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olistic Healthcare for Children

What Sunscreen to Use

© Randall Neustaedter OMD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Holistic Healthcare for Children by Randall Neustaedter OMD. View all columns in series
Excerpt from Child Health Guide: Holistic Pediatrics for Parents, North Atlantic Books, 2005

Sunny weather is here again and with it comes concerns about sun exposure and sunburn. The sun is beneficial for its ability to induce vitamin D production in our bodies. For those people who take cod liver oil in the winter for its vitamin D value, it may be prudent to switch during the sunny summer months to fish oil or krill oil as an omega 3 supplement, which do not contain vitamin D. It may be possible to build up too high a level of vitamin D in the bloodstream. Be aware, however, that research has failed to show any toxicity from vitamin D3 supplementation in adults at dosages as high as 4,000 to 10,000 IU. The synthetic Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) has shown toxic potential. We cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.

Sunscreens are necessary for days with hours of time spent in the sun, especially kids playing baseball, or playing at the park, or swimming. As for sunscreens, I am very concerned about the use of ingredients in most commercial brands. Many of these chemical sunscreens have carcinogenic and/or hormone disrupting effects. These include cinnamates, PABA, oxybenzone, salicylates, benzophenones, and triethenolamine, among others. These ingredients are absorbed through the skin, and can be found in plasma and urine samples after their use in humans. I don't consider them safe for anyone, especially children.

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is contained in many "natural" sunscreens, but this metal has also been implicated as a potential problem in humans. Titanium dioxide has the ability to cause DNA damage in human cells. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has not identified any carcinogenic effects of TiO2, its ability to alter DNA strands is a cause for concern.

Zinc oxide is the only completely safe sunblocking agent. In addition zinc oxide also has anti-inflammatory effects that can help to mitigate damage caused by UV radiation. Zinc oxide blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. Excellent sunscreen products that contain only zinc oxide as the active ingredient are made by Their Sport 30 is the most water repellent of their products. These sunscreens use a transparent zinc oxide that does not create a white mask on the skin. They can be ordered through many online sources and health food stores. These sunscreens are safe for most infants as well. A thin layer works well. If swimming, reapply every 2 hours.

Enjoy the sunny weather. Avoid getting sunburned and be prudent about sun exposure at midday. Wear a hat. Protect your eyes with UV sunglasses. Use a zinc oxide sunscreen. And have fun.

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About The Author
Dr. Randal Neustaedter has practiced holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and Doctor of Oriental Medicine, as well as education director of the Holistic Pediatric Association, author of Child Health Guide and ...more
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