A child’s skin is thinner than an adult’s, and thus more sensitive to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to the World Health Organization, and children who get a lot of sun and sunburns can expect to face higher rates of melanoma as adults. Yet, because children tend to spend more time playing outdoors, most people get the majority of their sun exposure before they reach age 18.
So what should be done to protect children from the sun’s harmful rays? The same multi-pronged approach that experts recommend for adults.
That means covering up with protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-filtering sunglasses; avoiding outdoor activity during the midday hours when UV radiation is most intense; seeking shade; avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps; and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
The WHO emphasizes that sunscreen should never be used to prolong the duration of sun exposure, but rather as a routine complement to other safeguards.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind when it comes to sunscreen and children:
Sunscreen and other UV-protection measures should be put in place for any outdoor activity, even on overcast days, because most UV radiation penetrates clouds and glass.
Many surfaces, such as snow, sand and water, reflect the sun’s rays and magnify UV exposure.
For sensitive areas of the body, like the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and shoulders, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying a mineral-based sunscreen instead of a chemical-based sunscreen to avoid possible allergic skin reactions or mild hormonal interference. Mineral-based sunscreens are made with zinc oxide or titanium oxide, though some also have chemical filters as active ingredients, so read the label carefully.
Avoid the chemical filter oxybenzone in children’s sunscreen, if possible, because of concerns about mild hormonal properties. A sunscreen with oxybenzone, however, is still better than no sunscreen at all, because sunburns are dangerous and could lead to skin cancer later in life.
Put sunscreen on 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel.
For babies younger than 6 months, avoid using sunscreen without the advice of a doctor. Instead, keep babies that young covered up well and out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
If sunscreen use for babies is necessary, apply it only on small areas of the body, like the face.
Avoid using spray sunscreen that might accidentally get inhaled.
The sun does not discriminate, it does not see if you are a fairer tone or of a darker tone. Diseases like skin cancer, sunburn and other sun or heat related conditions can be caught by anyone exposed to too much sun. It becomes more important for darker skin toned people to wear sunscreen for protection against the sun as darker tones have a higher risk of developing Melanoma. So it is advised to be always protected against harmful UVA/UVB rays, no matter your skin tone . I've used EXTRASHADE sunscreen and love it's lightweight, moisturizing and doesn't leave white streaks on my skin! I LOVE IT!
I have stage IV metastatic melanoma and I have two kids ages 10 and 14. I believe that in most literature you read it is recommended that sun protection for everyone is a minimum of SPF 30 using a broad spectrum sunscreen preferably with zinc oxide. I liked your recommendation to not use oxybenzone in children's sunscreen and all the other recommendations about reapplying and different ways to get sun exposure.
One thing I would add, since it is so popular now with teens, is to avoid tanning beds. Unfortunately, teenagers are using tanning beds at an alarming rate and the tanning bed industry is loosely regulated when it comes to teenagers. This needs to change and legislation should be enacted to ban teens from using tanning beds. They can use a nice bronzer instead!
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