Sarah R. Callender


In Body Stuff, Parenting on August 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Well, here’s a bummer. It turns out the the very Coppertone 50+ and Neutrogena SPF 90+ I slather on my dear, pasty-skinned children to keep them safe might, in fact, be giving them cancer. And breasts.

And gosh, as I’m writing this, I especially hope it doesn’t give my son breasts, mostly because there was already that time I accidentally bought him Girl pull-ups.

This was, in fact, the exact style. The packaging, just to clarify, was severely misleading: dark maroon. Probably a color chosen by the American Society of Child Psychologists, just to ensure there is an endless flow of little boys needing therapy because their mothers bought (and yes, made them wear) Girl pull-ups.

There he was, Buddy’s skinny little 2% body fat body in Girl pull-ups, butterflies and flowers decorating the hoo-hoo area. Oh, he was so mad.

So right? I really don’t want to have to worry that, in addition to talking about Girl Pull-ups with his shrink, Buddy will also need to discuss how his mother’s obsession with sunscreen gave him a really nice rack.

I just feel really betrayed. It’s like suddenly I’ve learned that it’s safer for kids to ride in the car sans booster seat and seat belt. That wearing a helmet while biking will increase the chances of brain injury. That allowing your four-week old to watch Baby Einstein DVDs for seven hours a day will actually give them ADHD instead of a guaranteed spot at Northwestern (go Wildcats!).

Of course, it’s all about trust. And just in case you don’t trust a bullshooter like me, OR just in case you do trust me and are heading out to Sears or Victoria’s Secret or wherever to buy training bras, let’s examine the facts.

On May 24 of this year, AOL news issued the following report:

Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of those products released today.

AOL News also has learned through documents and interviews that the Food and Drug Administration has known of the potential danger for as long as a decade without alerting the public, which the FDA denies.

The study, released by the Environmental Working Group, goes on to say that “Other additives cause harm including the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. Titanium dioxide that is made nanosized may also have serious health implications.”


True, nowhere in the report does it mention boy breasts, but when I hear the phrase “hormone-disrupting chemicals” I guess I immediately assume artificially-created breasts will start appearing all over the place.

So I went around the house, collecting and examining my stash of sunscreen. Nine cans of spray-on sunscreen; five bottles of the lotion; one tube of the stuff that looks like Chap-stick.  All nearly brand new. All of which contain the dreaded Oxybenzone, the alleged darling of the cancer-causing world.

At this point, I must also point out that the American Academy of Dermatology stands behind their claim that sunscreens do not cause cancer (or boy breasts). But still, when I look at the back of the sunscreen that I coat on my own face, year round, rain or shine, as my dermatologist instructs me, I can’t help but wonder, what ARE all those chemicals doing to me? To my children?

Am I just slathering cancer all over our skin? Should I toss all fourteen bottles of new sunscreen, mosey down to PCC, and buy fourteen new bottles of the all natural stuff that makes me look all greasy-faced? I don’t know. I kind of like my face better when it’s not slippery.

That said, I would imagine I like my life better when I don’t have cancer.

Can’t a girl dream of an all natural sunscreen that doesn’t make her look all lubed-up? Is that really so much to ask?

Or . . .  maybe a girl can dream, as long as she does it in the shade, with SPF 50 clothing and a cute, big-arse hat. As far as I know big hats are still relatively safe. For now.

  1. Yet another rabbit hole for parents to lose their minds in. I’m staying the Banana Boat course, cancer and breasts be damned. (Easy for me to say; I have daughters.)

  2. Sarah, I knew a guy once who was eaten by his big-arse hat.True story. Also beware of methoparabens. They will kill us too.

  3. Whenever I read stuff like that, I remind myself that statistically, I and my children are most likely to die in a car accident. And yet I continue to put them and myself into a car almost every day. So I figure if I do that, I might as well go ahead and use sunscreen, eat non-organic food, and drink out of plastic bottles.

  4. Wow, I hear you on all levels! I too, am one who wears sunscreen 365 days of the year. I have mostly been wearing Neutrogena, but have tried other natural products here and there. While trying to be conscientious not only with myself, but with my family as well, which includes food (natural, local/organic), appliances (CFL bulbs), plastics containing BPA, etc. I always seem to fail. I had to laugh at the mentioning of statistics above because in the last month I got electric shocked while carpet cleaning (yes, I was mortified since I am pregnant), broke a CFL bulb and cleaned it up (I shouldn’t have since it contains mercury-a neurotoxin) and recently ate healthy cereal that contained chikory root which is an emmenagogue and has abortifacient effects. I can stress myself out, which I did for a while! But also have reminded myself that I’m trying to do the best I can in every situation and that most things in life are really out of our control.
    Anyway, I think I grew up with worse foods to eat, water to drink, plastics of all kinds, etc, etc. and I’m still alive and kickin’! 😉
    However, I agree, it does suck!

  5. I follow that EWG database as well (four years later they even have an app for it!). A friend of mine who is a nurse at BC Children’s Hospital (I live in Vancouver, Canada) helped me to reconcile how to deal with it. She says that the incidence of skin cancer in Canada is marginal compared to the incidence of Vit D deficiency. Wearing sun screen obviously blocks your absorption of Vit D. So we now go the long-sleeved sun shirt, huge big hat route, and reserve the natural sunscreen for those 4-6 hours out in full sunshine days.

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