Summer is the perfect time for the pool, playgrounds and sun-filled activities. Fortunately, with good sun habits, children can enjoy sunny days outside without risking their health. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life. And unfortunately, 54 percent of children burn or tan in their second summer, and 22 percent burn in their first, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Board certified Pediatric Dermatologist Dr. Manju George specializes in personalized care for infants, children and young adults. She understands that kids have unique dermatologic requirement because “children are not just small adults.” Dr. George offers advice on how to keep your kiddies protected from the sun’s rays by knowing what to look for in sunscreen, how to use it, and how to add fun to habits so that your kids will enjoy sunscreen time.
Dr. George’s Sunscreen Tips
1. LOOK AT THE LABEL. A lot of parents assume, well, the higher the SPF, it must be better. What you really want to look for is the ingredients in your sunscreen. What I recommend is zinc oxide or titanium dioxide [These are physical sunscreen ingredients.] Choose an SPF of 30 that’s labeled broad spectrum. That means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
2. AVOID SPRAY ON SUNSCREENS. The major drawback of an aerosol sunscreen is that it could get into the eyes or inhaled by a child, and we really don’t have the long-term data on those effects.
3. USE GENEROUS AMOUNTS ALMOST EVERYWHERE. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is number one: not applying enough sunscreen. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before leaving the house, no matter what the weather. Even on a cloudy day, you still get 80 percent UV exposure. Start with the neck down, make sure you cover thick and evenly on all areas of the body, not forgetting the ears, backs of the hands, crease of the neck, underarms, between the fingers, underneath the bathing suit. After you’ve covered those major areas, you should do the face last.
4. REMEMBER THE LIPS AND SCALP. The lips need protection as well. Another tip that I give parents is to put it in his or her part line. But one of the best ways to protect scalps is to actually purchase a hat.
5. MAKE APPLYING SUNSCREEN FUN! I like to call it your magic cream or magic lotion. Children like making it special. Don’t make it a chore. One mom actually told me she uses a paintbrush and has the child paint the sunscreen on themselves. Another thing that children really like to do, is they like to apply it on you, so let them apply it on Mom or Dad. They tend to be much more receptive when you do things together and you make it a fun activity for them.
Parents, it’s up to you to keep your little ones protected from the sun, so keep Dr. George’s advice in mind during outdoor playtime. To best protect your child from the sun, cover them with a hat, pants and long sleeve shirt, apply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming and limit time outside when the sun is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Have fun making fun with sunscreen!
Disclaimer: The information provided by Coolibar and its contributors is general skin care information and should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem.