Sunscreen stressors…can you relate??
On the heels of this past Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to finally speak up about something that has been on my mind, for a long time.
This past weekend, our family spent time outdoors, at our beautiful San Diego beaches, with several other families. It was a BLAST. Great conversations, kids had fun, good food, and great memories.
But here’s what I am referring to.
We have all been witness to the following scene…
Children emerge into the outdoors. They begin to scatter, excited to be kids in the wild, but WAIT!
The parent grabs the back of the shirt with one and as they reach for their mega 56 oz SPF 50+ sunscreen.
Wrestling matches and verbal protests ensue.
Children pull out all sorts of gymnastics moves in order to escape the palm full of white, cold, sunscreen coming at them at warp speed. (They also know they are now slippery, and the parent is less dexterous with a hand full of goo, so that helps their escape strategy).
The parent tries to get the sunscreen on quickly and evenly, while avoiding an accidental eye or mouth application because of the wiggly worm.
But now there is a new kid on the block.
Not only are the children complaining of the cold sensation, but now they are coating their lungs, nasal passages, and eyeballs with the stuff.
(Even more direct access to the bloodstream. Thaaaaaatssss great. More on that later though)
The battle between the kids who only want to run and play with their friends, and the parents who only want to protect their children from what they perceive as a super danger – continues. The energy is almost frenetic….and desperate.
Eventually, the child breaks loose, usually before the parent is ready to let them go, but at that point, the parent thinks, “Eh….good enough.”
Joking aside, I get sad, and conflicted.
Maybe some of you can relate.
Inside, I am desperately wanting to reach out and share what I know.
But I also know that many people don’t want to hear it, and don’t want unsolicited advice.
And I get that. I don’t like unsolicited advice, either.
So even if I get over that obstacle of giving advice (which pretty much stops me every time anyway), and I actually DO say something, I know most people will either:
- Not believe me
- Think I’m just one of those wacko paranoid moms who keeps her kid in a plastic bubble and thinks the world is a very, very, dangerous place
- See me as a threat to children’s health everywhere for sharing such nonsense
- All of the above
I know what they are thinking. After all, the FDA would never approve of a product that was actually bad for people, would they? And we don’t want to give our kids cancer, right? To top it off, I have a dear friend who is a well-known dermatologist, who would highly disapprove of my sharing that I don’t use sunscreen all that often in our family and daring to promote that idea.
For the record – This does not mean I am suggesting you should get sunburned. EVER.
It just means there are other means to prevent sunburns, which also help the body prevent cancer more than chemical laden sunscreens.
Here is what I wish I could say to them (if I felt they might actually hear me).
- Exposure to sunshine promotes natural vitamin D synthesis, which prevents cancer – and sunscreen prevents this from happening.
- The toxic chemicals in the sunscreen can cause cancer, and some become even more toxic when exposed to sunlight.
- The chemicals in sunscreens are hormone disruptors.
- Antioxidants act similarly to an internal sunscreen and can prevent free radical damage caused by UVA rays.
- Diet can make a big difference in preventing sun damage and reducing cancer risk.
- The Environmental Working Group found that many higher SPF sunscreens do not provide additional protection, which leads to a false sense of security and increased risk of burning
- Cancer is not caused by burned skin alone – there are many other contributing factors, which are even more significant than sun exposure.
Then I wish I could also share this…
Instead of throwing toxic chemicals onto the delicate sponge that covers my child’s body (otherwise known as skin), which prevents the body’s natural cancer defense system from kicking in, I do the following in my family:
- Seek shade whenever possible during long days outdoors
- Wear cotton clothes or cover up exposed areas
- Wear hats
- Eat well and don’t include junk food as part of your standard menu.
- Use fish or krill oil for omega 3 EFAs
- Eat raw vegetables
- Reduce processed foods
- Eat organic foods as often as possible
- Get gradual exposure to build up a tan, to prevent burning
- Use healthier forms of sunscreen, available at many health food stores. I like Mercola’s sunscreens (and bug spray too, for that matter).
But sadly, I don’t actually say any of this. Unless someone asks me because they know my professional background.
I get mad at myself that I don’t say these things to more people.
Isn’t this what I’m supposed to do if I’m professionally educated in these subjects? And don’t I talk about always being authentic, and being brave and courageous in living my values? Isn’t this one of the tenets of conscious parenting? Isn’t this what I’m teaching my daughter to do as well?
So I sit silently, feeling sad, and frustrated. Maybe I’m not doing so well in this aspect of conscious parenting. But then I realize, there is a difference between proudly living my life according to my values and ideals, and something totally different about imposing mine on someone else.
But wait! It gets worse….
In addition to this dilemma, as though I needed anything else in the mix…. something else happened this past weekend which brings up another piece of this puzzle.
As the other children in our group outing were getting bathed in their sunscreens, the other parents offered to put some on MY child, too, and began aiming the stuff at my kid.
And I thought, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” As I sprinted towards them over coolers, beach umbrellas, and razor scooters, and threw myself in between the spray mist and my child’s skin.
I ran interference and politely declined the offer, mumbling something about our own sunblock and she was all set.
I then proceeded to get stunned looks from the other parent witnesses to this scene, because I thwarted their generous, kind, helpful offer. (Isn’t more sunscreen better than less? What’s wrong with that lady?)
Then the looks turned to something else, kind of as though I was sending my child to a den of wolves telling my child they’d be just fine.
As I walk away, I think to myself, “Why does this have to cause a socially awkward situation?” Unfortunately, it pretty much does.
While I may choose to avoid certain things in my life, I also don’t freak out if junk food comes near my child once in a while. While I’d rather none of that junk existed, and we just returned to eating whole organic foods all the time, the stress and negative energy I feel worrying about that takes a toll probably greater than the food would itself in my long term health.
I wish I could just say it. Because I’m not just giving my parental opinion, I’m giving a professional one. But I resist. There are repercussions, and consequences, to doing so.
Truth be told, I actually don’t really care if they think I’m a wacko. And to be honest, by NOT sharing what I know, I am MORE likely a threat to children’s health everywhere.
In the meantime, I am sure I’m missing the chance to reach the minority of parents who probably would embrace this type of information.
I guess that is why I’m writing this in an effort to do my part. Maybe my writing this will help some others out there who feel the way that I do, and they can share this post as a way to open up the subject with their families and friends.
Can you relate to this dilemma? How do you handle the group outing sunscreen scenario?
To check the “healthiness” of your sunscreen, visit www.ewg.org