This summer, one thing you want to keep in mind is your skin. The sun throughout the summer months can be very powerful, and also very damaging for anyone’s skin, and you will want to protect it as much as possible. There are several ways you can do this, but the most important is sunscreen.
With Mommy Matter spending most of our days out in the sun, we need to be cautious and protect ourselves, and we thought we’d share some tips with you!
Keep Your Kids Safe Without Spoiling Summer Fun
Get Serious About Sunscreen
If you haven’t yet succeeded at training the kids to use sunscreen, new research adds some heat. A team at the University of North Carolina has linked a high cumulative level of sun exposure between infancy and age 20 with the development of a mutation known as braf in the skin cancer gene, which accounts for about half of all melanomas. Kids of all ages should religiously use a sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA radiation, experts say.
While the sun-protection factor measures UVB protection, there is not yet a rating system for UVA coverage. Instead, you’ll have to check the ingredient list. Look for new sunscreens containing the highly effective UVA blocker Mexoryl SX, or titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone, all of which block both types of rays.
But first things first – do these before applying sunscreen.
The best defenses against getting too much harmful UV radiation are protective clothes, shade and timing.
Don’t get burned. Red, sore, blistered (then peeling) skin is a clear sign you’ve gotten far too much sun. Sunburn increases skin cancer risk – keep your guard up!
Wear clothes. Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays – and don’t coat your skin with goop. A long-sleeved surf shirt is a good start.
Find shade – or make it. Picnic under a tree, read beneath an umbrella, take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade – they lack tanning pigments (melanin) to protect their skin.
Plan around the sun. If your schedule is flexible, go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. UV radiation peaks at midday, when the sun is directly overhead.
Sunglasses are essential. Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation, a cause of cataracts.
Now put on sunscreen – here are the essentials, beyond the quick tips.
Some sunscreens prevent sunburn but not other types of skin damage. Make sure yours provides broad-spectrum protection and follow our other tips for better protection.
Don’t be fooled by a label that boasts of high SPF. Anything higher than “SPF 50+” can tempt you to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburn but not other kinds of skin damage. FDA says these numbers are misleading. Stick to SPF 15-50+, reapply often and pick a product based on your own skin, time planned outside, shade and cloud cover.
News about Vitamin A. Eating vitamin A-laden vegetables is good for you, but spreading vitamin A on the skin may not be. New government data show that tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with vitamin A-laced creams. Vitamin A, listed as “retinyl palmitate” on the ingredient label, is in 33 percent of sunscreens. Avoid them.
Ingredients matter. Avoid the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone, a synthetic estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body. Look for active ingredients zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX. These substances protect skin from harmful UVA radiation and remain on the skin, with little if any penetrating into the body. Also, skip sunscreens with insect repellent – if you need bug spray, buy it separately and apply it first.
Cream, spray or powder – and how often? Sprays and powders cloud the air with tiny particles of sunscreen that may not be safe to breathe. Choose creams instead. Reapply them often, because sunscreen chemicals break apart in the sun, wash off and rub off on towels and clothing.
Message for men: Wear sunscreen. Surveys show that 34 percent of men wear sunscreen, compared to 78 percent of women. Start using it now to reduce your cumulative lifetime exposure to damaging UV radiation.
Got your Vitamin D? Many people don’t get enough vitamin D, which skin manufactures in the presence of sunlight. Your doctor can test your level and recommend supplements or a few minutes of sun daily on your bare skin (without sunscreen).
Sun Safety Tips For Kids
Kids are more vulnerable to sun damage. A few blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s lifetime chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer. The best sunscreen is a hat and shirt. After that, protect kids with a sunscreen that’s effective and safe. Take these special precautions with infants and children:
Infants under 6 months should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible. Their skin is not yet protected by melanin. So when you take your baby outside:
- Cover up – Wear protective clothing, tightly woven but loose-fitting, and a sun hat.
- Make shade – Use the stroller’s canopy or hood. If you can’t sit in a shady spot, put up an umbrella.
- Avoid midday sun – Take walks in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Follow product warnings for sunscreen on infants under 6 months old – Most manufacturers advise against using sunscreens on infants or urge parents and caregivers to consult a doctor first. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants as a last resort when shade can’t be found.
Toddlers and Children
Sunscreen plays an essential part of any day in the sun. However, young children’s skin is especially sensitive to chemical allergens as well as the sun’s UV rays. When choosing a sunscreen, keep these tips in mind:
- Test the sunscreen by applying a small amount on the inside of your child’s wrist the day before you plan to use it. If an irritation or rash develops, try another product. Ask your child’s doctor to suggest a product less likely to irritate a child’s skin.
- Slop on sunscreen and reapply often, especially if your child is playing in the water or sweating a lot.
- Choose your own sunscreen for daycare and school. Some childcare facilities provide sunscreen for the kids, but you can bring your own if you prefer a safer, more effective brand.