We know there are many benefits of playing outside, breathing fresh air and getting exposured to natural sunlight which is also recognized as a major source of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.
However, while we enjoy the outdoors, we need to make sun protection an essential part of our daily routine.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the skin in as little as 15 minutes and just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.
And because a significant amount of the sun’s damaging rays (roughly 70 to 80 percent) can come through clouds or fog, sunscreen is crucial — even on overcast or chilly days.
How to protect children from the sun
- Avoid high-intensity hours: The best defense against the sun’s damaging rays is avoidance. Have children play in the shade and avoid exposure to the sun’s strongest rays of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If in direct sunlight, protect skin with a hat and lightweight, long-sleeved clothes.
- Be SPF smart: The number found on every container of sunscreen stands for “sun protection factor.” According to the Food and Drug Administration, SPF is related not only to time spent in the sun but also to the amount of sun exposure. The higher the SPF, the more protection it provides. Today, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that kids use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Use lotion instead of spray: While any form of sun protection is better than none, lotion generally provides a thicker and more even coating on skin, giving more protection. Also, the inhalation of spray sunscreen has become a recent concern, and it should never be sprayed or worn near a flame, as it may contain flammable ingredients such as alcohol.
- Slather sunscreen on all skin tones: While it is true that people with dark skin are not at as great a risk of sunburn as those with lighter skin, everyone benefits from the protection of sunscreen.
- Keep infants covered: Babies 6 months and younger are thought to be even more susceptible to the sun’s damaging rays. Avoidance and covering up are the primary recommendations for babies at all times. When that isn’t possible, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying just a little bit of sunscreen to exposed areas such as faces and the backs of their hands.
- Use protective eyewear: Everyone’s eyes will benefit from the protection offered by sunglasses. Make sure you wear a pair with at least 97 percent protection against both UVA rays (the ones that cause spots, wrinkles and possibly skin cancer) and UVB rays (which lead to burns and skin cancer).
SUNSCREEN SHOPPING TIPS
• Firstly try and stock up during winter when sunscreen products are marked down but check the expiry date
• Waterproof is best but don’t let it fool you – re-application must take place according to the factor on the bottle – factor 30 every 30 minutes, factor 50 every 50 minutes – if your child was swimming then rather reapply directly once they leave the pool or ocean and reapply once they get back in
• If you are outdoors and bundled up, your skin still sweats and SPF needs to be reapplied throughout the day
• Don’t shop higher factors than 50 – they have such a lot of non-organic ingredients as well as an overload of chemicals – it’s not worth it
• Cream is better than spray. Spray seems really easy and less of an effort but if not distributed by hand you may miss certain areas which will be exposed and can burn
• Don’t forget lips. No-one really likes having sunscreen in their mouths so rather get a SPF lip-balm to counter any discomfort
• Face sticks are easy to apply, wont leak and absorbs into the skin quickly
HOW TO TEACH KIDS TO APPLY SUNSCREEN
Here are 10 tips for putting and keeping sunscreen on children:
• Before applying, consider additional ways to protect skin, eg. Sun protective clothing, hats, caps and swim caps that covers the neck area as well.
• Make it a ritual right from the start – if the little ones have never gone swimming outside without a swim shirt and sunscreen, they don’t know anything different…
• Don’t wait until the last minute to apply – for sunscreen to work best, apply it 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. In an ideal world, you’re in an indoor environment when you apply.
• Apply when they’re strapped in their car seat – this approach can make the process easier with infants and toddlers as they are just squirmy and wormy – this way you have a bit of control and can do it quick and easy.
• Make it fun – make it a face game… tell her to make a puffer fish face and that will usually entertain her long enough to apply sunscreen.
• With older kids, appeal to their vanity – the most powerful strategy for reluctant teens is not around cancer risk and scary scars from melanoma, but around vanity and appearances. Say things like “UVA rays change the elasticity of your skin… you’re going to get more wrinkly and you’re going to look older, faster,” or “I want you to be as beautiful as you are for as long as you can.”
• Consider spray – there have been some concerns about the inhalation risks of spray sunscreen, but that being said, they’re convenient, easy to use, and may encourage families to reapply sunscreen in regular intervals. But be certain to spray and then rub in as well, else you may miss some spots.
• Make sure you have enough – the key to having sunscreen stay in the right place is to use enough. You need an 30ml of sunscreen to cover someone’s whole body, so if you have a 90 ml bottle, it won’t last for a whole day once you start to reapply.
• Reapply strategically – time the reapplication with a snack so that the cream has time to dry before they dive into the water again.
• Be prepared for impromptu fun in the sun – keep a sunscreen stick in your handbag at all times for the best skincare.
Taking simple precautions can help make fun in the sun safer for your family. Keep plenty of sunscreen and protective gear on hand and enjoy the season!