Sun series: Keeping kids safe
We know it’s important to protect our skin from sun damage, especially when it comes to children.
It’s never too early in the year to start using a high factor sun cream on little ones, which is why we have sought expert advice on SPF for kids and keeping them safe in the sun.
Sun damage is caused by two types of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates deeper and ages our skin, while UVB penetrates less but causes sunburn. The amount of UV light present depends on the time of year and how close you are to the equator, rather than the temperature. So even on cloudy days your family can still be at risk.
“It is not just the use of a high factor (SPF50) sun cream but sun protection as a whole that is important in children,” Dr Hiva Fassihi, Consultant Dermatologist, told Cover Media. “Exposing children to too much sun may increase their risk of skin cancer later in life. Sunburn can also cause considerable pain and discomfort in the short term. Children should sun protect by avoidance of the midday sun, wearing of appropriate clothing including hats and sunglasses, staying out of direct sunlight as much as possible, and then also by using a high factor (SPF50) sun cream on limited exposed sites.”
While we are aware of the damage skin can do to our skin, is it really necessary to splash out on protective creams tailored for children or babies? Dr Hiva explains that while the suncare products may have the same SPF, there are benefits to using something specially formulated for young skin.
“An SPF50 adult sun cream and an SPF50 children sun cream will give the same amount of protection against sunlight,” he said. “However, I generally recommend a sunscreen specifically tailored for children/babies. The formulations contains more physical blocks such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are largely inert, non-irritating chemicals that provide good broad spectrum protection. In general, children have more sensitive skin than adults so lotions or creams may feel better.
“Children’s sunscreens are fragrance free which causes less irritation and also make them less appealing to insects.”
Dr Hiva added that suncare for little ones tend to leave white marks on the skin, so parents know exactly where the lotion has been applied.
Most suncare brands offer child-friendly creams, with skincare giants La Roche-Posay releasing a new baby product which is twice as strict as European standards.
The general advice is to adopt the Australian adage of ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ – slip on a shirt, slop on sun cream and slap on a hat. Choose closely woven fabrics such as cotton as they can reduce sunlight exposure.
It’s also worth remembering that we all need some sun as it’s a great source of vitamin D. This is particularly important for helping children absorb calcium to promote stronger, healthier bones. However, it doesn’t take much time outside to get the vitamin D we need.