Last Spring we moved across the country from the midwest to the southeast. When we found out our old neighbors were going to be only 4 hours away on their annual beach trip we decided to crash their vacation. We are really glad we did, we hope they are too! The kids had a blast, they had missed each other so much! There is nothing cuter than toddlers hugging toddlers!
In preparation for the beach, I gathered up the gear we had and purchased a few new items. My number one concern being at the beach is sun protection. Almost everything in this post is related to that.
A whopping 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation it only takes ONE severe (blistering) burn in childhood or adolescence to more than double the risk for melanoma later in life. (Yikes!)
However, I am hesitant to put just any sunscreen on J. There have been a slew of recent studies in the last decade and a half concerning the safety of ingredients in sunscreens. The data is mixed to say the least. Often studies conclude that the skin guards against deep penetration thereby protecting against cell toxicity and death. However, technological advances have allowed companies to produce sunscreens which shrink the active ingredients to nano particle level, meaning it is better absorbed by the skin.
Long regarded as safe, active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are now being questioned in their nano particle form. Ironically, while healthy skin seems to block these metal oxide nanoparticles, exposure to ultraviolet radiation increases the likelihood of penetration and cellular damage.
So, wearing sunscreen while in the sun is potentially unsafe!?!
Fortunately, researchers have begun testing these products on sunburnt pigs and even humans and so far it appears that even nanoparticles are not absorbed deep enough to cause real concern. However, it is still unknown how children’s more sensitive skin may react. And young children are especially important to protect because their skin barrier remains immature in the first two years of life. An important side note: DO NOT MIX SUNSCREEN AND BUG REPELLENT. The qualities of the sunscreen hyper enhance absorption of the bug repellent. If you are going where there are alot of bugs, hopefully there is also shade. Investment in UPF and bug repellent clothing may be in order.
Okay enough with all the science. What can we do about it? Here are my suggestions:
Obvious right? When you can’t find shade make your own. A few years ago we purchased this tent and matching blanket to use in our own backyard over the baby pool as well as on beach trips. It’s awesome and easy to fold and transport once you watch and memorize this youtube video (we have to re-watch it every year at the start of the season!) The whole family can fit inside this tent, it’s not just for baby. I love that this tent fits in a suitcase, has roll up side “windows,” and pockets for sand to anchor it in the breeze on the beach. Every time we take this to the beach people come up and ask about it.
One Step Ahead – Sun Smarties Family Beach Cabana Tent
Similar one if the one above isn’t available:Pacific Breeze EasyUp Beach Tent
Get a Great Sunhat!
I love these hats by Sunday afternoon. They are rated at a UPF of +50. They can get wet and dirty and they clean right off. J even wears his in the pool sometimes. The baby size fit J well through his second year. We purchased the child size once he was 3. I love that it has a safety release in case they happen to get caught on something and it protects the ears and back of the neck so well.
Get the safest sunscreen you can find!
This is the tough one. With technologies ever changing and research being a moving target, there are no guarantees. I think the EWG’s list of safe sunscreens is a good place to start (click here for the EWG best list) and their “Sunscreens don’ts” is a good way to narrow the playing field (click here sunscreen don’ts). Remember you can’t always be perfect, I’ve certainly used some of the don’ts before and in fact, I am going to review the ingredients in my own sunscreen once I finish this post! As parents, we are doing the best we can given the information we have. This is the one I settled on for J this summer. It is zinc oxide, but not nano particles. And it worked great. J didn’t get even the hint of a sunburn while at the beach! Sunscreens have improved alot since we were kids.
This is the easiest as it seems to be becoming the norm, but is it just me or is it more the norm for little boys to wear swim shirts than little girls? Look how cute this one is for little girls. This is like the one our friends had for their daughter at the beach. You can find swim shirts everywhere, Target, Babies R Us, and Costco for example– just looks for the UPF rating.