Parents, you have read or heard about all of the potential dangers that the sun can pose to one of your children’s most vital organs….their skin. Summer is just nicely getting under way, so it is time to consider how to protect your children now and well into the future by selecting a sunscreen that is appropriate and protective.
Abby Yancey, Pharm.D., BCPS, will help you with your decision as she has done extensive research on the topic. Yancey, an Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, recently discovered, while looking for some child-friendly sunscreen, that the choices on the market posed a variety of potentially confusing choices for what should be an easy and straightforward decision. Knowing that even she, a specialist in internal medicine, teacher, and practicing Pharmacist, had questions like: “What is the best sunscreen for children?” and “What’s in my kid’s sunscreen?” she went to find out. Through her research, she unearthed many things and wanted to share her discoveries with other parents.
After having thought that she was right on the ball with having purchased sunscreen prior to it being needed for her children at preschool, she found out that the spray contained Oxybenzone, which is frowned upon by many preschools. Oxybenzone is a controversial chemical for the following reasons:
· Oxybenzone and other chemical products work by forming a thin layer on the skin surface and absorb the ultraviolet (UV) rays. Whereas physical UV filters, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, reflect UV rays away from the skin. Many sunscreens contain both chemical and physical UV blockers.
· When Oxybenzone was approved in 1978, it was praised as a great advance because it absorbs into the skin without leaving an unappealing white paste all over the body.
· In the past 35 years, the thinking has changed, leading some to believe oxybenzone can cause hormonal imbalance in people. Up to this point, the clinical significance of oxybenzone absorption in humans has not been established nor has any effect on hormones in humans, even with higher than normal topical doses.
· Some estimates say over 96% of the U.S. population has been exposed to oxybenzone.
Concerns about the Spray:
· Although the spray sunscreen sounds like a great and easy option some concerns exist including the safety of inhaling the product and applying enough to get adequate protection.
· If you decide to use, be sure to hold the container 4 to 6 inches from the skin and rub in evenly by hand. Do not spray directly into the face, spray on hands and then apply to face. Make sure to only spray in well-ventilated areas and be cautious if there is a lot of wind.
The sunscreens that do not contain Oxybenzone come in very small containers and cost a lot to purchase; thus dissuading many parents from purchasing them. The other issue is that these ‘other’ sunscreens are few and hard to come by. If parents want to use sunscreen, as notated as necessary, sometimes they are between a rock and a hard place.
Abby Yancey wants to lend other advice about sunscreen as well, based upon her discoveries. It includes:
· There are two kinds of ultraviolet rays. UVA rays are responsible for premature aging, whereas UVB rays are to blame for sunburns. The term “broad-spectrum” ensures that the product will be effective against both types of UV rays.
· SPF signifies the protection the sunscreen will give against UVB rays. Choose a product that is at least SPF 15, but preferably 30. Studies have shown that increasing the SPF value to greater than 50 does not improve efficacy, so save your dollars.
· Water resistant implies that the sunscreen is effective after 40 minutes in the water, whereas very water resistant is effective for up to 80 minutes.
We know that sun damage can lead to devastating cases of skin cancer. No matter your thoughts on the safety of Oxybenzone, it is imperative that you protect your children and yourself from the sun.
· Choose a “broad-spectrum” agent with at least SPF 30 protection to ensure adequate UVA and UVB coverage and protection.
· If you are worried about the absorption of oxybenzone, consider choosing a product with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, as there is no data to show that these agents are absorbed into the body.
· When applying sunscreen, be generous with the application. Aim for two tablespoons or a shot glass full and reapply every couple of hours.
· If playing at the beach or in a pool, invest in a water resistant product and reapply every 40-80 minutes.
· Consider buying UV protective clothing and eyewear. This can be extremely beneficial in younger children, as it can decrease the amount of areas that will require application.
· Most of all, have fun!
Now, as parents, you are in the know and like Abby said, go out and have some fun this holiday weekend!