a peek inside the fishbowl

04 May, 2010

Why this mamma’s going back to tanning oil

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

Once I saw a mom slathering sunblock on her kid at 5:30 in the evening, and when she was done, she sprayed her all over with bug spray.

When I was a kid, tanning was big. No one used sunscreen or sunblock.

I don’t remember my mother ever smearing me with any kind of sunscreen (although I could be wrong). But she was the kind of mom who opened the door, booted me out of the house, and told me not to come home until it got dark. :) 

In those days people used tanning oil, and baby oil, and would you believe it, cooking oil. (!) FYI I do not condone the use of any of these. I think you need some degree of SPF.

My mom used Bain de Soleil. It was an orange gel in a wrinkly metal tube. I loved smell of that stuff. I also loved Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil, so when I saw a bottle of it at the drugstore last summer I had to buy it.

Monday May 3, 2010The bottle I have has an SPF of four, which, in my books, is perfect for everyday use. Don’t get me wrong, I use stronger stuff on my face (at least SPF 30) but if I’m going to be mostly indoors – only flitting outside to walk the kids to/from school or to walk the dog, the lower SPF suits me fine.

The number associated with SPF (which stands for sun protection factor) signifies the number of times longer you can be in the sun without burning if you use the product as directed. So if I normally burn after 30 minutes in full sun, a factor of four means that I can be in the sun for two hours without getting a sunburn. And during the workweek I’m rarely out in the sun for that long. So why coat myself with 30 when I don’t need to?

I’ve read that spray sunscreens are missing an ingredient (and I’m totally blanking on what it is right now) that give regular lotions that gooey spreadable lotion-like texture. This ingredient apparently isn’t very good for you.

I spray my arms with my SPF4, and if I’m wearing shorts or a skirt I’ll give my legs a spritz too. Hawaiian Tropic can be greasy if you use too much but I love the sheen. The fact that I smell like a tropical holiday all day long is just a bonus.

15 Responses to "Why this mamma’s going back to tanning oil"

1 | Mary Lynn

May 4th, 2010 at 9:07 am


Every morning for the last few weeks the kids have been telling me they’re supposed to have sunscreen on when they go to school. I haven’t put any on them yet. I’ll probably start by the end of May/beginning of June, but they definitely do not need to be slathered with sunscreen in early May. If anything, they’re bodies are probably clamouring for some good ol’ vitamin D. The kids are still dressed in long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. They wear sunhats when they’re outside. The small amount of sun they get during half-an-hour of play outside does them good.

2 | karen

May 4th, 2010 at 9:40 am


I have to confess that I am one of those people that slather sunblock all over their children. I also use it on myself, but I prefer just sitting in the shade. I usually buy Ombrelle or Neutrogena. My kids ped says to buy the highest SPF I can find so I usally have 40 or higher. My kids eat lunch at 12:30pm and so that are out at recess when the sun is at its strongest.

I am a red head with blue eyes and very fair skin. Skin cancer is a very real possibility for me. I have other family members who have had or now have it and although it hasn’t killed anyone it is making very ugly growths on their faces. I want to avoid that for me and my kids. My daughter is very fair also. I can’t undo all the sunburns I had as a kid but I can do my best not to get anymore.

I had to laugh about how you like the smell. My daughter hates the smell and won’t wear anything that smells like sunblock. She says the other kids tease her or smell her and point out the fact that she is wearing it.

I haven’t put any on my kids yet, only because I have been keeping an eye on the UV ratings and they still say moderate. Even though I am one of those crazy people who slather on lots of the stuff I do hate it. It isn’t a fun thing to do. I have never put any on my kids past 4pm but I have seep people putting it on their kids at 6ish during soccer practise and even I think that is just too much.

3 | andrea

May 4th, 2010 at 9:53 am


Every skin is different, right? Me: I only slather it on the kids when they’re going to be outdoors for a big stretch of time but not generally for walks to and from school.

I think they need their vitamin D too!

4 | Marianne

May 4th, 2010 at 11:10 am


We used sunscreen growing up (SPF 15 or higher), but usually only when we were going to be out of doors all day on a bike trip or hiking, or when we did water activities such as canoeing or a trip to the beach or the outdoor pool. We spent hours outside around our house during the summer, but sunscreen wasn’t part of our daily routine.

Similarly, as a camp counsellor I wore it on days I’d be spending the whole afternoon at the waterfront or out in direct sun, or for a couple of days after I’d burned (I usually managed to get a sunburn on my shoulders at least once each summer).

With my 2-year old, my husband is the one who is better at remembering the sunscreen. We use it on her anytime she’s going to be playing oustide in our yard or the park for more than 30 minutes (mind you, our yard has absolutely NO shade and is in full sun all day). That being said, I wouldn’t apply sunscreen after about 5pm or so.

5 | DaniGirl

May 4th, 2010 at 12:41 pm


As I said on Flickr, I had no idea they still made good ol’ SPF4 Hawaiian Tropic Oil — makes me so nostalgic for my teen years! And yes, back then I did use baby oil to bronze my skin. Yikes!

I’m torn on the sunscreen thing. Like Karen, I’m fair and freckled with red in my hair, which are all indicators that I should be extra careful. But oh how I love the feel of the sun on my skin and the bronze of a good tan. It a guilty pleasure I simply will not forgo. However, I do try to make sure my kids (two fair and one olive) do not get the same horrendous annual burns that I did as a child.

I read a few years ago that anything over SPF 15 is just a marketing gimmick, but a colleague told me yesterday she uses SPF 100! I had no idea there was such a thing.

I use SPF 15 Ombrelle on the kids and myself if we’ll be out for more than an hour or two. I figure this time of year you build up that base tan that helps protect you as the sun gets stronger. (Ombrelle is the only sunblock I’ve found that doesn’t have that yucky consistency and smell of many high SPF sunscreens. Or, as the boys call it, sun cream.)

I really do think I need to hit the drug store for a squeeze bottle of that Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 Oil, though! Watch the spray bottles, though, they give you less and jack up the price, from what I’ve seen.)

6 | BeachMama

May 4th, 2010 at 1:23 pm


Andrea, I will be the first to confess to using cooking oil. It was cheap and did the trick. All my friends from High School still remember good ol BeachMama (which is where I got the nickname) slathering on the Crisco.

I will also say my Mom used Coppertone and the smell of it today still brings back memories of swimming at Lac Phillipe and visits to our favorite Beach. Today, I use an SPF 4 for my everyday use. I bump it up to 30 at the Beach and slather my kids (who are both pasty & fair) with 30 during the day.

I had so many people give me a hard time about skin cancer that I went to a specialist last year who gave me crap for wasting his time. He basically told me that my skin was fine and people were just over reacting or jealous to my gorgeous tan and sent me on my way.

7 | Summer thyme

May 4th, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Coppertone was sun-tanning oil when I was growing up. You wore it if you wanted to get a tan. My mother didn’t buy it. Each summer we would get a burn – working in the fields. Our skin would peel (I’m serious) and then we we had a nice tan for the rest of the summer. Today I put sunscreen on when I am going to be out in the hot sun for more than an hour. Ditto for the kids. They don’t wear sunscreen at school. Too short a period. When we’re at the cottage in the summer, we all get a tan. No burning but definitely tanned. And I’m ok with that. Someone mentioned to me that kids should not have a summer tan…it’s foolish and unhealthy. Hmm….

8 | coffeewithjulie

May 4th, 2010 at 5:05 pm


We’re Australian and Canadian in this house and have lived in both countries. I’m the odd one out on this issue here it seems, but we take our skin protection really seriously. In fact, we have a close friend of the family who has yet to turn 30 and she will not live out this year likely — skin cancer.

Here’s a link to the Australian Skin Cancer site. It has a lot of valuable info (not trying to be a scare-monger, it honestly does have good info!)


I like to use the name-brand products that your sponsor Nayla offers when it comes to sunscreen because I do not like the idea of slathering a chemical barrier right on to the skin. Her products are some of the best on the market. And Gwen is super-knowledgeable if anyone has questions.

9 | Shannon

May 4th, 2010 at 7:49 pm


Just looking at that pic takes me back…mmm…the smell!! I had no idea they still made it! I’m not super diligent about the sunscreen but would feel horrible putting on the oil! I used to be a lifeguard outdoors in the summers and burned my nose so badly once and it still hurts when I get in the sun for too long. Scared me. Maybe they make something that smells just as yummy with some protection?? Happy medium!

10 | andrea

May 4th, 2010 at 7:57 pm


Shannon – this bottle has an SPF of 4 … which seems to be enough protection for the amount I’m outside during the week. They might make some with a higher SPF.

11 | Allison

May 4th, 2010 at 8:58 pm


It’s such a rock & hard place – bad UV rays and burning vs. slathering chemicals on your skin (and your kids). There are alot of really bad ingredients in sunscreens. I check out http://www.cosmeticdatabase.org – they usually have an overview on sunscreens on the market and the best/least toxic ones to purchase – and then of course review 100s of brands and types. I just dropped a good chunk of change on a very good, non-toxic sunscreen that I picked up at Rainbow Foods. Hope it works!

12 | coffeewithjulie

May 4th, 2010 at 10:15 pm


p.s. I remember my mom using Bain de Soleil too! (with a bright orange bikini no less) Good memories! :)

13 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

May 5th, 2010 at 9:57 am


Just today I was explaining to The Pea how vitamin D is made and what sunscreen does. I sent her off to school without any sun protection. I’m usually very diligent but not over the top. It depends on the situation. If we’re going to be out for a while then yes, but if it’s just for some free time outside before The Peach’s nap then no. As for me, I apply a moisturizer with a SPF and I apply sunscreen on myself when we’re spending time outside. My parents are Italian and have very dark skin but I’m more on the fair side with freckles on my face. Who knew that Italians could freckle? So I try to be careful but I also know the importance of vitamin D and the emotional effect a good dose of sun will do for one’s mood.

14 | KJT

May 5th, 2010 at 8:27 pm


Even before I read your whole post I thought of Bain de Soleil. It had the cachet of Chanel No. 5, although with a bit of an edge. So cool…

15 | Lee

June 1st, 2010 at 9:25 am


To add to Allison’s comment, “Ask Moxie” is hosting a really good discussion on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) sunscreen guide for 2010.


comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • ubobet.win: Ubobet is an internationally trusted gambling dealer previously 2001 until now. By holding attributed entry for online gambling sites that give vario
  • Wendy Perkins: Can g/f flour be substituted equally?
  • milhiskom.dk: Well done and written. I've jut started blogging myself very recently and observed that mwny articles merely rehash old ideas but add very little o
  • Brien Marshall: It's like Twitter but in real life! Certain people are looking for a platform to vent their opinion and you happened to be in their audience. On my
  • Sally Dowe Marchand: Oh my. I don’t know what I would have done. Bent over in agony maybe. Or turned quickly and walked away. Or offered sympathy for the stress she is
  • Lynn: Excellent to hear! Every person who reports getting the shot makes me feel hopeful, like we are one more small step closer to good times again. Our
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive I got jabbed! #TeamPfizer - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] the same day our youngest turned 20, I got my first Covid vaccine. For the record, my next one is scheduled four months from […]

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter