Tuesday, May 24, 2011

(Everybody's Free) To Wear Sunscreen

As many of you know, I was a lifeguard/Water Safety Instructor for a number of years at the critically-acclaimed Cedarburg Community Pool. We had to sit through a number on inservices on topics we'd never use, like "How to Handle Drowning Drunk Mexicans" and "Poop: The Real Thing or a Babe Ruth, and How to Tell the Difference Without Jumping In". (Oh wait, we DID have to use those inservice topics...) However, we did partake in the Pool Cool program, which teaches sun awareness to children.

Since it's that time of year (at least down in Texas it is. Wisconsin, not so much...) when the pools open and people are flocking to them for some relief, I thought I would impart some of my pet peeves and knowledge of sun awareness to y'all. I've also read some articles on sunscreen, because while I personally despise sunscreen I do put it on my kids because, well, they're kids and I'm their mom and it's what I'm supposed to do.

#1 - Sunscreen that is greater than SPF 30 provides very minimal extra protection.
We seem to think that in regards to sunscreen that the higher the number, the better the protection. That's not necessarily accurate when it comes to sunscreen. An SPF 30 rating has been found to protect the skin from 98% of harmful rays. As stated in the article, anything above an SPF 30 doesn't do much more. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/health/07real.html)

#2 - Please for the love of Pete DO NOT put sunscreen on while your child is running into the water. Be kind, think ahead... As a lifeguard, my personal favorite (note sarcasm) was when parents and progeny burst into the pool area, and Mom slathered up the gang and pushed them in the pool a minute later. Sitting on my guard perch, you can actually SEE the cloud of sunscreen floating off the children's skin and into the pool water, clogging up the filters and burning the eyes of the ungoggled underwater swimmers. Sunscreen needs time to sink into the skin, so the recommendations state to apply sunscreen 30 minutes (I've also read an hour) before entering the water.

#3 - Wet white T-shirts don't do nothin'. Thankfully I think this is starting to become a thing of the past, so I'll be brief. Tempted to put a t-shirt on your kid to ensure sun protection? A wet white t-shirt has an SPF of 3. Colored t-shirts don't do much more than that when wet. (http://www.skincancer.org/sun-protective-clothing.html)

#4 - Don't forget the forgotten parts. We all know the obvious places to put sunscreen - arms, legs, face, back. Take it from the experienced one - don't forget to lotion up the ears thoroughly. An ear sunburn sucks. Also don't forget down the middle of your nose - it's happened to me and I had an awesome skunk nose. It's also helpful to make sure to get sunscreen under the swimsuit (especially on girls' backs) because as we girls know, our swimsuit straps, especially as children, rarely stay put or they move. Tops of the feet are also a somewhat forgotten spot, especially the little piggies.

#5 - The purple sunscreen turns white for a reason. We've probably all seen the sunscreen that's tinted purple (or any other pastel color) so that you know if you've rubbed it all in properly. Not rubbing the purple down to a white does not mean your child will receive extra sun protection. So please, do not let your child run around looking like a Purple People Eater and rub that junk in.

#6 - Spray sunscreens ain't that great. I have a few scenarios I've witnessed in my day that make me dislike spray sunscreen. First example: Mom sprays soon-to-be Little Red full of sunscreen on a windy day. Unless you spray that thing very close up, most of the sunscreen is flying away. And you need to apply a good layer of it for it to be useful. Second example: It's not like a spray-on tan where you get sprayed and wait for it to dry. You need to rub in the lotion well, just like any other lotion. Third (and most unpleasant) scenario: Mom sprays, kid inhales the fine mist, kid chokes on the fine mist, kid vomits a not-so-fine mist. True story.

The moral of the story/blog: We all know that we need to slather on the 'screen. That isn't the debate. I am kind of a purist when it comes to sunscreen - I don't need the fancy shmancy spray 'screen or the purplicious goo, just give me the regular old SPF 30 to put on 30-60 minutes before hitting the water, and I'm good. Make your own decisions about what's best for your kids and family, and hopefully I've enlightened you about some of the reasons why the lifeguards are rolling their eyes (if you can see that behind their sunglasses). There are many more reasons for the eye-rolling, and I'll get into those later...

1 comment:

tjandjmkahrs said...

Thanks Liz!! I had heard most of of this stuff over the years myself, but thank you for the reminder. As you said we are not there yet here in WI, but one day it will come. Right!?!