Summer is on its way! Well, here in Texas, it may not be officially summer yet, but the weather has definitely turned summery.
The forecast is in the upper 80s as far as the eye can see. This means we’ve been spending more time outdoors – before it gets to the sweltering point come July.
The boys and I have hit up lots of parks lately and there have been a few times I’ve forgotten to apply sunscreen before we head out. Oops! We’re a fair-skinned family so it doesn’t take long for sun exposure to turn us into lobsters.
Last week I got it together and put together a “mom emergency” bag including sunscreen for the boys. Patting myself on the back for that one!
But it got me thinking. I’ve already cleaned up our normal day-to-day beauty supplies and replaced them with non-toxic alternatives. But we weren’t using sunscreen often at that point, so I hadn’t put much thought into it.
We Need Sun Exposure
Now, we all need some sun exposure. Direct sunlight causes a reaction to take place that creates vitamin D through Vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D has multiple roles in our bodies, including:
- Maintaining healthy bones and teeth
- Supporting the immune and nervous system
- Regulating insulin to help with diabetes prevention and management
- Supporting lung function and cardiovascular health
It doesn’t take much sun exposure for your body to make an appropriate amount of vitamin D though. Just 5-30 minutes should do the trick, depending on the fairness of your skin (fairer skin takes less time) and your proximity to the equator (closer needs less exposure).
Limiting Sun Exposure
Once you’ve hit your sun exposure sweet spot, it’s time to sunscreen up! I fall into the 5-minute category, so basically as soon as we’re set up where we are going to play, it’s time to apply.
Now traditional sunscreen will say what kind of rays it blocks – normally UVA and UVB rays. But did you know it still allows other types of rays through that can cause damage to the deeper tissues of your skin? Ouch!
So you have two options when it comes to sunscreen – a physical barrier or a chemical barrier. If you’ve been around here long, you know I try to avoid as many chemicals as possible!
Physical barrier sunscreen uses Zinc Oxide to physically block all the sun’s rays. It sits on the skin’s surface and creates a barrier between the sun and your skin. You know the stereotypical image of the surfer with the white nose? That’s zinc oxide.
Don’t panic that you’re going to have to spend your beach vacation smeared head-to-toe literally white as a ghost! I’ve got some less embarrassing options for you at the end of this post.
So how can you tell if the sunscreen you have is a physical or chemical sunscreen? Easy – look at the ingredients! If zinc oxide is listed you’re using a physical barrier.
I also recommend you use a stick sunscreen rather than a lotion or liquid. Even with all natural ingredients, when suspended in liquid, the zinc tends to separate which could leave you with unintended exposure. It’s best to just avoid that issue!
As with all sunscreens, reapplying is still vitally important to reducing over-exposure. Set a timer on your phone to regularly reapply. I made a rule early on with my kids that when the timer goes off, we put on more sunscreen or we go home.
My Personal Recommendations
Badger Balm – This is the brand you’re most likely to find in your local superstore. It’s got a very simple formula you can feel great about. This is the most “white looking” option, however. I suggest using it on your kids – they don’t seem to mind.
Primal Life Organics Sun Up Ultra Stick – You won’t find an SPF listed on this one (those are assigned by the FDA) but it contains zinc oxide AND red raspberry seed oil. Red raspberry seed oil has a natural sun protection factor so this one gets you double protection. It’s the only formulation I know of that combines the two.
Beautycounter’s Protect Stick – This option is probably the most mom-friendly. It hardly leaves any residue at all! It comes in a body and face version. They’re the same formula, but I find the face version nice to have around since it’s extra portable.
Or, if you’d rather, you can make your own sunscreen using my simple DIY sun recipes.