August 20, 2007

Taking the Scream Out of Sunscreen

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Slowly, silently, I inch forward. I have the stealth of a lioness stalking her prey. My quarry, a.k.a. Henry, innocently shuffles baseball cards, unaware of my approach. When I'm close enough to touch him, I pounce. He yelps and struggles, but in vain — I'm already furiously rubbing in gobs of sunscreen.

"There's got to be a better way," Dave remarks as a fuming, greased-up Henry stomps off. I agree. For years, getting sunscreen on Henry has been a huge summer hassle, putting a big damper on the season's carefree spirit. Every year I think he'll grow out of his aversion and apply it himself like his sister does, but he hasn't and I'm battle-weary.

Henry's list of sunblock demerits is compelling — "It stings." "It's too sticky." "It smells." "It makes me feel itchy." — but with ozone-wary doctors calling for sunscreen use every day, I'm not about to throw in the beach towel.

With all the sunblock products out there, I figure there must be something that will work for us. I consult other parents — a good friend who lives in Southern California and has three kids — as well as my brother, who is a surfer and therefore knows his sunscreen.

Through trial and error we learn that most of the aerosol sunscreens, while quick and convenient, tend to sting. The spray sunscreens don't seem to have day-long staying power (and who wants to reapply?), plus you need to spend the time to rub them in carefully. Some of the smudge-proof, water-proof, rub-proof products do have staying power, but are too sticky and take too long to absorb into excited kids who are waiting to jump in the water or run around outside.

After a lot of "eeww!" and "gross!" we settled on a few great sunscreen products:

  • No-Ad Continuous Spray SPF 50, Alcohol-Free
    This waterproof spray-on sunscreen is convenient and quick to apply, but because it doesn't have alcohol like the other aerosol sunscreens, it doesn't sting kids with sensitive skin.
  • Baby Lizard & Blue Lizard-Australian sunscreen
    This is chemical-free and fragrance-free with 30-plus SPF. Although a bit on the sticky side, it's soothing and lasts (with one reapplication) through long days in the sun and pool.
  • Sunscreen sticks (Coppertone Water Babies brand with 30 SPF) They have great staying power and work well when applied to high-exposure spots like faces, ears and shoulders. Their small size makes them easy to have on hand — and kids can apply themselves.
  • Sunscreen wipes
    While not always waterproof, these are quick to apply and provide ample coverage for days at the park or in the yard.

  • Thanks to these great sunscreen discoveries, my family finally has it made in the shade.

    What's your stealthy sunscreen tip? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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