Like any curious parent, upon clicking open the report, I did not read the methodology, I ignored the small print, and I went straight for the explanation of my own tried and true brand, Neutrogena. EWG tested for the accuracy of the UVA/UVB spectrum and for the presence of several potentially toxic chemicals, and Neutrogena gets low marks on both. I was deflated.
Sunscreen is one of my few parenting neuroses. As a fair-skinned mother of two fair-skinned littles, sunscreen is all I have to protect my skin and their skin from the punishment of a toxic sunburn. I am aggressively concerned about protecting their skin. When my oldest could barely talk, I drilled into her head that we need sunscreen “to protect our skin” and while she loathed the lotioning up, in five years, she has never had sunburned skin. Thank. Goodness.
To think my only line of defense had toxic chemicals in it? That sent me over the edge. I did the only thing a reasonable person would do. I hauled ass to Whole Foods and picked up some Badger suncreen stat. Totally pathetic.
I have become my own worst parenting nightmare.
If you always bought organic sunscreen, I am sorry if I ever judged you.
Buying organic has never been a priority for me. Many consumers believe that an organic label signals something, but I am not sure it signals anything besides a false sense of security. Organic labeling and production are more complex that most consumers know. While I care about the purity of my beauty products and my food, I care more about other qualities like: how far did this product travel, how are the elements of this product sourced, how were the folks who make this product treated in the process? I care about where our food comes from and when it comes to products like sunscreen or lotion, I never gave them much thought.
The adoption of organic sunscreen is an move unprecedented in my household. I am not the parent who reads something incendiary and runs out to the first natural grocery store to buy my way out of a child-rearing panic. My husband is slightly agog with my hysteria. To be fair, my husband has never endured a painful, blistering sunburn and cannot fully understand how unbearable it would be to see our littles look like lobsters.
Worse, yet, I cannot seem to calm my brain down. Every day I visit the pool or the park and I see a friend (or a perfect stranger) lotioning up their child, I inquire about their chosen brand. And since summer is full of sunny days, I have many chances every day to make myself crazy. Even as I wrote this essay, I kept surprising myself at the level of worry I harbored over this incidental detail of my day.
This is not the kind of parent I want to be. I am the calm one, the unruffled, unrattled one. I keep trying to remind myself that we never cared about this kind of thing in the first place, that we will be fine with whatever sunscreen we choose.
It’s not about the sunscreen, really.
Parenting has this way of feeling like smooth sailing and impending hurricane at the very same time. And every parent has their own struggles–their children’s allergies, major or minor health conditions, behavioral problems–and their own hangups. But, no one is really watching or judging how you manage those hangups (big and small) except you.
Which means no one is going to let you off the hook except you.
So as our sunscreen supply dwindles, I’ll have to relax and perhaps revert to our conventional, if toxic, standby brand. And I won’t judge me if you won’t.