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My children are milk white just like their mother. The kind of milk white that burns and never tans — ever. It’s sort of sad, really, especially since I am half Italian on my mother’s side. She is not milk white. She gets so dark in the summer that, way back when, someone asked her if she was our babysitter as she pushed me and my sister on the local park swings.

Anyway, we have always been vigilant about slathering our kids with sunscreen. They wear 30 SPF cream — whatever scores the best on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens. This year, however, my older daughter has been balking about having us sunscreen her, especially in public. Yesterday was Fourth of July. My family spent an entire day at our local beach club. We were out the door at 8:45 a.m. to ride in the parade and didn’t get home until after 11. We attempted to sunscreen her multiple times. She insisted she could handle it herself. I even texted her sunscreen reminders several times throughout the day. (I had to leave the party between 11 and 4 to help my mother with something.) She did a pretty good job except for one place — the small of her back. By the time we got home she was beet red and crying. She got a major sunburn.

What is sunburn? It’s a biological response to getting too much ultraviolet light. Basically, the skin’s RNA is damaged so it creates an inflammatory response. The more damage you have, the more lobster-like you become. We treated my poor girl with aloe vera gel, which is clinically proven to help skin — and teeth and gums — start healing. I also told her to up her water consumption since the body needs lots of hydration when it’s burned. Finally, we discussed the advice of experts about when and how much sunscreen you need. From a recent press release about consumer confusion around sunscreen:

“We recommend you buy a sunscreen lotion labeled ‘broad spectrum protection’ — which helps to protect against both types of UV rays — with an SPF of 30 or higher that is also water resistant. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the UVB radiation. But, you need to reapply it every two hours, using about a shot glass full of lotion over your exposed skin, for the best results,” explains Dr. Roopal Kundu, an associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

My big girl plans on staying out of the sun this week. We’ve also come to an agreement about sunscreen. She has to let us apply the first thick layer and, if she’s not going to let us reapply it to her back and shoulders — she’s going to wear a swim shirt. She’s not thrilled about this, but I’m not thrilled that she’s increased her risk of getting skin cancer over her lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Association. It’s a tough lesson to learn at any age.

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