By Heather O.
While this title suggests some introspective take on summer, mostly this post is about sunscreen, because during the summer, I think about sunscreen. A lot. I buy it a lot, I carry it with me a lot, I use it a lot. And today, as I used up at least the 4th spray bottle this season of the stuff, I thought, “This stuff sucks.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the ease of just spraying my kids down, but dang that stuff doesn’t last very long. And the kids hate it, because it’s cold, and if you happen to be 4 years old, and happen to have a scrape on your armpit from trying to do the same kind of flip off the swing that your 9 year brother did, and if it happened that you landed badly because, that’s right, YOU’RE NOT NINE, then that spray stuff stings like hell.
But try keeping children still long enough to smear the greasy lotion on their bodies, and you remember why you spend the money for the spray stuff.
And then I hear all the rumor about how we’re all dying of Vitamin D deficiency because we’ve become a society of sunscreen addicts, and how you are supposed to let your kids have, like, 10 minutes of sun exposure, and how the chemicals that we are constantly smearing on our children are actually causing the cancer we are trying to prevent, and I get all confused.
And THEN I have the following conversation with the pharmacist about generic vs. brand name sunscreen:
Me: “So, what’s the difference between these two brands? Why does this one have different ingredients?”
Pharmacist: “Oh, that’s another UV blocker. Actually, you are comparing different SPFs. If you pick up the generic 50 SPF and the brand name SPF, you’ll find they are exactly the same. But I have to tell you, I’ve learned that anything over 30 really isn’t much better, so it might not be cost effective.”
Me:”Really? So higher SPFs are kinda meaningless?”
Pharmacist: “Well, that’s just what I learned, back in the day. We are seeing higher numbers, though. Neutrogena, for example, just came out with 100 SPF.” And he points to the product.
Me: “Yeah, I noticed that. So what is your take on the whole Vitamin D deficiency issue? Is it really a problem?”
Pharmacist: “Well, yes. I see it in the prescriptions we fill. Vitamin D is huge now. I’m on supplements myself.”
Me: “So you think we need more time in the sun, then? Do you wish you had spent more time in the sun?”
Pharmacist: “Oh, absolutely not. I wish I had spent LESS time in the sun. See this spot right here? (pointing to a light brown spot on his hand) That’s sun damage. That will never go away. So I tell everybody to wear a hat and long sleeves when they go out into the sun.”
And I looked at him and wanted to say, “Sooooo, to sum up, you think high SPFs are bogus, that everybody is in desperate need of Vitamin D, and while you yourself are on supplemental Vitamin D, you still wish you had spent LESS time in the sun, implying that if you had done so, you would need MORE Vitamin D, and you honestly think the solution is to expect people to wear long sleeves in 116 heat. This has officially turned into the most unhelpful conversation ever.”
Instead, I thanked him for his time, picked up two bottles of the generic 50 SPF spray for the price of one Coppertone bottle, tossed the Neutrogena 100 SPF into my cart as well, and left him to his Vitamin D prescriptions.
So I don’t know what to think about how much sunscreen to put on my children (who are, by far, the fairest children I know). And I don’t know what to think about the whole vitamin D thing–how much sun exposure do they need, how much is bad, how much is good, etc, etc, blah blah blah. In the end, I opt for comfort—I slather up my kids every day (Neutrogena is my favorite for their faces) for the simple reason that I don’t want them to suffer any sunburns, because sunburns suck. Also, I don’t think I could handle the guilt if, at age 30, they get skin cancer and their dermatologist says “It’s your mom’s fault.”
What are your family’s sunscreen habits?
On an unrelated note, I did a canon ball off the diving board today. I landed on my butt, and water gushed up my nose. I had a distinct flashback to childhood, where the feeling of a schnozz full of chlorinated water was sort of a constant. But I don’t remember cannonballs being so painful on the backside. Clearly, I’m getting old. Or at least my butt is.
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