Straight Talk Advice

Jul 20, 2011

Dear 16-year-old You, read this column!

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, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

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, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

No pictures or stories say it better than the “Dear 16-year-old Me” video. This is a must watch!

Catherine 24, Hudson, N.Y. Ask me a question

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 convince them to wear something stronger when they go to the beach.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

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.

Elise 20, Orlando, Florida Ask me a question

Hate to be harsh, but young people are ignorant and unable to see long-term consequences. Unfortunately, no matter what you tell them, if they want to do something, they will.

Akasha 17, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

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 10am-4pm
• best of all: wear clothes, hats, sunglasses

Editor’s Note: Greed. I can think of no other reason for a company to knowingly mislead the public about their product. And why has the FDA never required proper labeling, allowing overstated safety claims, phototoxic ingredients, and misleading SPF values? Most sunscreens are effective at blocking UVB rays (mainly sunburn-causing), but are only effective for about five minutes in blocking the mainly cancer-causing UVA rays. Yet because they block UVA for five minutes, they label it as being UVA protective. Do we call that corruption or effective corporate lobbying? There are many names for greed, some more polite than others.

The good news is that the SUN Act requires the FDA to have new labeling rules on sunscreen by next summer. This Sunscreen Labeling Protection Act, marks the end of a 33-year struggle for consumer protection. The FDA has been considering strengthening sunscreen labels since 1978! Talk about tail-dragging.

In the meantime, shop from the list of best sunscreens on the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide and cut your losses by throwing out the Banana Boat, Nutrogena, Coppertone, and many others that we’ve been misled into buying. —Lauren

  1. By Melody, age , from Rocklin, CA on 07/20/2011

    One thing nobody mentioned is that you need to make sure and put on sunscreen EVERY place that gets exposed to the sun.  My sister and I went swimming at a friend’s house.  On a lark, since it was all girls, we all decided to take off our bathing suits and skinny dip.  We didn’t think about the fact that certain sensitive parts of our bodies did not have sunscreen.  Our butts got burned so bad that it was very uncomfortable to sit down for a week.  Even worse was the itching!  It was horrible.  And you can’t always scratch in a place like that when your with company so we just had to suffer much of the time.  We learned our lesson and will never let it happen again.


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  2. By Monica, age , from Carmichael, CA on 07/20/2011

    My sister had an incident similar to Melody’s.  She and a friend went swimming at her friend’s pool and wore sunscreen.  However, after swimming they decided to sunbathe nude, lying on their stomachs on a towel.  You can guess what happend.  We share a room and aren’t shy about nudity and when I saw her rear when she got undressed that night, I couldn’t help but laugh as much as I tried not to since it really wasn’t funny since she was in pain, but her rear was literally as red as a tomato.  She looked like one of those baboons at the zoo with the bright red rears!  We sometimes share the bathroom and I could see that sitting on the toilet was giving her great pain, but that’s something you have to do whether you like it or not.  She also learned her lesson and I still sometimes tease her about it and call her “baboon butt.”

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  3. By Claire, age , from Santa Rosa, CA on 07/20/2011

    Also watch out for your boobs if you go topless around the pool!  That also hurts as my sister and I learned the hard way!  It does give you a good excuse to go braless for a while. 


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  4. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks on 07/20/2011

    Dear Melody, Monica and Claire,
    You are going to CRACK UP when you see what next week’s column is about!
    Tune back in! Can’t wait to hear your comments!

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  5. By Shayna, age , from Santa Ana, CA, USA on 07/21/2011

    I learned the hard way that this isn’t something to tease somebody about.  My stepsister and I have to share a room every other weekend and were shy about things at first, but after we got to know each other we became good friends and became totally comfortable about being naked in front of each other and even sharing the bathroom when we’re “on the facility.”  The same thing happened to her and I couldn’t help but laugh at her bright red butt when I saw her naked and called her “tomato butt.”  She was furious and barely (pun intended) spoke to me for a month.  We’ve made up and are friends again, but I learned that this isn’t something to joke around about.

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