Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Straight Talk for Teens


Sunscreen isn't on kids' radar

Dear Straight Talk: I'm glad I don't have worse concerns than this, but my daughter is going to Mexico with another family and I'm worried she will cook herself on the beach if I'm not there harping on her to wear sunscreen. Now that my kids are teens, they are quite independent and don't seem to care that much about things like sunburn. My son evidently thinks the "crispy" look is sexy. Our culture is so tan-oriented. How do you get kids to believe that one bad sunburn, when you're under 18, can kill you later? Maybe they will listen to the panelists. Thank you for this wonderful column. I read it every week. -- Worried in Auburn

Sarah, 19: Several of my relatives have had moles and skin patches removed, and seeing the scars was all the incentive I needed to start taking care of myself. You seem to know how risky sun exposure can be. But do your kids? Show them pictures or read them stories about the consequences of not protecting themselves.

Peter, 24: No pictures or stories say it better than the "Dear 16-year-old Me" video. This is a must watch!

Catherine, 24: I am so pale I burn in under five minutes in the sun. Wearing sunscreen DAILY is really important, not just on hot summer days. If you can get kids in the habit of wearing SPF 15 on any given day, it will be much easier to persuade them to wear something stronger when they go to the beach.

Katelyn, 16: Teens are famous for not listening. The best thing that you can do is inform your kids about melanoma and pack sunscreen in your daughter's suitcase. I would also play the "gross, not sexy" card and show her pictures of people who have been out in the sun all their lives. Remind her that tanning beds are just as bad or worse.

Akasha, 17: Last year a friend decided sunscreen was "stupid" and refused to wear it. We were on a beach camping trip and the day was cloudy. We noticed she was getting a little red, but it wasn't so bad. Well, that night, she looked like a cooked crab! She couldn't sleep all night, got sick with fever, and had to go home. She has to wear sunscreen all the time now because she burns really easily now.


Dear Worried: One bad sunburn under age 18 is definitely worth worrying about. I remember my first sunburn as a pre-teen; my skin was never the same afterward. Studies show that childhood sunburn doubles a person's melanoma risk down the road.

Please watch the "Dear 16-year-old Me" video with your kids at this link: It's very impactful. Afterward, solemnly give them each a GOOD sunscreen. Which leads to the real burn. Eighty percent of the sunscreens are a joke! Three of five don't adequately protect from UVA (the main cancer-causing rays), and the rest have toxic ingredients. The Environmental Working Group's 2011 Sunscreen Guide lists best sunscreens and those in the "Hall of Shame." Prepare to be shocked!

Their advice:

● seek active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide

● avoid oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (often listed as vitamin A)

● avoid sprays and powders (very toxic to breathe!)

● reapply every two hours, or after getting wet or sweaty

● avoid strongest rays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

To ask a question, visit or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628

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