Out in the sun

Here comes, or there goes, the sun­screen?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By AR­MIN BROTT

DEAR Mr Dad: I thought I was do­ing the right thing by slather­ing my oneyear-old with sun­screen when we go out­side, but I just read that the chem­i­cals in sun­screen could be more harm­ful than the sun. Now, what are we sup­posed to do?

Be­fore we get to the ac­tual ingredients of sun­screen, let’s talk about the vo­cab­u­lary, which can of­ten be con­tra­dic­tory, con­fus­ing, or both.

In June 2011, the US Food And Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to deal with this is­sue by com­ing up with new reg­u­la­tions for sun­screen la­belling, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing a “drug facts” box, for­bid­ding claims such as “sun­block” or “wa­ter­proof”, and clar­i­fy­ing which prod­ucts can be la­belled “broad spec­trum” (mean­ing that they pro­tect against both UVB and the more deadly UVA rays). Un­for­tu­nately, these re­quire­ments don’t go into ef­fect un­til sum­mer 2012.

Okay, back to ingredients. In a 2010 study, the US En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group, a non­profit watch­dog, re­ported that only 39 of the 500 sun­screen prod­ucts they ex­am­ined were safe and ef­fec­tive.

The study claims sun­screens flaunt false sun pro­tec­tion (SPF) rat­ings, that one com­monly used in­gre­di­ent, oxy­ben­zone, is a hor­mone-dis­rupt­ing chem­i­cal that can af­fect pu­berty, and an­other, retinyl palmi­tate (a de­riv­a­tive of vi­ta­min A), could ac­tu­ally ac­cel­er­ate some can­cers in­stead of pre­vent­ing them. But the em­pha­sis needs to be on the word “could” as the re­search is hardly de­fin­i­tive.

The Amer­i­can Academy Of Der­ma­tol­ogy, for ex­am­ple, main­tains that sun­screens – even those with oxy­ben­zone and retinyl palmi­tate – are safe for most peo­ple over the age of six months.

The Amer­i­can Academy Of Pe­di­atrics (AAP) agrees, but rec­om­mends that ba­bies un­der six months be kept out of di­rect sun­light and shouldn’t wear sun­screen ex­cept in very small ar­eas, such as their hands.

For ba­bies over six months, the AAP rec­om­mends sun­screen but says the best pro­tec­tion is lim­it­ing sun ex­po­sure – es­pe­cially around mid­day – and wear­ing pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, in­clud­ing a hat.

If you’re con­cerned about sun­screen chem­i­cals, look for “chem­i­cal-free” or “min­er­al­based” brands that don’t con­tain oxy­ben­zone.

These mainly use zinc ox­ide or ti­ta­nium diox­ide as the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent, both of which form an ac­tual bar­rier on the skin with­out be­ing ab­sorbed and start work­ing im­me­di­ately upon ap­pli­ca­tion.

But don’t go over­board. In small doses, the sun is ac­tu­ally healthy. Those UVB rays help our bod­ies pro­duce vi­ta­min D which is es­sen­tial for healthy im­mune sys­tems and bones. If you’re go­ing to be out in the sun for a few hours, you and your chil­dren need pro­tec­tion; if you’re just run­ning around for 10 min­utes, you should be okay (but check with your pae­di­a­tri­cian to be sure).

Here’s how to pro­tect ba­bies and tod­dlers from the sun:

> Limit ex­po­sure to di­rect sun­light, es­pe­cially when rays are strong­est.

> Use pro­tec­tive light­weight cloth­ing to cover up, in­clud­ing a wide-brimmed hat and sun­glasses (if they pull them off, keep putting them back on).

> If you’re not us­ing zinc or ti­ta­nium blocks, ap­ply sun­screen 30 min­utes be­fore go­ing out­side so it has plenty of time to get ab­sorbed into the skin. But re­gard­less of the type of sun­screen, reap­ply ev­ery two hours or af­ter swim­ming (no sun­screen is com­pletely wa­ter­proof). > Don’t fear the sun. A lit­tle ev­ery day is good for you. – Mc­Clatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices n Ar­min Brott is the author of TheMil­i­tary Fa­ther:AHands-OnGuide­ForDe­ployed Dads and The­Ex­pec­tant­Fa­ther:Facts,Tips, An­dAd­vice­For­Dads-To-Be. Read­ers may e-mail him at ar­min@askm­r­dad.com.

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