My KTLA segment this morning was cut a little short, so here is what you really need to know to protect your children from the sun’s harmful rays this summer and all year round.
SPF 30 is standard (and minimum) protection recommended for daily use. So what do higher numbers mean? Not much. There really isn’t a difference between SPF 50 and SPF 100, which is why the FDA is proposing that new labels read SPF 50+ as the maximum SPF protection available. If you are fair, prone to skin cancer or you want added security just in case you can’t reapply as quickly (or you aren’t sure if sunscreen will be reapplied by camp counselors), choose an SPF 50+ for your kids.
UVA and UVB
Sunscreen must be labeled broad spectrum to protect your children against all the sun’s harmful rays. UVA rays cause age spots and wrinkles and UVB rays cause sunburns, but BOTH cause cancer.
There is no such thing as waterproof or sweat proof sunscreen, which is why the FDA has banned the use of those words on the label. ALL sunscreen wears off after a few hours, so it’s a must that you reapply frequently—at least every 2 hours and especially after swimming or sweating. Updated sunscreen labels will be marked as water resistant for 40 or 80 minutes to give parents a better idea of when to reapply. It’s important to know that sunscreen is tested in perfect conditions, so it won’t last as long when you’re kids are running around, sweating and jumping in and out of the water.
Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles your child’s chance of getting melanoma later in life. Sunscreen should be considered an everyday skin product, not just for the beach or swimming pool. 80% of the suns harmful rays can still get through on cloudy days. Moisturize your children every morning with a cream or lotion that contains SPF of at least 30. Focus especially on exposed areas of skin including face, neck and back of hands. Teach your children to reapply before recess, PE or other outdoor time whenever possible.
Dermatologists recommend one ounce of sunscreen (a shot glass) as the amount needed to cover exposed skin for teens and adults. This means if you are spending the entire day outside, you will use a half a tube of sunscreen! Kids may need a little less, but you are still going to need at least one tube per child per week if you are spending all day outdoors. Apply 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply often.
Avoid and Cover up!
Wearing sunscreen is important, but the best way to protect your kids from the sun’s harmful rays is to avoid the sun during peak hours from 10 to 4. Since that isn’t always possible, wide brim hats, sunglasses and SPF clothing are the next best and available everywhere and at a variety of price points. Or wash SPF into their clothing with a product like Sun Guard. Start infants and toddlers off early with an SPF shirt as part of their swimsuit so it becomes part of their beach and pool uniform as they grow up.
Ok for Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that it is ok to use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months of age when protective clothing and shade are not available. Choose a product labeled safe for baby or sensitive skin. Preferably one that only has physical blocks such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Of course, best is to keep infants under 6 months of age out of the sun because their skin is especially sensitive and can quickly burn. Use a stroller with a shade or attach an SPF shade to your stroller. After all, we want to protect babies against cancer causing rays too.
Spray or cream, baby or sport?
Parents often ask me which sunscreen is best for their children. My answer: whichever one your child lets you apply frequently! It’s a good idea to test a little bit on a small area of skin before slathering your little one all over, just to make sure it doesn’t cause a skin reaction. If your little one’s are especially sensitive (my younger son is) ask your dermatologist, allergist or pediatrician for a recommendation. If you choose spray sunscreen, make sure you spray outside and not on your child’s face to avoid inhaling the fumes.
There you have it. A little preventive care goes a long way in protecting your family’s skin. With shade, UV protective clothing, a hat, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen, you and your family can enjoy the sunny days ahead. Have fun!