Greener Ways to Fight Sunburns and Bug Bites

Spring is here and we’re officially closer to July than we are to January.  Along with the warmer weather come all those bug bites and sun burns trying so hard to ruin your summer fun.  Luckily, there are some cleaner and greener ways to combat these summertime foes. 

Stay Smart and Sunny

We know too much sun damages the skin, and evidence links over exposure with skin cancer.   And scientists now worry about what some popular sunscreen ingredients like PABA and oxybenzone are doing to us (and our children) long after the sun has set.  So how are we supposed to have any fun at all?

Dress for Success.  Whether a floppy hat in the garden or a swim shirt in the pool, clothing remains the safest way to protect yourself from too much sun.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has special advice for protecting children.

Choose the Right Sunscreen.  In addition to avoiding PABA and oxybenzone, the Environmental Working Group has more detailed advice on choosing a sunscreen.

Don’t Buy the SPF 1100.  First, research suggests high SPF effectiveness cannot be proven – which accounts for all the vague “50+” claims you see now.  Secondly, high SPF may cause people to stay out longer and pay less attention to exposure, believing the high SPF will protect them.

Bug Free and Greener

While typically not as serious as a bad sun burn, the wrong bite from the wrong bug can do more than ruin your day, it might very well make you sick.  But even if your only goal is a backyard BBQ free from screaming, swatting and scratching, there are some greener ways to protect you and your family from bugs.

Handle DEET With Care.  Most bug repellents rely on DEET to work, and the effectiveness of non-DEET products is significantly reduced, natural repellents included.  The EPA has some good guidelines on how to use DEET safely.

Eliminate the Comforts of Home. Keeping your lawn, garden, and landscape trimmed and healthy denies pests a place to live and keeps them moving along.  Eliminating standing water and other moisture sources is critical to controlling mosquitos. 

Consider Natural Repellents. Long sleeves are safest, but there are other more natural solutions (like lemon eucalyptus) that offer some protection against bugs.  Results will vary, so do your research and identify the products that make sense for you.

Here’s to staying unbit and unburned – the greener way!

Special thanks to Flickr user James Jordan.