Most experts discourage tanning whether you’re pregnant or not. When your skin tans, it’s trying to protect itself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. These UV rays are hard on your skin because they:
• Increase the risk of skin cancer
• Give you a bad burn if you’re exposed to them for too long
• Increase signs of aging
UV rays are bad for everyone, but sunbathing is especially bad if you’re pregnant. Often, your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy, so you may burn easily. Sitting under the hot sun (or in a tanning bed) for a long time may make you overheated or lose body fluids (dehydrated). Both of these methods of tanning are bad for your growing baby. Also, UV rays may break down folic acid, an important vitamin that helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop.
So, if you are going to be out in the sun, what should you do?
Choose a sunscreen that does not contain retinyl palmitate, has an SPF higher than 15 (30 and up is better), and has UVA and UVB protection. If you are going to be going swimming or sweating a lot, then use one that is also “water resistant.”
Why not retinyl palmitate?
Consumer Reports (an independent rating company), conducted tests and suggest that pregnant women avoid sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate, a type of topical vitamin A. Retinyl palmitate “is an antioxidant that animal studies have linked to an increased risk of skin cancers. In skin, it converts readily to retinoids, associated with a risk of birth defects in people using acne medications containing them.” To help you choose the product that is right for you, read the article on sunscreens as tested by Consumer Reports.
What about sunscreens that are also insect repellants?
Applying one lotion that protects against sunburn as well as bug bites sounds like a nifty idea. But, beware of using products that contain both sunscreen and bug repellant. When you re-apply the product, you may be exposing yourself to too much bug repellant, which can be toxic. Please read the warnings of using these kinds of combination products.
With a little knowledge and label reading, you will be able to choose a product that protects you from too much sun exposure and is also safe. Then, you can relax and enjoy your summer days in the sun.