Dermatologists believe that sunscreen is the most important product available to help block ultraviolet light while out in the sunlight. Since most types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to UV radiation, parents tend to lather sunscreen on themselves and their children before heading outdoors.
But a recent article published in the Daily Mail featured a few parents who refuse to use commercial sunscreen on their children, claiming the chemicals found in these products could cause more harm than good.
Sophie Kirkham, a 39-year-old mom who works as a HypnoBirthing teacher in London, doesn’t apply sunscreen to her eight-year-old son Freddie. She told the Daily Mail that she was raised to wear sunscreen, but on vacation once noticed that the sunscreen “was stripping the nail varnish off her toenails.”
When her son was young she applied a sunscreen for babies to his skin, but claims it made his skin sore. Her current preferred method is “to be sensible with him, keeping him out of the sun when it’s at its strongest.”
Stephanie Buckley, a 36-year-old mom from Somerset, England, said that she’d never want her or her kids to burn, but she doesn’t believe the chemicals in sunscreen are healthy. Like Kirkham, Buckley says her children sit in the shade or play inside when it gets hot.
“Mothers are taught not to put anything containing chemicals on a baby’s skin, so when I looked up the ingredients in suncream, I was horrified,” said Buckley, who has two young daughters — Beatrice, 4, and Aurelia, 1). “When Beatrice goes to preschool I have to put something on her because I can’t guarantee that she’ll be kept out of the sun. I use organic sunscreen which uses zinc oxide to block UVA and UVB rays. When we’re together, I prefer not to use anything.”
While using coconut oil to moisturize her own skin, Buckley says she currently covers her daughters in sun suits and hats and makes sure they aren’t in the sun when it’s hottest.
“I also make sure we eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, because I read that the antioxidants boost the skin’s sun protection.”
Her husband Gareth uses sunscreen, but Stephanie said he still gets burnt even though he “slathers” himself in cream.
“I believe big cosmetic companies are more interested in profits than safety. I worry that the chemicals we put on our skin are contributing to illnesses including cancer.”
Dr. Fred Weksberg, owner and medical director of The Weksberg Centre for Cosmetic Dermatology in Toronto, says that parents who don’t apply sunscreen to their children are putting them at risk. He tells Yahoo Canada that there’s no real evidence that sunscreens on the market have any damaging side effects.
“Yes, you can get eczema or an allergy to it. But that’s not really a health issue — that just means you need to stay away from something that you’re allergic to,” he noted. “So until I see some real evidence that these things are harmful, I’m just going to continue to prescribe them. In fact they would be pulled off the market by the government if they are proved to be harmful.”
Still, the use of commercial sunscreen remains controversial, even among celebrities. Last summer, MTV “Jersey Shore” alum Jenni “JWoww” Farley clapped back at haters who accused her of not putting sunscreen on her (then) two-month-old baby Greyson when he was in the pool.
The 31-year-old claims she created her own natural sunscreen.
“So, here is what I mixed for my son so I know for the two minutes he would be safe,” she wrote in an post, noting that she used a mixture of coconut oil, zinc oxide and carrot seed oil.
“It’s the same concept as diaper cream,” she added, suggesting the natural concoction she created is probably better than most suncreams parents lather their children in.
“Remember…I’m in the tanning industry and pride myself on knowing this.”
Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see a growing number of posts about people who use oils that contain natural SPFs as their sunscreen, with some claiming that you can safely protect your skin from the sun without lathering on commercial products.
“Did you know that natural oils can be used as a sunscreen?” one person commented under the widely-spread graphic “10 oils with natural SPF.” “This summer try to use #naturaloils as an SPF instead of the chemical cancer causing ones!”
A 2000 study even suggests that the UV protection from raspberry seed oil is similar to titanium dioxide and can have an SPF protection against UVB rays of up to 50. While Weksberg suggests the scientific evidence isn’t conclusive enough, he says parents have a choice of using chemical-free sunscreens that have titanium and zinc.
“Increased UV exposure can cause premature aging of the skin,” Weksberg said. “And increases for skin cancer far outweigh the risks of the sunscreens.”