Photo: Courtesy of diapers.comHeather Muir, Allure magazine
Like many readers, I was disturbed after reading the story about how sisters Violet and Zoe Michener were taken to the hospital for bad sunburns they got because their school requires a doctor's note to bring any over-the-counter products, including sunscreen, to school (without one, they aren't even allowed to carry it in their backpacks). The reasoning behind the policy is this: "Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that," according to Tacoma School District Spokesman Dan Voelpel.
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Now I'd understand why you might require a note for a pain killer or anti-histamine, but sunscreen? Are lotion and sunscreen allergies a real danger to many children? I rang up Joshua Zeichner, director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, for his take. "People do develop allergies to some sunscreen ingredients, particularly chemical blockers, but it's uncommon," he said, adding that it is extremely rare to have an allergy to a physical blocker like zinc or titanium. And the bottom line is: "The harmful effects of UV light exposure on the skin, especially in the setting of chronic exposure during recess, are far worse than the risk of an allergy." His colleague Jeannette Graf, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai, agrees. "The idea in this day and age that a policy not permitting sunscreen to be worn is unthinkable; in fact, there should be an opposite policy and correct application of sunscreen should be the rule."