Why recommend less expensive sunscreen? Do you want my family to be exposed to toxins?
No. I really don’t want your family exposed to chemicals. Unfortunately, if you’re using sunscreen correctly, less toxic sunscreen may be entirely cost prohibitive. I realized this after adding up all the hours my own son spends outside. Plus, for a while now we’ve been buying less toxic sunscreen, and it’s crazy expensive.
Here’s an example of how expensive less toxic sunscreen is…
My son spends at least one to two hours outside during the school year and about four+ hours a day outside in the summer (due to outdoor summer camp). He also has two soccer games a week outside, multiple hiking trips each year, sledding in winter, swimming in summer and he goes on a long bike ride weekly with his dad. Plus, when we’re being good, we play basketball or walk 4-5 times a week.
In total, I estimate that my son spends around 1,157 hours a year outside (around 22 hours a week). Because my son is small, there’s not as much of him to cover with sunscreen, but even so he needs about 1/2 ounce of sunscreen per application, or around 300 ounces a year. I spend less time outside than my son, but I’m an adult, so I wear more sunscreen when I’m outside, and go through about 500 ounces per year.
That means between my son and I, we use around 800 ounces of sunscreen a year.
In case you think I’m being obsessive, I’m not. Kids and adults need to wear sunscreen daily, applying every two hours when outside for extended periods. The correct amount of sunscreen for an adult is 1 oz (about one shot glass or 2 tablespoons) per application. Smaller kids can wear a little less (1/2 oz).
Here’s a hint, if you’re going through ONE or TWO bottles of sunscreen per year, per family, you’re not using anywhere near enough to provide full protection. For example, the EPA notes that one 3-5 oz tube of sunscreen is enough for just one person for one full day at the beach.
I’ve seen forums where parents are asking, “Hey, is my sunscreen from last year good, or should I buy new?” This is a terrible question. Not because sunscreen goes bad quickly, but because, you one, shouldn’t still have leftover sunscreen laying around if you’re using it right and two, you shouldn’t be using sunscreen only in the summer.
How much does 800 ounces of safe, non-toxic sunscreen cost?
- $2,016 per year or $168 per month. On safe sunscreen!
Consider too, that there’s just my son and me at my house. If you’re a family of four, assuming you’re all using sunscreen correctly, you’d be spending around $4,032 annually on sunscreen or $336 a month. Obviously, if you have more kids, your costs add up even more.
I don’t know about you, but at my house, $168-$336 per month is a whole lot of groceries, clothes and other stuff we need.
What if we’re not outside as much as your family?
Most research says kids (and adults) need at least 60-90 minutes per day of outside play (or activity) to ward off illness and heart problems. Research also says that more outside time than this is way better though. At bare minimum, your family should be outside at least 10 hours a week, and that’s a very low goal.
Less toxic sunscreen is great, but so is sun protection. If you can’t afford to spend an extra $168 per kid, per month, on sunscreen, then you need to consider lower priced options.
Lead image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr