Kelly Barker had always been vigilant about applying her children’s sunscreen at the pool or soccer tournaments, but a 2013 conversation over coffee with another mom completely changed her perspective. “We were talking about morning routines, and she was telling me how they have to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and put on their sunscreen before they come downstairs, and my eyes just got big,” recalls Barker. “Between hydration, fruits and veggies, karate clothes, and school assignments, I just didn’t think about sunscreen. And here I am dousing my own skin with SPF every day.”
When she headed to Nordstrom to find products for her daughter, she realized how little was out there for the tween and teen market. “It was all anti-aging or product for babies, and there’s this group in the middle that doesn’t have anything for them,” says Barker. “You’ve got your drug store stuff, but that’s chock-full of chemicals.”
Two years and plenty of research and development later, Barker and her friend Dr. Carole Aponte launched Prep Cosmetics, a skincare company marketed to young women and free of harsh chemicals. Products include body lotions, acne products, a zinc oxide-based sunscreen, and an SPF-filled moisturizers and lip gloss. Every Prep Cosmetic product also comes with a guide (for sunscreen, acne, and Skin Care 101) that explains both how to use the products and why you’re using them to begin with.
In the midst of pool season, we caught up with Barker to talk about incorporating sunscreen into kids’ routines, the “dot method,” and what ingredients to avoid in your daily SPF.
Why is it important to instill the concept of wearing sunscreen every day?
Typically, people only think about sunscreen when it’s hot and sunny, but you should wear a natural sunscreen every single day. There are two types of sun rays: UVA and UVB. Everyone knows the UVB rays as those are the rays that shine down on us and give us sunburns. You can’t see or feel UVA rays, but these are the rays that actually cause our skin to age slowly over the years. These UVA rays make up about 95 percent of the UV exposure we receive each day. Each day we are exposed to UVA rays and over time this adds up to wrinkly, leathery skin and can ultimately lead to skin cancer. It doesn’t matter whether it is raining, snowing or the sun is shining, those UVA rays are still making their way to your pretty face and skin.
If we teach our kids to wear a natural sunscreen every day and take other sun safety measures like seeking shade, wearing a rash guard when swimming, and wearing a hat outdoors, they will set themselves up for a lifetime of healthy skin — not to mention they will age beautifully!
Adding one more thing to your kids’ morning routine can’t be an easy feat. How did you get your kids to understand the importance of daily SPF?
In the beginning, I really used teeth and cavities as the analogy to skin and old age. I showed my kids pictures of healthy skin versus sun damaged skin. I had a whiteboard session to show them how the sun shines down on us each and every day — yes, I am a nerd — and we continue to have open discussions about the direct link between daily healthy habits and overall wellness. Since we’ve made it part of our morning routine, it’s just like clockwork now.
Can you explain “the dot method” PREP Cosmetics teaches in their Sun Guide?
To my knowledge, we are the first and only skincare line that actually teaches a consumer why you need to use the product, when to use the product, and how to use the product. We created the “dot method” to go one step further and show you how much product to use. A little bit really goes a long way, so the dot method helps consumers to evenly spread the product without using too much. We only use zinc oxide, which is the safest and most effective sunscreen filter that defends your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
What ingredients should you avoid in your sunscreen?
To keep it simple, just stay away from any sunscreen active ingredient that starts with A, H or O. These are chemical sunscreen ingredients and may cause skin irritation, hormone disruption, or your eyes to sting. There are studies showing a direct link between oxybenzone and octinoxate contributing to coral bleaching. These chemicals, even in a very small amount, are harming oceans and ocean life, so I can only imagine what they are doing to the human body.
When buying sunscreen, stick with a broad spectrum sunscreen with the active ingredient zinc oxide and you’ll be covered. The higher the percentage of zinc oxide the better. For reference, our PREP SPF Daily Moisturizer and our sunscreen both contain 22 percent zinc oxide.
What makes PREP a good choice for teens and tweens?
At this age, girls (and boys!) just need good tried-and-true, safe ingredients that won’t cause them harm as their bodies develop over the years. We are on a mission to teach moms, dads, boys, and girls about the importance of daily sun protection in hopes we can save lives in the years to come.