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Shedding Light on Sun SafetyIn the United States, more than one million adults are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Since damage done to the skin during childhood is the main culprit, it’s extremely important to protect your child. Summer or winter, rain or shine, 9 a.m. or 1 p.m.—he needs to be shielded from an excessive amount of the sun’s harmful rays.

The best options are sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. When choosing sunscreen, look for natural mineral options that physically block the harmful UV rays with active ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Avoid any sunscreen with benzophenone, oxybenzone, octinoxate (also called octyl methoxycinnamate) or homosalate, because these chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and could act as xenoestrogens in your child’s body. Xenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals that have unintended effects; some have been linked to problems with puberty, fertility and even cancer. Also stay away from products that contain parabens, which are preservatives that may also act as xenoestrogens. Select a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, preferably higher, and make sure it’s labeled “broad-spectrum,” since you’ll want to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

A baby’s skin is much thinner and more sensitive to the sun than an older child’s skin. The American Academy of Pediatrics used to suggest parents avoid putting sunscreen on infants under six months of age, but this is no longer the case. For babies, the danger of sunburns outweighs the risk of sensitivity to sunscreens.

Another effective means of sun safety for both infants and older kids is protective apparel. Don’t rely on everyday clothing: A typical cotton T-shirt only offers sun protection of about SPF 7. Instead, look for clothes with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50 or more. UPF clothing has a substance that blocks UV radiation in its fabric. You can find UPF protection in everything from swimsuits and shirts to hats and shoes.

Whether you’re using sunscreen alone or combining it with UPF clothing, it’s important to protect your child against sun damage now so it’s not detrimental to them in the future.

Sun Tips

  • Keep your child out of the sun during the middle of the day in order to avoid the sun’s most intense rays.
  • Don’t be lulled into complacency by overcast days, since most of the sun’s harmful rays will get through the clouds.
  • Put sunscreen on your child 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply your child’s sunscreen roughly every 80 minutes, and always after he goes in the water.
  • No matter the time of year, consider using sunscreen on your child whenever he’ll be in the sun for 30 minutes or more.
  • Be extra careful around sand, snow and water, since they’re reflective and intensify the sun’s rays.
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