Summer is right around the corner, and with it is coming all of your favorite things: grilling out, taking the kids outside to play, running through sprinklers, trips to the beach. And the one thing all of these of these summer activities have in common is the dangers of a good old fashioned sunburn. You know how awful a sunburn can be as an adult, so imagine just how terrible it can be on the tender skin of your kids. That's why I spoke with Dr. Julie Karen, dermatologist of CompleteSkinMD, about ways to keep your kids safe in the sun this summer.
After the dreary days of winter and spring, it can be easy to let your kids run out of the house at the first sight of a sunny day and let them enjoy the great outdoors. And, in the excitement of warm weather, you may forget your proactive measures against the sun. As a dermatologist and spokesperson for Banana Boat, Karen spoke to me about the importance of using sunscreen, other protective measures, and how to help your kids gain a respect for sun safety so they will turn it into a lifelong practice, rather than something they forget the moment they're allowed to hit the beach alone. Thanks to Karen, you can start implementing the following tricks immediately and create a habit of sun safety practices — even at a young age.
1. Wear Sun Protective Clothing
Determining how to protect your child from the sun when they're just a babe can be tricky. "Basic guidelines are that children under the age of six months shouldn't use sunscreen, and this often confuses people," Karen says. "Your children six months and younger should be completely shielded from the sun. But this doesn't mean your child should be going out in the sun without sunscreen."
Karen says that sun protective clothing should be your first and foremost protection from the sun. With three children herself, she says that her kids are rarely in the sun without sun protective clothing. By starting them at an early age, ad allowing them to pick the clothes themselves, you make sun protection feel like second nature.
2. Seek Out Shade
Whether you're at the park, the beach, the pool, or roaming around town, you should always seek out shade. "When you start to get hot, take breaks from the sun and opt for playing in the shade," Karen says. This is especially important with young children, whose skin is especially sensitive and lacks the ability to thermoregulate. What is thermoregulation? It means that "they don't adjust their body temperature," according to Karen. This is why it's important to take breaks in the shade, even if you're not feeling overheated yourself.
3. Put Sunscreen On Before You Leave The House
This one is the step that many people miss when attempting to protect themselves from the sun. "You need to put it on before you leave the house," says Karen. "At least 20 minutes before." If not, you're exposing sensitive skin to the sun as soon as you step outside the door.
If you adopt one mantra this summer, let it be: reapply, reapply, reapply. "Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or sooner," says Karen. "Especially after perspiring, or toweling off." If you're going to be in and around the water, Karen recommends opting for a water resistant sunscreen. "There's no such thing as water proof," says Karen. "The most sunscreen can remain effective is 80 minutes when you're in the water."
5. Pay Attention To The Formula
Karen says that choosing the right formula is paramount when it comes to protecting your kids from the sun. "First and foremost, broad spectrum," she says. "This refers to both UVA and UVB rays." According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays are the longest type of ray and penetrate the skin more deeply. "UVB rays refer to the burn rays," Karen says. "They fluctuate more with change of weather, change of season." She adds, however, that both types of rays contribute to skin cancer, which is why you need to be protected across the spectrum.
When looking at numbers, Karen says you want an SPF of 30 or higher. "30, when used properly, blocks the proper amount of UVBs and UVAs. The problem is that no one puts on nearly enough." Karen says opting for a higher protection factor helps combat the fact that you're probably not slathering enough sunscreen on.
6. Give Your Children Tools To Stay Protected
How do you make sure the kids are staying safe in the sun when you're not around to make sure they're covered? Karen recommends implementing reminders for them. Whether it's a UV indicating bracelet, or an app for older kids, get them involved. "Really try to encourage your kids to apply sunscreen themselves," Karen says. Since there are all kinds of vehicles for sunscreen, from sticks to sprays, it's easy to get kids involved in protecting themselves from the sun while you're not around.
7. Lead By Example
Use all of these preventative measures on yourself, and your children. Rather than letting yourself bake in the sun as your kids watch the damage unfold over the years, lather up, don sun-safe clothes, and seek out shade when it's needed.