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Published on April 11, 2012


Sunscreen – We’ve Got You Covered

It’s official – spring is here, and summer is looming around the corner. However, this spring has so far been feeling a lot like summer, which means that now is a good time to remind everyone to protect their skin when playing outdoors, especially since we know that sunburns and excessive tanning increase the risk for skin cancer later in life.

Take a stroll down the aisle wherever sunscreen is sold and you are likely to be overwhelmed with the choices available. How high of an SPF do I need? How often should it be re-applied, and at what age is it safe to start using it on my children?

Use Clothing To Your Defense

First things first, if possible avoid being outdoors when the sun’s intensity is at its highest – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Clothing is the next line of defense – it should keep your child cool and comfortable, and cover as much skin as possible. The tighter the weave of the fabric, the better it will protect against the sun. Hold the fabric up to the light to check – the less light that goes through, the better!

How To Choose The Best SPF

Sunscreen is for everything else that can’t be covered (except the eyes, of course, but we’ll come back to that). Take a look at the label before you buy. You want an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15; I usually recommend 30 to 45. The sunscreen should cover for both UVA and UVB rays – both types cause skin cancer, but UVB is the primary cause of sunburns. Another option is a compound containing zinc oxide – these are especially good for sun sensitive areas like the tops of the ears, but they don’t absorb into the skin like sunscreen does. If having that white-paste-look on the ears or nose is a concern, several companies now offer different colors of zinc oxide that kids are sure to have fun with!

Don’t Forget To Re-Apply

Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and it should be re-applied at least every two hours – even if it says it is waterproof or sweatproof! Remember, when you are on the beach or out in the water, you are also being exposed to sun rays that are being reflected off the surface of the sand or water – this increases your exposure and should prompt more frequent application of sunscreen.

Covering Sensitive Areas

Don’t forget the eyes – protect them from sun damage by wearing sunglasses that have at least 99 percent UV protection. With all the fun choices of kid-targeted sunglasses, it shouldn’t be hard to find a pair they will love wearing! The lips are another special area – look for lip balm that also has SPF component to it.

Too Young For Sun?

I recommend that children under the age of six months avoid direct exposure to the sun – staying in the shade is best for them. If this is not possible, use sunscreen sparingly to areas that will be exposed to the sun. After six months, sunscreen can be applied more liberally, but make sure to avoid getting it in their eyes.

So head outdoors, but make sure you do a few simple things to keep your skin healthy and help reduce the incidence of skin cancer later on in life.

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