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.
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.