July 27, 2020

By: Dr. Jonathan Jassey

Anyone who knows me well knows how much my kids mean to me. Having 3 girls (ages 13, 11, and 8) can certainly be a handful at times. In their eyes, I am not up to par on music and fashion trends, and I lose just about ALL the battles at home. However, their summer trend of “getting a tan” and not applying sunscreen is one battle that they do not take the ‘win’ for. So, let’s discuss the importance of sunscreen during these summer months.

Everyone is at risk for sunburn. Children especially. Children are born with nearly perfect skin. That can change as time goes on once sun exposure slowly causes damage. The majority of lifetime UV Ray absorption occurs before a child turns 18, and the vast majority of skin damage occurs from the sun. Since most sun damage occurs in childhood, damage from the sun can increase a child’s risk for skin cancer later in life. Babies’ skin is also less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults. All these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to some chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from certain sunscreen.


Tips in the sun:

1) Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella, or stroller canopy. Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs and use brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.

2) For over 6 months of age, make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin.

3) Try to find a wide-brimmed hat that can shade the cheeks, chin, ears, and back of the neck.

4) Look for warning signs of sunburn or dehydration, such as fussiness, redness, and excessive crying.

5) For sunburns, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.

6) Limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

7) The sun’s damaging UV rays can bounce back from the sand, water, or concrete; so be particularly careful of these areas.

8) Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.

9) Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective. Wear commercially available sun-protective clothing, like swim shirts.

10) Apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater to areas of your child’s skin that aren’t covered by clothing. Before applying, test the sunscreen on a part of your child’s body looking for an allergic reaction. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids.

11) Be sure to apply enough sunscreen — about one ounce (about the size of a shot glass) per sitting for a young adult.

12) Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

13) Rub sunscreen in well, making sure to cover all exposed areas, even the easy to miss places such as the face, nose, ears, feet, and hands, and even the backs of the legs.

14) Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors – it needs time to work on the skin.

15) Pay attention to the expiration date on the bottle. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time.


Sunscreen tips:

1) Sunscreen labels contain key info that helps you evaluate their effectiveness. All labels must list Sun Protection Factor (SPF), a number that reflects a sunscreen’s ability to protect skin from skin-cancer-promoting UVB rays that cause sunburn.

2) SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays and is the minimum rating recommended for any sun exposure, whereas SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. Nothing blocks 100% of UVB rays, and a sunscreen that touts an SPF 100 rating, which sounds impressive, will only block 1% more UVB rays than an SPF 50 sunscreen.

3) Sunscreens labeled broad-spectrum shield skin from both UVB and UVA rays, which also can cause premature skin aging and contribute to skin cancer. 

4) Water-resistant means the sunscreen is formulated to perform well despite the presence of water or sweat. It will be rated either as water resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

5) You may want to select a sunscreen that does not contain the ingredient oxybenzone, a sunscreen chemical that may have hormonal properties and has found trace amounts of it in blood samples of people throughout the U.S.

6) The sensitive skin of babies and children is easily irritated by chemicals, so avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzophenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone.

7) If you have skin irritation or allergies, avoid sunscreens with alcohol, fragrances, or preservatives. They can make your skin feel like it’s burning or sting your eyes or trigger allergic reactions.

8) There have been some health questions surrounding parabens and nanoparticles, so avoid when possible.

9) The FDA recommends against using sprays on kids because of the likelihood of inhalation and respiratory problems like asthma. Also, sprays encourage the application of too little sunscreen and run the risk for blotchy sunburned skin.

10) Store sunscreen in a cool dry place because heat and humidity can ruin it.

11) Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide are two minerals that physically block and scatter the sun’s harmful rays and are less likely to irritate the skin. Unlike chemical ingredients, these protect babies’ skin without being absorbed. Zinc oxide, a very effective sunscreen, can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, top of the ears, and on the shoulders.

12) Also, you want a sunscreen that nourishes delicate skin. Omegas and vitamin E can work together to moisturize and help protect your little one’s developing skin.