29 September 2011

Confessions of a Mediocre Mother

We don't really use sunscreen.  I mean, if we are going to the beach or park for the whole day, I slather it on faces and arms and ears.  But not daily.  And my kids don't wear SPF clothing, with the exception of swim shirts for days at the beach.

For years we've heard about all the dangers of the sun, but some studies show evidence that moderate sun exposure can outweigh the risks of skin cancer (see this 2008 study).

I've never been all that great about using sun screen, but we also try to stagger our sun times with rest in the shade, and we pay attention for any warning signs of sunburn.

Here's why I do this:  I can absolutely tell a difference in the behavior of my children when their sun exposure decreases (by sun, I include cloudy days also).  Sun has vitamin D, and most experts will agree it is the best source of this vitamin.  When my Bigs both had jaundice as newborns, their doctors told me to take them out in the sun for 15-30 minutes at a time.  Interesting recommendation if the sun is nothing but evil.

Sunscreen blocks harmful rays, but it also blocks vitamin D absorption. My kids are happier with that vitamin D, so I let them get it.

Many people will argue that nutrition plays a more important role in sun protection than any sunscreen or sunblock. Here is a great blog post about it, and even Fox News recently reported foods that help protect you from the sun.

If you still want sunscreen (we still use it for extended periods in the sun), I encourage you to check out the skin deep database for safer alternatives to chemical sunscreens.  This is an excellent resource for many household, health, and beauty products, as it is an independent group that researches the toxicity of ingredients in thousands of items we keep in our homes.  You can search for a specific product to learn its safety level, or you can browse by category to shop for a safe product for your family.

As the summer's rays give way to the short and sweet days of fall, remember that your ability to absorb that vitamin D will decrease with the shortened hours of sunlight.  Take advantage of the sun while you can, and feel your spirits rise.

Oh, and be sure to head over to Sorta Crunchy for this and other great Green Resource posts...tons of great ideas all packed into one place.


  1. WE have had tremendous results with just upping the intake of coconut oil in our kids...we went to the beach for a month and no one burned....never used spf anything...And we have a redhead.
    Good post.

  2. Thanks for the confirmation. I was a little nervous posting this, but I see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  3. I'm another mum who only uses sunscreen for days at the beach. I always feel a little guilty when I see they slather on sunscreen at daycare when they're outside playing in the shade. My kids have never been sunburnt. Did you know Dutch paediatricians recommend you give your kids vitamin D supplements till they're at school age? I do this during the colder months only now but as babies my kids got vitamin D supplements daily.

  4. What a cute post title! I bet you are a great mommy! I love this!

  5. Liesbeth - I bet you have happy sun kissed kids also. Mine have never been burnt, and I have two with very fair skin.
    Katie - Well, we all do what we can, don't we? Thanks for commenting. I love your blog, by the way.