Thursday, July 3, 2008

Today's parenting debate: The Sunscreen Wars

The issue: Charlotte is a very, very, very fair-skinned child with light blue eyes. Matt and I both have fair skin and burn a bit in the sun, and I have sensitive skin that gets rashes randomly. It is not unheard for me to suddenly break out in a rash from a lotion or moisturizer that I've used before. Charlotte seems to have inherited this trait. A few months ago we asked our neighbor (and a pediatrician, though not ours) what she recommended as a sunscreen for the babe. Dr. Mom gave us several sample packets of Baby Coppertone SPF 50. We used this on Charlotte a couple times - the first time went okay, but the next couple times caused charlotte's face to break out in a bumpy red rash. And as soon as her face itched, she rubbed her hands on her face, making it worse. She also got bumps on her arms and thighs. So we tried another sunscreen from Babies R Us. It came with her sunglasses, which we also needed for sun protection. This sunscreen was okay the first time we applied it, but the next couple of times we got a rash again. It was obviously bothering her, she cried and rubbed her face until we scrubbed her down with some baby wipes.

So, the debate is this. What sunscreen/block do we get for Charlotte?

Matt's vote: whatever's cheap
Jenn's vote: hypoallergenic, low-chemical, mineral sunscreen
Charlotte's vote: something that doesn't give me a rash!

Jenn's concerns
I recently read two separate articles in two separate publications on how there is no FDA oversight of sunscreen. This means two things: 1) there is no way of regulating that sunscreen is as effective as its' manufacturer claims and 2) that no one is regulating how safe sunscreen is for infants. Most pediatricians are more concerned about sunburn and UVA/UVB exposure than chemical absorption, but it is a concern for me, thank-you-very-much. Babies are tiny, their systems are tiny, and the amount they absorb through their skin is proportionately much higher than the amount absorbed by an adult.

Because of this, some sunscreens are now being made to block suns rays using minerals, rather than chemicals. As my mother-in-law could tell you, minerals are very popular right now in the cosmetic industry because they can coat very finely without irritation. This forms a physical rather than chemical barrier against the sun's rays. Mineral sunscreen is the hip new thing for all us paranoid parents - but it's not the hip factor that's attractive to me, it's the less irritating, less chemical factor.

The best I can remember is that I got this info from this month's Vegetarian Times Carrot & Stick column-no link, sorry/'s Droolicious column/Same Mama's Safer Sunscreens.

Matt's concerns
Anything bought at "natural" stores (particularly Whole Foods and Cornucopia) is a rip-off. Spending all that money on baby sunscreen is ridiculous. We can't afford it.

Charlotte's concerns
The last two sunscreens you guys tried on me gave me big red welts and pink eyes and I cried until you wiped it off. Coppertone Baby SPF 50 and BabyFun SPF 45, I think they were. It sucked. I was cranky through the whole first half of the Taste of Amherst. Also, I know I have light eyes and light skin and the sun makes me squint and sneeze and my eyes water - but I hate those baby sunglasses. Can't you parents just follow me around with a parasol all the time? Or keep moving the trees so the sun isn't in my eyes?

I realize that this entry seems unfairly weighted against Matt, but this is what so many baby debates come down to - I feel like I've done my research and I'm trying to make an informed decision about the care of our child, and Matt is concerned that we don't spend too much or get ripped off. To that I say - Hyland's teething tablets! Besides, this is my blog.

We don't yet have a decision. We're supposed to "discuss" it when I get home. My proposed solution is this - both Cornucopia and Whole Foods have tester bottles of several sunscreens. We should go and stick some sunscreen on Charlotte and see if she gets a rash. If she doesn't, we should buy it. Matt's proposed solution - buy whatever's cheap that we haven't tried yet.

Whatever we do, we need to do fast - over this long weekend I really want to get the kid outside.


  1. OK, this totally doesn't really help with the sunblock issue, but in case you don't find the ideal solution, there's always the low-tech route: dress her in light-weight clothing that covers her arms and legs, try to find a shady place outside, and only stay outside in the sun for a little while / go out later in the day when the sun isn't as strong?

    This doesn't eliminate the need for a sunblock that doesn't cause a rash (poor Charlotte!) but maybe at least you can use less of that fancy shmancy bank-breaking all natural stuff. ;-)

  2. Thanks for the ideas! Yeah, the one time I tried the whole sleeves and/or pants, Matt freaked out the whole time that she might be too hot - same with his mom. Aren't first time parents fun? We did find a sunscreen that hasn't broken the bank or caused a rash, so far - whew!

  3. Axel (and I) have the same complexion, and he's sensitive, too. THe Kiss My Face spray even gave him a rash. The only non-rash stuff so far has been the California Baby and the Dr Haushka - the thick white physical blocker kinds. He still HATES the application, but it's not quite as bad. I've also heard that some people have good luck with the Blue Lizard brand, but I haven't been able to find that.

  4. My ped specifically recommended Blue Lizard, but I haven't found it around here, and I'm not motivated to order it since we started using JASON organics sunblock. It's a 30 SPF, it might be called Sunbrella? It works great, no rashes so far (knock on wood). Does smell like Juicy Fruit gum, though. Weird.