A sunburn today can lead to skin cancer tomorrow
Whenever outdoors your child’s skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, and sunblocks are a must.
- Cumulative long term unprotected sun exposure increases your child’s risk of skin cancers later in life.
- Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.
- Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes.
- It can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning.
- Tanned skin is damaged skin. There is no such thing a protective ‘base’ tan. Any change in the color of your child’s skin after time outside – whether sunburn or suntan – indicates damage from UV rays.
- The sun doesn’t discriminate. It damages the skin of all races.
- It doesn’t have to be ‘sunny’ for UV rays to damage skin. They penetrate clouds even if it is not ‘hot.’
- Your child doesn’t have to be at the pool, beach or on vacation to get too much sun.
- In Woodland Hills the UV index, a system that measures the intensity of the suns rays from 0-11, during the summer is often an 11+ or extreme.
5 ways to protect your child from the sun
There are lots of ways to protect your child’s skin all year long. Here are five you can try.
- Seek Shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, prevent sunburn by seeking shade under a tree, an umbrella or a pop-up tent.
- Cover Them Up. Clothing that covers your child’s skin helps protect against UV rays. Although a long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best, they aren’t always practical. A T-shirt, water shirt, rash guard, long shorts or a beach cover-up are good choices. There are many fabrics that offer SPF protection and are labeled as such.
- Get a Hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids but they don’t protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunblock.
- Shades Are Cool. And they protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Rub on Sunblock. Use sunblock with at least SPF 30 and UVA/UVB protection every time your child goes outside. Sunblock reduces damage from UV radiation, it doesn’t eliminate it. Use of it must be combined with other sun protection methods.
Use sunblock daily
- Sunblock comes in a variety of forms – lotions, sprays, wipes or gels. Be sure to choose one with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and both UVA and UVB or broad spectrum protection.
- For most effective protection, apply sunblock generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. And, don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips and the tops of feet which often go unprotected.
- Take sunblock with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises. This applies to “waterproof” and “water resistant” products as well. Keep in mind, sunblock is not meant to allow your kids to spend more time in the sun than they would otherwise.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises that sunblock use on babies less than 6 months old is not harmful on small areas of a baby’s skin, such as the face and back of the hands. But your baby’s best defense against sunburn is avoiding the sun or staying in the shade.
Sunblock / Sunscreen facts
- Pure sunblock contains physical or organic ingredients that reflect and scatter UVB light.
- Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb and reflect UVA & UVB rays but allow certain rays to be absorbed into the skin.
- Most lotions contain both sunblock and sunscreen and manufacturers use the terms interchangably.
- The best sunblock or sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays also called broad spectrum rays.
- There is no such thing as waterproof sunblock. Sunblock must be reapplied regularly.
- A sunblock marked water resistant is supposed to protect skin in the water for 40 minutes
- A sunblock marked very water resistant is supposed to protect skin in the water for 80 minutes.
- Manufacturers also label some bottles as Sport to indicate water and sweat resistance.
- Sunblock is required to remain fully effective in the original bottle for 3 years. But storing it in a hot car or in direct sunlight can weaken the formula more quickly.
- If your sunblock changes color or consistency, toss it out.
- If the expiration date has come and gone, toss it out.
Sunblock labeling regulations
In December 2012 the FDA’s new labeling regulations will start going into effect with the intent of making it easier for consumers to understand the differences between all the sunblock and sunscreen choices. We hope it works!
The best sunblocks
We recommend a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunblock/sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more in a lotion or pump spray. (Stay away from aerosol sprays. They cost more and run out quickly since most of the lotion goes into the air and onto the floor.) Our favorite picks are from Banana Boat. We like them because: they don’t have too strong of a scent, they work well in water and sweat, and they feel good on the skin. Keep in mind as you go above SPF 30 the lotion gets thicker and thicker and harder to apply. Sometimes its so thick skin just can’t absorb it.
With a little preparation we can protect our children from the sun and still have a great time outside! Best of all we will be instilling habits that will last a lifetime.