Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

How Safe Is Chemical Sunscreen?

Q&A on sun protection

Emily Oster

2 min Read

Related to second-best parenting, should kids be wearing sunscreen daily (we live in Texas!). I know physical sunscreen is preferred for kids, but is chemical sunscreen safe and better than no sunscreen? Why can’t the U.S. implement a hat policy like Australian schools, and would I be crazy for suggesting one at my child’s school?

—Mom with freckles

The true marker of summer: questions about sunscreen.  

First of all! I do not think you are crazy for suggesting your child’s school have a hat policy. My household has our own hat policy (the policy is that after Memorial Day, you wear a hat). I like a hat policy because even if you manage to sunscreen your kid before they leave in the morning, it wears off. So you need hats!

In terms of sunscreen, there is a much longer post on this here, but I’ll try to summarize.

The value of sunscreen is in preventing sunburn, which it does very well. This is obviously valuable in the moment (because sunburns are painful) and — in theory — valuable long-term in preventing skin cancer. In practice, in the data, it has been hard to show airtight evidence of a link between sun exposure and skin cancer. This may be due to limitations in the data (too-short follow-up) or simply not enough data. Still, even just for the short-term benefits of no sunburn, there is a lot of value.

Sunscreen on child's back in shape of sun
Kindel Media / Pexels

People do worry about chemical sunscreen in particular, and notably whether it is an endocrine disruptor. The evidence for this is also fairly thin. At high doses, in mice and rats, we see some possible notes of concern. But it’s not clear how that translates to normal human use. In the broad range of concerns that you have as a parent, this risk is a small one. I will say I personally use chemical sunscreen on my kids (in addition to the hat policy) and feel good about it.

If you do have significant concerns, you can also use a mineral-based sunscreen; the only issue with zinc-based options is they turn your face white.  

Conclusion: Hat policies for all! And sunscreen until we get there.

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Orangevale grandparent
Orangevale grandparent
1 month ago

My understanding is that the mechanism of action with zinc oxide is that it is opaque to UV. It is otherwise inert on the skin. Do I understand that correctly?

mroatman
1 month ago

As I understand, the link between UV exposure and skin cancer is one of the most well-documented relationships in medical science. Why would Emily say that it is difficult to provide airtight evidence here?

alijsand
alijsand
1 month ago
Reply to  mroatman
1 month ago

Because Emily interprets the data. Check the article she linked which mentions a meta analysis of 29 studies and over 300k participants. The data doesn’t show the correlations we would expect, but she explains that it’s probably because of the quality of the data and types of studies conducted. So it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a correlation, and logically it makes sense but it means we don’t have the data to solidly prove that and we try to speak in quality research. So it’s not as concrete as you might think. But nonetheless she makes the case for consistent sunscreen use.

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It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents. 

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm. 

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”

Milestones. We celebrate them in pregnancy, in parenting, and they’re a fun thing to celebrate at work too. Just a couple years ago I couldn’t have foreseen what this community would grow into. Today, there are over 400,000 of you here—asking questions, making others feel seen wherever they may be in their journey, and sharing information that supports data > panic.

It has been a busy summer for the team at ParentData. I’d love to take a moment here to celebrate the 400k milestone. As I’ve said before, it’s more important than ever to put good data in the hands of parents.

Share this post with a friend who could use a little more data, and a little less parenting overwhelm.

📷 Me and my oldest, collaborating on “Expecting Better”
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Comment “Link” to subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster, joined by some excellent guests.

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #parentingtips #emilyoster
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#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray

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Prevention is key! I suggest:
⭐ Regular tick checks
⭐ Using bug sprays with DEET
⭐ Wearing long sleeves and pants in the woods

Some parents worry about DEET, but repellants with up to 30% DEET are recommended by both the CDC and AAP. The data says you’re in the clear, so go for it. Enjoy your summer!

#parentdata #emilyoster #tickseason #bugbites #bugspray
...