Yesterday, riding in the car, my daughter said “I have a problem.”

To the mom of a teenager, that’s the panicky equivalent of yesteryear’s “We need to talk.”

“That sunscreen you bought me, SPF 50, well it’s not letting me tan at all.”

Damn, I was wondering when she would figure that out.

We are fair skinned, freckled, Nordic people, not prone to tan but prone to skin cancer; at thirteen she doesn’t care about that, but I do.

I’ve always preached risk management to my kids. We wear seatbelts, don’t ride in the backs of pick-up trucks. Don’t drink and drive, etc.

BUT, I’ve never wanted my children to be afraid of the world or afraid of new experiences. For example, one year Reagan fractured her wrist on an obstacle course; the next year she said “I suppose you don’t want me to do it this year.”

I let her.

And we talked about risk vs. reward. About how life is not risk free, and how we take sensible precautions but that we can’t let fear make our decisions. (Except when it comes to bungee jumping… we were going to do it one year and we all chickened out!)

To her, the risk of skin cancer is worth the reward-being tan like all her friends.

So what do I do? Forbid tanning? Hand her a bottle of lower SPF sunscreen and cross my fingers? I’m uncertain. If it was a matter of imminent danger, it would be a no-brainer, but it’s not. Is the (slight) risk of skin cancer lower or greater than the reward (*fitting in) that she gets?

I just don’t know.

(*Yes, “fitting in” sounds trite, but for a 13-year old, it’s vitally important. And “laying out” and tanning is a whole social occasion for the girls in our neighborhood. They meet up, make snacks, arrange towels, music, etc… so it’s not just the tan itself that is important to her, but the whole social aspect of it.)


10 Responses to “”

  1. Becs Says:

    Don’t quote me on this, but I have heard that SPF 50 does not really provide more skin protection than SPF 30. So if she is reapplying appropriately, etc, than giving her that 20 may not be that much of a jump. We live in FL near the beach and I use 30 on my 3 year old. I have found no change since I made the switch about a year ago. I do reapply quite frequently. (Note: we are what could be considered “tan”. But skin cancer threatens all, and I am serious about sunscreen… aside from that one “fitting in” phase the summer I was 16 where I will admit to using tanning oil.)

  2. Rixblix Says:

    How about some tan-in-a-can? Neutrogena and Coppertone make a couple good ones that are nothing like the “QT” stuff from high school. They don’t streak and look natural. I, too, am really fair skinned and the tan-in-a-can helps my legs not look that lovely shade of whitish/blue.

  3. mortonmalaise Says:

    As you know, I am also at high risk for skin cancer. Fair, freckled skin, light hair, etc. I spent all of Summercamp in direct sun, and SPF 30 was almost too much. I re-applied every 2 hours or so and barely got tan. I think she should be OK with 30.

  4. katearch1978 Says:

    Victoria’s secret has a good tanning lotion too. It also keeps my legs from that shade of whitish/blue. 🙂

  5. Michael Says:

    Weather Alert

  6. Jaded Says:

    I am in agreement with the others. Basically…skin cancer can happen if you only get one sunburn in your life…just one. So if that has already happened at one time or another, it’s a risk. Bub and I have been blessed with olive toned skin ( I have a drop of cherokee indian somehwere in my bloodstream, apparently) So I cant say I completely relate to your problem. However…I think that backing down the the sunscreen is an ok idea. She is still protected. Everything causes cancer, truthfully and you cant shelter her from everything. I think a little suntan would be ok.
    You are such a good mom! :o)


  7. Becs Says:

    I know you don’t me, but I took my daughter for her 3 year checkup today and noticing our tan skin he responsibly asked about sunscreen. I informed him we used 30 every morning and reapplied accordingly. He went on to say there is basically less than a full degree of difference in protection between 30 and 50, and I wish I could remember, but I can’t, he quoted the source. I am such an information hound that I always like to know the sources. I thought of you and wanted to pass the info along.

  8. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks so much. That really does make me feel better-less worried/guilty about letting her “step down” to lower spf sunscreen.

  9. Cindy Says:

    Just saw your comment on Cookie Madness, checked out your blog, and had to respond.
    My husband has had 50+ skin cancers since he was 27 (he’s over 60), we always wear hats and sunscreen. Our college-age daughter just tells friends that when she tans she gets the color other people start out, so why bother!

  10. Jennifer Says:

    Oh, I love Cookie Madness! It’s my favorite food blog.
    My daughter is really good about applying it, so I guess that’s good, but she still has this desire to be tan. It drives me crazy! She’s naturally super pale and also pretty much gets to the same color that other people start out at!

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