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Mother Of Invention: Queen Of Sunscreen Dr. Robin Schaffran

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Who she is: L .A.-based dermatologist and founder of Dr. Robin for Kids Inc. sunscreen (look for kids’ cleanser and mois turizing c ream this summer). Mom to 3-and-a-half-year-old Joelle and 2-year-old Ariella (with number three on the way).

Why we love her: Her all-natural, chemical-free SPF 30 sunscreen for kids – packaged in a cute retro tube – is easy to apply and ensures fun-in-the-sun safety. Moms can slather it on, too!

In her own words:

You’ve created a line of suns creen especially for kids. Where did the idea for Dr. Robin come from? Mothers constantly ask me about what sunscreens to use on their childr en. As a dermatologist I usually recommend mineral-based, chemical-free sunscreens, but there was a real shortage of good formulations on the market. So I decided to create my own. I knew exactly what type of ingredients should and should not be included and I wanted to ma ke a formulation that was elegant and easy to apply on squirmy children. It took us two years to get it right! All the kids in my practice call me Dr. Robin, so the name was a no-brainer.

What are the active ingredients to look for in a sunscreen for kids? Mineral-based ones – either micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two.

What ingredients should be avoided? Oxybenzone (there have been concerns about this chemical being a potential hormone disruptor). Parabens. Perfumes and fragrances. I’m also not fond of products that include a long list of plant extracts, even so-called natural or organic ones. These ingredients are not necessary to make a good product and I see many allergic skin reactions and irritations from them. The simpler the formula, the better.

What is the most satisfying part of your business? By far, it’s educating parents and children about skin health. People really appreciate having someone explain to them (in ways they can understand) what SPF means, what to look for in a product and what they need to be concerned about regarding sun damage and skin cancer.

What does SPF mean? SPF literally means Sun Protection Factor. It is a measure of the effectiveness of a sunscreen in terms of its ability to protect against UVB rays – the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn. The SPF tells you how long the sunscreen will theoretically protect you before you will get sunburned. For example, if you normally go out in the sun and expose your skin without sun protection and get a sunburn in 10 minutes, an SPF of 15 will allow you to be exposed for 15 times that amount (150 minutes) before getting a sunburn. An SPF of 30 will allow you to be out 30 times (300 minutes). The problem is that these numbers are determined in a laboratory setting whereby a measured amount of sunscreen is applied to the skin and then tested with ultraviolet light exposure. Most people in real life never apply as much sunscreen as is applied in the lab when measuring the SPF.

What’s the biggest challenge of what you do? Getting the message about sun safety and sunscreen out there to more people. Also, there is a lot of misinformation about sunscreens and sun protection in general. People get confused and it’s hard to dispel some of the erroneous information.

Like vitamin D, I would imagine. Are our kids getting enough vitamin D if we’re slathering them in sunscreen? This is a very controversial subject. Sun definitely helps the skin produce vitamin D, and sunscreen can block this to a certain degree. However, sunscreen and sun protection alone cannot explain the recent upswing in vitamin D deficiency. Only a few minutes of sun exposure each day is theoretically enough to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. I think a big part of kids nowadays getting deficient in vitamin D is the lack of outdoor play (sitting inside watching television or playing video games). I don’t believe that intentional exposure to the sun without protection is a good way to get vitamin D. The risk of sunburn and skin cancer is not worth it.

So what is a safe way of getting enough vitamin D? I give my children a vitamin D supplement each day and ensure that their diet is enriched with vitamin-D-rich foods: oily fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel and sardines; shrimp; mushrooms; wheat germ; and vitamin-D-fortified yogurts, milk and cereal.

Did having kids affect your motivation to create your sunscreen? Definitely. I came up with the idea of Dr. Robin’s way before I had children, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first daughter that I was really motivated to make the idea a reality. I know what it feels like to want to protect your children and keep them safe. It motivates me to make sure that the products I create are effective and include only the safest ingredients.

How do you balance it all? It’s not that difficult as long as you’re organized and can surround yourself with good help. There are good days and bad days. I keep lots of to-do lists and am constantly checking things off and adding to the list. Being able to get up, go to work and do something positive and worthwhile sets a great example for my daughters, and I look forward to them growing up and seeing firsthand what you can do when you put your mind to it.

What advice do you have for moms when it comes to taking care of our skin? The best and most proven anti-wrinkle cream is sunscreen. Nothing ages you faster than sun damage – and that includes tanning. Many people still believe that as long as they protect from sunburn, it’s okay to get “some color” or a tan. But there is nothing healthy about the “glow” of a suntan. If you feel you need some color, get it from a bottle. Or, as I like to tell moms, embrace the pale.

(Photos: drrobin.md)