Now that spring has officially sprung (and summer is just around the corner) I thought it would be a good time to talk about sun safety and sunscreen. In social media lately sunscreen has gotten a bad rap. People are worried about the chemicals in the lotions we use and causing harm to their child by applying them. But, the truth of the matter is NOT using an effective sunscreen will cause much more damage!
Skin cancer is a real problem and in many cases is related to damage from the UV rays from the sun. This damage starts when we are young and compounds on itself as we age. Sun damage not only causes many skin cancers, but, also is related to wrinkles, skin discoloration and burns that can result in pain and scars.
To protect yourself and your kids from the sun, I’d recommend the following four need to know things:
- Sun avoidance: stay in the shade when you can! Use big brimmed hats, long lightweight clothing or the shade of a building to keep yourself out of direct sunlight. The hours of
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. are when the sun is strongest and tends to cause the most damage. Remember, though, clouds don’t count as sun avoidance – you can still get burned through the clouds.
- Sunscreen clothing: there are clothes that are SPF rated that are long sleeves/pants that you can have your child wear. These items are lightweight to allow your child to not overheat but also cover a large surface area of skin requiring less sunscreen lotions to be applied. Hats can also be SPF rated and should also be used to protect the scalp, face, and neck.
- Sunscreen lotions: SPF of 30-50 is what is recommended no matter your age (even young babies who are going to be in direct sun should be protected!). Proper application is key. You need to put a generous layer on any exposed skin (don’t forget your ears!) and reapply every 2 hours – especially if swimming/sweating. You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going in the sun to allow it to dry. At first, many sunscreens are white on the skin – that’s OK! Get it all over your skin, let it dry for 10 minutes and then wipe in any remaining white spots.
- Type of sunscreens: there are two types – physical blockers (which contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) and chemical blockers (which have chemicals that block the harmful UV rays from the sun). Use of physical blockers (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) may help to minimize irritation due to sunscreen use if your child has sensitive skin. Zinc oxide is the main ingredient in a lot of diaper rash creams (such as desitin) – you could even use this for a sunscreen if you didn’t have any other options!
I hope this helps you feel better about protecting your kids and your family from the sun’s harmful rays. We all want you to play outside, but in a safe way. Have a fun, sunny summer! As always, if you have any specific questions or concerns, feel free to call your pediatrician. Thanks for reading!