While everybody needs some sun exposure to produce vitamin D (which helps in the absorption of calcium for stronger and healthier bones), unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and immune system. It can also cause cancer. Although there are other contributing factors, including heredity and environment, sunburn and excessive UV light exposure does damage the skin, and this damage can lead to skin cancer.
A sunscreen protects from sunburn and minimizes suntan by absorbing UV rays. Using sunscreens correctly is important in protecting the skin. Consider the following recommendations:
Choose a sunscreen for children and test it on your child’s wrist before using. If your child develops skin or eye irritation, choose another brand. Apply the sunscreen very carefully around the eyes.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
Apply sunscreens to all exposed areas of skin, including easily overlooked areas, such as the rims of the ears, the lips, the back of the neck, and tops of the feet.
Use sunscreens for all children over 6 months of age, regardless of skin or complexion type, because all skin types need protection from UV rays. Even dark-skinned children can have painful sunburns.
Apply sunscreens 30 minutes before going out into the sun to give it time to work. Use it liberally and reapply it every two hours after being in the water or after exercising or sweating. Sunscreens are not just for the beach – use them when you are working in the yard or participating in sports.
Use a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen and re-apply after swimming or sweating heavily.
Use of a sunscreen with SPF of 20 to 30 offers substantial protection from sunburn and prevents tanning. High SPF sunscreens protect from burning for longer periods of time than do sunscreens with lower a SPF. Talk with your older child or teenager about using sunscreen and why it’s important. Set a good example for them by using sunscreen yourself.
Teach your teenager to avoid tanning beds and salons. Most tanning beds and salons use ultraviolet-A bulbs. Research has shown that UVA rays may contribute to premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.