Time for a few reminders about enjoying the summer safely. I’ve been fielding some very thoughtful questions about sunscreen safety and mosquito repellents for children, and I thought many of you would like to hear what I’ve found.
Most of us are aware that too much sun exposure increases our risk of skin cancer as well as premature skin aging, but you may need a reminder that most of our sun damage is done in childhood and adolescence. For this reason, it is especially important to cover up and apply your favorite SPF 30+ sunscreen to enjoy the sun sustainably. In our Northwestern climate, I know it can be easy to feel more than a little sun-deprived and yes, the sun feels fantastic after a long NW winter, but trust me- too much of a good thing (even in Portland) can result in a very unfortunate sunburn. I do think that depending on one’s complexion and personal + family history, moderate sun can be very healthful. It is helpful for some skin conditions like psoriasis, and it is our primary source of vitamin D, so go ahead and get 15 minutes or so a day if you can do so safely, but after that, go get some sunscreen on!
*Please note, infants under 6 months should be in the shade or well covered with clothing and light blankets, as their skin is especially delicate as well as absorptive for chemicals found in personal care products.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is non-profit organization that independently analyzes and reports on safety of personal care products as well as other environmental hazards and works for solutions and policy change. Their consumer product site, Skin Deep, is a tremendous source of information, and they recently reported on the efficacy and safety of chemicals routinely used in sunscreens in the U.S.
Link to List of Rated Sunscreens (Preview: Favorites included California Baby, Soleo, among others)
With increasing awareness of insect-born illnesses such as West Nile virus, many folks are more interested than ever in safe insect repellents. We have an astonishing variety of products available, ranging from low or high concentrations of DEET to oil of lemon eucalyptus and others. It is a great idea to try to prevent insect bites for ourselves and the young ones, but please do not use any insect repellent on infants under 2 months of age. Another potential pitfall is using a combination sunscreen + insect repellent product which carries the risk of over-exposure to the insect repellent due to the need for frequent re-applications of the sunscreen. To minimize risks with these products, always read and follow the instructions, observe the age limits, and be sure to wash off any residue. Also, I recommend reading the AAP notes on the topic (click here!). EWG has rated many insect repellents as well (click here!). I have also been recommending that parents consider using a low-toxicity repellent when needed on an infant’s clothing before dressing them, and taking advantage of light clothing that will minimize exposed skin.
I hope that’s helpful and that you are having a fantastic summer already!