It’s that time of year again. The days are getting warmer, and the sun is higher in the sky. Time to check in with our kids’ exposure and make sure we are taking appropriate measures. But most of us don’t take nearly enough.
While sunscreen is really important, it’s only one tool we should be using to avoid overexposure. For a good part of the year, we don’t think about it at all, but sun should be an ongoing concern in terms of long-term health. After all, the skin is the largest and most vulnerable organ we possess, so we need to get in the habit of taking care.
There are so many products on the market, it’s difficult to know which ones are just flashy, expensive branding and which ones are the exoskeleton your little one needs when playing in the pool or at the beach. Here are some facts and tips about staying safe in the sun.
Sunscreen is not enough. Cover up! Whether your kids are fair- or dark-skinned, using sunscreen is not the only important protective measure. In the peak heat of the day, use lightweight clothing, stay in the shade and get everyone a reliable hat.
Don’t forget to hydrate! We lose a lot more water during the hot months through sweat, and dehydration is the pits. Keep a reliable water bottle on your at all times and make sure the kids keep up with their fluid intake throughout these long days.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is not a marketing strategy, it’s a real measure of protection. Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 or higher, no matter what color your kids are. SPF 15 blocks about 94 percent of UVB rays compared to an SPF 30 product, which blocks 97 percent of UVB rays, and an SPF 45 product, which blocks about 98 percent of rays. Above SPF 50, you are not going to see much more efficacy.
Who needs sunscreen? Everybody. Skin cancer rates are increasing among people of color, in part because those blessed with melanin don’t easily burn and therefore think they don’t need it. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, everyone should be using sunscreen. Reducing the risk of skin cancer and premature aging are reasons enough.
Do some aftercare. When the sun goes down, apply some coconut oil or aloe vera gel to the whole body. It feels great and it helps the skin recover from the rays it did catch.
UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are the harmful, aging rays, where UVB or burning rays are the ones that actually cause sunburn. Look for broad spectrum products so that your and your family are protected against both.
Reapply every 2-3 hours. Most people forget that sunscreen wears off! Always pop for the water-resistant variety so that sweat and water play don’t make the skin susceptible ― and if they are in the water, reapply every 80 minutes.
Avoid toxins. Not all products are created equal: some very expensive sunscreens have all kinds of chemicals that cancel out their protective benefit. Sunscreen for babies is a pretty safe bet since acceptable levels of harmful or questionable ingredients are more stringent. Mineral-based products that contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide are usually relatively free of additives and parabens.
Do your research. If you are confused by the barrage of products out there, the Environmental Working Group is a science-based resource that presents the facts in terms of harmful ingredients and effectiveness. The site also includes articles on the latest findings. Check it out here: http://www.ewg.org/
It’s not just about preventing a pesky sunburn, it’s also about preventing skin cancer, overheating, premature aging and other negative effects. So pop some extra supplies in the car for when someone forgets, and get in the habit of protecting yourself adequately too. Your body will thank you.