes to ride his scooter and run around outside. We hike all the time and while we sometimes take a night hike, we’re usually out during the day. If I keep my son indoors for 6 hours a day what will his life be like? My take is that his life would suck. Do I want to keep my child inside his whole life? No I don’t. I believe kids belong outside and active, so honestly, avoiding the sun during peak hours (all day) is not workable for us. That said, my son wears sunscreen which allows him to play outside and stay active and healthy. Don’t let your sunscreen issues keep your family trapped inside.

RELATED | Sun-Safety Tips & Top-Rated Sunscreens

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