We’re experiencing a heat wave right now in Montreal. The temperature today is 32°C (90°F), and it feels like 38°C (100°F) with the humidity. And tomorrow? It’s going to be even hotter! You can have lots of fun in the sun, sure, but it can also turn nasty if you don’t protect yourself. In this kind of heat, protection is a must, especially for little ones with their sensitive skin.
Not all sunscreens are made alike, and not all ad campaigns offer a reliable portrayal of the actual benefits of any given sunscreen. A sunscreen “for kids” is not necessarily the best choice, or without any danger. It’s always best to check the list of ingredients. To help you make your decision, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put out a list of the safest sunscreens available in North America. These are some basic guidelines to help you make your choice:
Here are some useful tips from the EWG’s website:
Babies under 6 months should not be exposed directly to the sun because their skin has not yet developed enough melanin to keep them protected. Many manufacturers advise against the use of sunscreen on babies under 6 months of age, so shade and sunhats are a must!
Vitamin A (retinyl palminate) is good for the skin when ingested because it stimulates the production of melanin. In regular body creams, it acts as an anti-oxidant that slows the aging of the skin (not of great use to baby, but a little tidbit that might interest some moms). However vitamin A and sunscreen do not mix well. Combined with sunlight, vitamin A develops photocarcinogenic properties.
Sunscreens have either a mineral (zinc, for example), or non-mineral base. The EWG recommends mineral sunscreens, which penetrate less deeply into the skin, and therefore won’t change the skin’s composition. Non-mineral sunscreens may contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, which may act as a hormone disruptor in young children.
In any case, in the eyes of the EWG sunscreen should not be the primary method of protection against the sun’s rays, particularly for children. Best practices include wearing protective clothing, wearing hats, staying in the shade, and avoiding exposure to the sun during peak hours (between 11am and 3pm). When using sunscreen, it’s best to apply the cream one hour before going out, and then every 30 minutes once you’re outside.
And during a heatwave? Well… you might not feel like going outside at all!