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Sunscreen and Babies & Children

Updated: May 12, 2022

One of my most vivid memories from preschool is when we would all queue up in a neat line by the door, and the teachers would slather sunscreen all over my little face and arms before I was allowed outside to play. For the first 10 minutes we were outside, it looked like a bunch of little ghosts running around, white with sunscreen that hadn’t soaked in yet.

Living in Australia, from a young age we are instilled with the knowledge of “Slip, Slop, Slap” and its fellow sun safety messages. (For anyone unaware, that’s “Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen and Slap on a hat!”).

We live in a country with a biting sun and one of the highest rates of melanoma and other sun-related skin cancers in the world. Our summers are long, hot and thanks to all of our major cities sitting on the coastline, the best way to beat the heat for most Australians is heading to the beach. As a kid, I always left the summer months with a deep, golden tan and sun-bleached hair. It’s only as an adult that I start to think of the repercussions of days without sunscreen and 12 hour stints in the sun. It’s only as an adult, that I realise how important it was that my preschool teachers slathered me in sunscreen every day, and why a tube of sunscreen was always on our booklist in primary school.

Children have delicate skin, and every sunburn received in childhood has the potential to contribute to melanoma and other skin cancers later in life. Frequent sun damage also leads to premature aging of the skin. We all have that uncle or grandparent who played a lot of sport as a kid and now has leathery skin and is always getting skin cancers removed – this is a result of a time-period when sun protection wasn’t well researched and no one wore sunscreens or protected themselves. But this doesn’t have to be the case now! We can protect kids from the sun, and as a flow-on effect, protect their adult skin too. Here’s some tips for applying sunscreen to kids:

· Choose organic – kids have delicate skin and harsh chemicals in some sunscreens can do more harm than good. The FDA has declared zinc oxide to be the only safe and effective sun blocking ingredient, whilst commonly used chemicals such as oxybenzone are potentially harmful.

· Test sunscreen on children before using – apply a small amount to their wrist and check for a reaction such as hives, itching or swelling. If a child develops any skin or eye irritation, immediately stop using that sunscreen. Look for sunscreens with minimal ingredients.

· Always use sunscreen on children 6 months and over when going out in the sun, regardless of complexion or skin type. Every type of skin is susceptible to sun damage.

· Apply at least 20 minutes before going outside. This allows the sunscreen to soak in and provide maximum protection.

· Don’t miss the small spots – don’t forget to apply to the lips, the ears, hands and tops of feet. Every inch should be covered.

· Remember a high SPF – sunscreen should be at least SPF 30 to provide maximum protection.

· Use a shot-glass of sunscreen – roughly 30mls (or the amount held by a shot glass or medicine cup) is the amount you need to cover the entire body thoroughly.

· Re-apply – sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after toweling off or swimming, even when using water resistant sunscreen.

· Don’t forget a hat and protective clothing – even when using sunscreen correctly, it’s still important to get as much sun protection as possible.

So once you’ve followed these tips for skin protection, you should be safe and ready to head out and enjoy the summer sun! Look out for our upcoming article about choosing the right sunscreen for your kids.

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