Want to avoid chemical sunscreen but not sure what to use instead? Here are some practical tips to cut back on sunscreen use without staing inside all summer.
By Joanna Rodriguez, Contributing Writer
We’ve been told for ages to slather ourselves and our children with sunscreen. We’ve grown to love the smell of Coppertone because it reminds us of summer and makes us feel nostalgic. And when we get that tube out of the drawer and open it up, we feel like we’re doing something good for our family.
But many of us are reconsidering.
As the dangers of chemical sunscreen become more and more known, many of us are trying to cut back on our sunscreen use. Here are a few practical tips for how to make that happen without staying inside all summer, and without turning into a lobster.
1. Know Your Skin
Some lucky people can spend all day in the sun and not burn and others burn within 5 minutes. Some of this is within your control (see “Boost Your Vitamin D” below), but some is just your God-given skin tone. So know yourself. Be careful. If you burn easily, you may want to pay special attention to the rest of these guidelines. You, yes you, can do summer without loads of sunscreen.
2. Don’t Be Ashamed of the Shade
If you are going to be outside for several hours, take breaks from the sun by finding a tree or tent or picnic shelter. Bring your kids with you for snack time or a special “shade time.” If they are sad to leave the fun, bring a game or craft they can do in the shade for a little while, and teach them about protecting their skin.
3. Be Careful During Peak Hours
It turns out that the peak hours for burning are also the peak hours for getting vitamin D from the sun. However, that doesn’t mean you need to stay out from 10-3 every day and risk a major burn. I find that as a young mother, I don’t have time to be outside for much of those peak hours anyway. Between lunch and afternoon naps, we are usually inside from at least 12-3. We often go outside during late morning or mid-late afternoon. If we’re lucky, that still falls in the “get your vitamin D” time period, but since we don’t stay out too long, we don’t risk burning. All this to say: find a balance, and figure out what works for your family!
4. Expose Yourself Gradually
Don’t jump into summer sun exposure too quickly, especially if you burn easily! Start with just 15 minutes a day, and gradually build up. This, combined with the next point, will allow you to increase your sun exposure with less worry.
5. Boost Your Vitamin D
This was a shocker when I first heard about it a few years ago: you can protect yourself from sunburn from the inside out! Get adequate vitamin D, and you will not burn as easily. Isn’t the body amazing? One more reason to take that Cod Liver Oil. 🙂
6. Wear a Rash Guard
Rash guards are another common sense solution if you are going to be in the sun for a long time at the beach or pool. Cover up more skin, and if you have to use sunscreen, you won’t need to use as much!
7. Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, applied to the skin, can be used as gentle sun protection. In addition, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil protect against sunburn when taken internally with food or as a supplement. So keep some in your kitchen and in your beach bag!
8. Use a Barrier Sunscreen When Necessary
When all else fails, do not turn to a chemical sunscreen for protection. Instead, go for one where the main ingredient is zinc oxide, perhaps in conjunction with titanium dioxide. They place a physical barrier on top of your skin (so they will make you look a little bit pasty white, but it’s worth it) instead of a potentially cancer-causing chemical reaction that seeps deeper and deeper into your body. I’ve used Badger with great results. Yes, it’s more expensive than your typical chemical-laden sunscreen, but if you follow these tips, maybe one tube will get you through the whole summer!
(Read more helpful information about sunscreen and the sun here and here.)
How will you be using less sunscreen this summer?
Good, common-sense advice… I grew up ONLY using sunscreen at the beach, and am so surprised now to see how people put it on their kids to run around in the backyard for ten minutes!
Thank you. I’m swearing off of mass-produced store-bought sunscreen, and yet we have very little pigmentation in our family 🙂 so we have to do SOMETHING while soaking up all that healthy vitamin D!
great article..although I would warn against going with no protection simply b/c you don’t burn. you can still get cancer from over exposure of the sun and never burn, I have a very dark skinned friend (italian) who had skin cancer and I dont believe she ever burned in her life. We use the expensive stuff with zinc oxide with great results 🙂
As someone whose job involves walking dogs for 3-4 hours a day, in the heat of the day, in Florida, I’ll definitely have to try a couple of these!
You can also check the cosmetics database at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ to research the safest sunscreens. They update it every year, so if a company has made theirs safer, you can find out. I try not buy any that aren’t 0 or 1 rating. It was a lot harder a few years ago, but more and more companies are making safer sunscreens.