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Health + Beauty: Sun Protection and Brainwashing for the Win

Health + Beauty: Sun Protection and Brainwashing for the Win

Written by: Natalie Fieleke

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so start the summer out right by protecting you and your kids. Did you know that a person's risk for Melanoma doubles if she or he has had more than five sunburns? Here is what one dermatology family does to make sun protection an everyday habit.

It’s no secret, our family loves sun protection. Once I dumped out my purse and found NINE bottles of sunscreen in it. Yes, I tend to carry a large purse and probably six out of the nine containers were sample-size. I’ll go ahead and admit that nine bottles was excessive. But pretty much any given day I’m the mama at the park in the wide-brimmed hat who has extra SPF to spare for a friend or even a complete stranger.

And here’s why. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and statistics show one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. To reduce our risk of developing Melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, we take easy preventative measures as we enjoy life outdoors running, biking, swimming and playing soccer.

Growing up in Arizona, I spent my younger days crying and squirming as my mom rubbed sunscreen into my face, assuring me that she was ‘rubbing it off.’ Thankfully, face sunscreens have come a long way since the 1980's, and there are now so many great face sticks and products for sensitive skin that make life easier. My husband and I determined when our daughter was just a baby that sun protection wouldn’t ever be a fight or an argument – just a regular going-outdoors habit. And not only is my husband a skin cancer surgeon, he’s a pretty creative and musical guy who came up with a little jingle to sing as he applied SPF 70 to baby girl’s dimpled little limbs.

 “Putting on my sunscreen just like I’ve learned. Putting on my sunscreen so I don’t get burned. Putting on my sunscreen so we can go have fun. Putting on my sunscreen, it’s good for everyone.” 

And friends, let me tell you. BRAIN-WASHING WORKS. Our daughter, who was two in this picture, decided on her own that she wanted to go swimming and that she was going to put on LOTS.

Now at the age of seven, we are so proud of her for being sun-smart and knowing what you need to pack to stay safe at the beach!

David Fieleke, MD, my favorite dermatologist, advises wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB light. He advises not to get bogged down on which brand is the very best but to find something that you like, that suits your lifestyle and that you’ll be sure to apply at least every two hours.

“A lot of people ask if they’re using high enough SPF but that’s probably the wrong question to ask,” he says. “SPF 45 or higher is adequate, but reapplying regularly is key because even water-resistant sunscreens wash off in the pool or when you sweat.”

Dr. Fieleke advises applying sun protection at least 15 minutes before you go outdoors and use way more than you think every two hours. Statistics show that most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount. One ounce, think a shot-glass full, is the amount needed to generously cover all areas of the body not covered by clothing.

This summer, make a commitment to protect yourself and your kids from the cumulative signs of aging and skin cancer. It doesn’t have to be a fight. Do whatever you need to do to get your people pumped up about sun safety!

Some tips include:

  • For littler kids, sing a song as you apply sunscreen. You can pirate my husband’s, he won’t mind.

  • As your kids get older, show them how to apply sunscreen themselves and get them their own face stick that is fun for them to use. Watch them apply the stick to their face while you apply cream or spray to their bodies (supervision is key to make sure they’re covering all the bases).

  • Buy sun-protective clothing they’ll actually wear. I’m not suggesting you buy a full-body rash guard if it will be a fight every time you go to the pool. My son wears a long-sleeved rash guard that goes with his trunks and is quite comfortable in it. I have several rash guards, and I love them. Athleta, JCrew and Roxy make some great ones.

So there you have it, mamas, you now have a good excuse to also carry a shot glass in your over-sized bag.

Natalie Fieleke is a Kansas City-based freelance writer, editor and full-time mom. She's a foodie, a health and fitness junkie and a skincare product connoisseur. She blogs about these things at

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