Well folks, it’s official: summer is here in North Carolina.  And with weather this gorgeous, it’s a crime (and OK, maybe a little impossible) to stay inside all day.  But, before you venture out with your little ones, make sure you’re staying safe in the sunshine.

We already know it’s important to slather on the SPF when we go outside, but not all sunscreen is created equal, and sunscreen alone isn’t enough to keep you safe from the sun’s harmful rays.  As hard as it may be to keep on, try and stick a hat on your little one’s head as often as you can when you’re out, and don’t overlook rashguards – for boys AND girls.  iPlay has a great selection of hats and rashguards that have a protection of SPF 50+ and are super cute too.

Also, be selective when choosing a sunscreen.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • A high SPF doesn’t mean you can spend more time soaking up the rays.  The sun protection factor (what “SPF” stands for) only serves to protect you against UVB radiation, which is what causes sunburns; it has nothing to do with the sun’s UVA rays, which accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer.  The FDA is considering limiting SPFs to 50+, which is the standard in other countries; numbers higher than that are superfluous.  Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF between 15 and 50, and reapply often.
  • Be sure to read the labels.  The ingredients in your sunscreen matter.  Avoid the chemical oxybenzone, which is a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and can disrupt the hormone system.  Instead, look for ingredients like zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX.  Also, watch out for vitamin A (commonly referred to as retinol or retinyl palmitate).  While Vitamin A is an important part of a daily diet, you don’t want to have too much, and the benefits of rubbing it into your skin are debatable.
  • In terms of protection, cream lotions are the way to go.  Spray lotions may be harmful to inhale, and it’s way too easy to miss spots when you’re spraying a kid who’s on the go.
  • Remember that sunscreen should not be used on infants under 6 months, and should not be the only source of sun protection on people of any age.

For help picking the best sunscreen for your family, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens.

And of course, whenever possible, avoid the sun during peak hours and spend some time in the shade.  Simple steps to avoid sunburns this summer will result in a lot more fun for everyone!