Summer is here to stay (I hope) and my mind has been set on sun safety. I will go ahead and admit that I am a paranoid mama. The sun can be so amazing, and fun, but it can also put our families at risk if we are not careful. I am not just talking about sunburns either….
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.
Oh mister sun…
I am not a stranger to the sun. I LOVE sun bathing, I love all the activities that are way more fun when the sun is out, and I love how it lightens my hair and darkens my skin all at the same time. What I don’t love is how I feel after a day of basking in its rays. You know you’ve heard someone say, “the sun takes a lot out of you.” Well, my friends, that is the truth. When you are not practicing sun safety, it can zap your skin and your energy in no time.
The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause skin damage, as well as heat (duh) that can dehydrate. There are three types of UV rays, but UVA and UVB are the most harmful.
Most of the UV radiation on earth is UVA rays. UVA rays are those that are commonly used in tanning beds, can cause wrinkles, and other skin damage. They cause this damage because they can penetrate to the second layer of skin.
UVB rays only reach the top layer of the skin BUT they are known to damage the DNA of the skin. Because of this they are strongly linked to skin cancer. On top of that, UVB rays are typically the ones that cause a sunburn, and can do so within 15 minutes.
UV rays damage more than just the skin though, they can also cause cataracts later in life! Therefore, sunglasses are your best bet to protect those baby blues. Who knew that they were more than just a fashion statement??
Dehydration is one of the most common effects of not practicing sun safety. It can happen pretty quickly on a hot day, and even quicker if your doing anything rigorous, like exercise, or consuming caffeine or alcohol (so just about at every picnic, right?). Children and the elderly are at an even higher risk of dehydration than healthy adult aged person, and need to be sure that they are drinking enough fluids to replace what they’re losing through sweat and urination.
Most people don’t realize that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already on your way to (or have reached) dehydration. Older adults in particular don’t feel thirst usually until the point of dehydration. Because of this, thirst isn’t the best predictor of hydration.
What do I watch for?
The symptoms of dehydration can be different for children and adults. In children you can look for irritability, infrequent wet diapers, crying without tears, sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot, and exhaustion. For adults dehydration may present as extreme thirst, exhaustion, dark colored urine, infrequent urination, and dizziness.
In many cases dehydration can be corrected with an increase of fluids, but not always. If someone you love cannot keep fluids down, is not conscious, excessively sleepy, or seizing you need to get them medical attention immediately. In worst case scenarios dehydration can lead to heat stroke, seizures due to electrolyte loss, and hypovolemic shock.
So, how do we prevent it?
Drink, drink, drink! I’ve heard anywhere from eight 8 oz glasses of water to 1 gallon daily. Personally I strive to drink half of my body weight, in ounces, daily. So say I weigh 120lbs (in my dreams), I should be drinking 60 oz daily. BUT these recommendations are a baseline. If you are outside in the heat, or exercising at all, you should increase that amount. Your goal should have your urine be clear or light yellow.
The best way to get this much water in is to keep a water bottle handy at all times. When we go anywhere, we all have our cups or water bottles with us, just to keep it easy and on our minds. My boys have great little stainless steel water bottles that they love! Some even use a water bottle like this to help keep them on track with their water intake.
Protecting your skin from the sun
The other major risk of the sun is sunburns and down the road, skin cancer. It is incredibly important to remember that just because you’re not getting burned, does not mean that damage isn’t occuring. This is why covering your and your family’s skin with sunscreen or a sunproof fabric is SO very important.
Sun Safety: Sunscreen
Sunscreen is an easy win to protect your skin from the sun…. or is it?! I remember when I was younger I only wanted to use Banana Boat brand because it smelled so yummy. Now, I am looking for much more in my sunscreen.
Sunscreens can protect our skin through one of three ways. They can block the UV rays using a chemical filter, a mineral filter, or a mixture of the two. In recent years, the sunscreen industry has come under fire for using chemical filters that not only can harm the environment, but use ingredients that are showing links to hormonal disturbances and cancer. One of these ingredients is that has been very common in sunscreen is Oxybenzone. This has been found in the blood, urine, and breast milk of those who use it, and is not recommended for use by the EWG. You can read the full article about sunscreen ingredients here, but to summarize it, only TWO UV filters were found safe to use in sunscreens: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide.
I really love the EWG website to help find safer products to use for my family and their sunscreen list is no exception. Here is their 2019 Guide to Sunscreens for Kids. I highly recommend reviewing it before purchasing a sunscreen for yourself or your child. They rate them based off active and inactive ingredients, so you can click on one you are thinking about, find their rating, and why it is rated what it is.
Now, sunscreen is only going to work if its applied appropriately. Sunscreen should be applied to all areas of bare skin at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Don’t forget the tricky spots like your ears, back of your neck, or the part of your hair! It usually takes about an ounce of sunscreen to fully protect an adult! Lastly, it’s important to know that using sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old is not advised.
For continuous protection, make sure you are reapplying after swimming or sweating, and at least every two hours.
My favorite sunscreen
Last year we tried a few different sunscreens, and I’m a pretty tough critic. I hate a nasty smell, a gooey/greasy feeling, and the chalky residue, and want at least a SPF 30+. Also, I am applying this to 2 year old twins, so ease of application is a must! I do not use spray sunscreens because I don’t want us inhaling chemicals, and I don’t think the coverage is adequate. Lastly, I’d like to not break the bank.
My personal favorite is the Think Baby sunscreen! It has a fantastic rating on the EWG list, goes on easy and smooth, doesn’t leave residue, and doesn’t have a strong scent. It isn’t cheap by any means, but is far from the priciest. Also, its conveniently available at the grocery store that I work at and on Amazon (hello, Prime!). I know a lot of people who use Blue Lizard sunscreen as well and rave about it. It’s also rated one of the best, but it was a little pricier (for a bigger bottle). I haven’t personally tried it though.
Sun Safety: Cover up
This is pretty obvious, but really the best way to practice sun safety is to stay out of the direct sunlight. However, if you are in the sun, cover up! Now they make so many great sun shirt/rash guard options for children and adults that help to add another layer of protection! To continue, I always put a hat of some sort on my boys to help protect their little heads, where I can’t put the sunscreen!
Lastly, when the boys were infants we bought a great pop up tent that blocked the rays and was so easy to use! I highly recommend it if you have a little ones and are planning on a day at the park or the beach! Not only is it shade, but it provides a UPF 50+ against UV rays!
Summer loving had me a blast…
Summer is seriously such a FUN season! Nothing ruins the summer fun as quick as dehydration or sunburn! I really hope that you were able to find a tidbit or two of sun safety that will help you to enjoy as much of the summer as you can! Get out there, and have fun swimming, boating, playing sports, gardening- or whatever the heck you love to do in the summer, now that you have the tools to stay safe and healthy in the sun! I hope you all have a fabulous summer!!!
Your Millennial Mama,