From what sunscreen to choose to how often to reapply it, here’s everything you need to know about sun protection for your kids.
The warm weather is a perfect opportunity for children to get outside and play in the sunshine. However, it’s so important to make sure you protect your child’s skin against harmful UV rays.
But what should you look for in a sunscreen for kids and how can you avoid sunburn? Leading dermatologists Dr Anjali Mahto of Cadogan Clinic and Dr Daniel Glass of The Dermatology Clinic offer their essential sun safety advice for little ones:
Why do children need sunscreen?
It’s absolutely vital that your child’s skin is protected from the sun during the summer months and on holiday.
‘Young skin is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ultraviolet radiation,’ explains Dr Mahto. ‘Babies below the age of six months have little melanin or pigment in their skin, and their skin is also too sensitive for the use of sunscreens. It is therefore important that young babies are not left in direct sunlight. After six months of age, sunscreen is safe to apply.’
Not only that, but ‘sustaining sunburn in childhood is thought to be a particularly important risk factor in the development of melanoma skin cancer,’ says Dr Glass. ‘Sun protection, starting in early childhood, is considered important in reversing the steadily rising numbers of melanoma in the UK.’
What to look for in sunscreen for kids
Dr Mahto advises to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against UVA and UVB light with a minimum of SPF 30. Remember to apply about 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or excessive sweating.
Look for a sunscreen that offers protection against UVA and UVB light with a minimum SPF of 30.
‘Published studies have shown that sunscreen is generally not applied as thickly or as frequently as recommended (2mg per cm),’ says Dr Glass. ‘This equates to about a quarter of a teaspoon of sunscreen to the face every application.’
The star rating for UVA protection can be between 0 and 5, where 5 is the best protection. Therefore always choose a sunscreen with 4-5 stars for UVA protection.
Sun safety tips for babies and children
According to Dr Glass, the best ways to protect your kids from the sun is a combination of care:
✔️ Avoid the sun during the middle of the day (11am – 3pm).
✔️ Seek shaded play areas for children.
✔️ Routine use of sun protection in the form of long-sleeved clothing, hats and sunglasses.
✔️ Use of a sunscreen with both factor 50 UVB and high UVA protection.
What to do if your child suffers sunburn
Dr Anjali Mahto explains that if a child below 12 months of age has sunburn you should seek medical attention immediately, as there is a risk of becoming severely unwell. For children over 12 months, she recommends the following:
🔹Act quickly and get out of the sun: Cover up the affected areas and keep your children in the shade until the sunburn has healed. Wear loose cotton clothing that allows the skin to breathe over the sunburnt areas.
🔹Take over the counter pain relief: Do this regularly until the skin starts to settle.
🔹Cool the skin: Apply a cool compress to the skin, eg a towel dampened with cool water for 15 minutes, or give your child a cool bath or shower. Aim to keep the temperature just below lukewarm. Make sure the shower has a gentle flow of water rather than being on full power. If blisters are starting to develop, then a bath is preferable. Do not rub their skin with a towel, but gently pat it dry.
Cover up the affected areas and keep your children in the shade.
🔹Moisturise: After a bath or shower, use an un-perfumed cream or lotion to soothe the skin. Repeated applications of this are necessary to reduce the appearance of peeling and this may need to be continued for several weeks. Aloe vera or soy containing gels or lotions can be beneficial in soothing the skin. Aloe vera not only has a cooling effect on the skin but also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Be wary of using creams or lotions that contain petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. These can either trap heat in the skin or cause local skin irritation.
🔹Stay hydrated: Sunburn can encourage fluid loss through the skin. Give your child plenty of water to prevent dehydration and help their body recover.
🔹Leave blisters alone: Try to encourage your child not to pop blisters as this can lead to infection and scarring. They will settle by themselves after a few days.