Now that the warm weather is coming and the summer holidays are around the corner, we need to protect from the sun. This is particularly important for young children as sun damage adds up throughout their lifetime and can increase the risk of skin cancer in later life. Besides, studies show that the regular use of sunscreen can reduce not only the risk of skin cancer, but also the signs of skin ageing and dark spots on the skin. As parents, we can help our children develop good sun protection habits, that will benefit them for life.
Which sun cream should I choose?
There are so many options in that it can be hard to decide which one you need. Firstly, you should choose broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays, at least SPF 30, with 4 or 5 UVA stars and water resistant.
Secondly, you need to consider your skin type and where you want to apply the sun cream. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, look for a sunscreen that won’t clog your pores (“non-comedogenic”). If you have sensitive skin, you should avoid creams with fragrance, parabens or oxybenzone. If you have a darker skin tone, you can use tinted sunscreen that won’t leave a white residue. Lotions are better for hair-bearing areas, whereas sticks are useful for the lips and eyelids (this way it doesn’t drip into your eyes).
What are the sun-safety recommendations for children?
Small babies are much more sensitive to the sun than older children because their skin contains less melanin, which gives colour to the skin and provides sun protection. Therefore babies should not be directly exposed to the sun. You should keep them in the shade, make sure they don’t get overheated and encourage them to drink plenty of fluids.
Sunscreen is best avoided in infants under 6 months old as their skin is thinner and can absorb the chemical ingredients in sunscreen, which can increase the risk of an allergic reaction. When you go for a walk on a sunny day, you should use a buggy with a sun-protective cover. Remember to also use protective clothing, such as a wide brimmed hat and UV protective sunglasses and seek shade specially between 11 am and 3 pm.
Tips for applying sunscreen
1. Apply sun cream generously to cover all the exposed skin 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Try to spread it uniformly and allow it to dry.
2. Don’t forget to protect the top of the feet, neck, eyelids and ears.
3. Most lip cancers and precancerous lesions grow on the bottom lip, because it gets more sun exposure than the top. To protect your lips, you should use a lip balm with sunscreen
ingredients and reapply every two hours and after eating or drinking.
4. Make sure you apply sunscreen on the hairline, hair part or bare scalp. You can also wear a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.
5. Reapply the sun cream every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating.
6. When using spray sunscreen, never spray it near the face or mouth to avoid inhalation.
Spray it into your hands and then apply it. Be also aware of the direction of the wind.
Dr Cristina Rodriguez-Garcia
Dr Rodriguez-Garcia is a Consultant Dermatologist and a fellow Kensington Mum of a 2-month-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. She also has a PhD about skin conditions in newborns. Her Harley Street practice, Skin Inspection, is recognised as world-class private dermatology clinic, helping patients by diagnosing and treating pigmented skin lesions and other dermatological conditions. For more information, visit www.skininspection.co.uk