Summer is here, and whether or not you are staycation-ing at home, or heading to an even hotter climate, we all need to make sure our skin is protected.
Because, let’s face it, while we love warm weather and sunny skies, there is no denying that the sun's harmful UV rays are also playing havoc with our health. And when it comes to keeping safe in the sun, it is vital to remember that babies and children are the most vulnerable, and that we need to make sure they are staying protected at all times.
But getting sun care right can be a tad confusing – with all the information overload that is out there. Luckily, we recently had a chat with some experts, and got the low-down on ALL things sun safety.
Here is what we all need to know:
What does SPF mean?
Many of us refer to SPF (which stands for Sun Protection Factor) without really knowing what it means. Skin normally starts to burn after about 10 minutes in full sun without any protection. And the SPF number on your sunscreen represents how many more times skin will be able to stay in the sun before it burns.
Meaning, a 15 SPF sun cream would give you about 10 times the protection before you start to burn i.e. 150 minutes.
And this is why it is so important to reapply sunscreen frequently throughout the day – especially for children. In fact, according to dermatologists, reapplying every two hours is a good rule of thumb.
SPF only tells us about protection against burning UVB rays, which are the rays that cause you to burn, but says nothing about UVA protection. For UVA, most products have a star rating - the higher the rating, the better the UVA protection.
For the record, UVA rays are the ones that penetrate the skin more deeply and are more likely to cause cancer and premature ageing. These rays may not cause visible sunburn, but it is actually really important to protect yourself and your family from these. According to the Centre for Disease Control, UV rays cause up to 90% of melanomas – the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
Do I have to wear SPF every day?
Yes. UVA rays are present during all daylight hours 12 months of the year and can even penetrate clouds and glass.
Why is it important to wear SPF?
The UVA rays play a major part in premature ageing of the skin and tissue damage and can cause cancer. How powerful the intensity of UVB rays does depend on the time of year and the location, but these rays cause sunburn.
Should I only use it on my face?
No, all exposed body parts should have SPF applied and most importantly the face. You can get face creams and make-up with SPF 15 but a minimum of 30 is recommended. Don’t waste your time with sunscreens that claim to contain factor 50 plus. According to the FDA, there’s no evidence such products provide better protection against harmful rays—and they may actually make us feel overconfident and less likely to reapply.
Who is most at risk?
Everyone should be sun safe but those most at risk for sunburn or UV damage are those with red or fair hair, those with pale skin, moles, freckles and those with blue green or grey eyes. And remember, the UV is as damaging at home as it is abroad.
Should babies be in the sun at all?
In babies, sunburns can be a medical emergency, causing dehydration, high fever, blisters, infections, chills, and heatstroke, not to mention vastly increasing their lifetime skin cancer risk.
Babies are not only likelier to become seriously ill from sun overexposure, but also more apt to develop sunburns: their sensitive skin contains less melanin, the pigment that gives our hair and eyes their colour and offers some sun protection. In short, parents must do everything they can to keep babies safe from sunburn.
Infants should be kept out of direct sunlight. Seeking shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is most intense, should be a top priority.
What is the deal with using sun cream on babies?
There are divided opinions on this, but the general recommendation is to remember that infant skin is different, and that babies under six months should not use sun cream, but instead be kept in the shade, covered up and never in direct sunlight.
Dress them in close woven (i.e with no holes – so that the sun cant get through) clothes – long sleeves and long shorts or trousers.
What SPF should I use on my kids?
For children, it is a good idea to keep them out of direct sunlight or make sure they are wearing a hat when out and about in the sunshine and slather on sunscreen with a minimum of 30 if they are old enough for sun cream. A broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with a minimum SPF of 30 is advisable.
Apply it liberally at least half an hour before going outside so it absorbs into the skin and don’t forget those ears and feet.
Read the back of it
Do check the ingredients list before buying a new sunscreen. Do look for the ingredients zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX, all of which are powerful UVA blockers that remain on the surface of the skin instead of absorbing into the body. Don’t choose a product that includes ingredients that may affect hormones and/or are potentially carcinogenic, such as insect repellent, oxybenzone and vitamin A (retinyl palmitate).
Apply with care
Remember, to reduce the chance of developing skin cancer — or just ageing skin — it is extremely important to make sure that sunscreen is applied properly. No matter where you go, sunscreen can only do so much, so try to avoid long spells in the direct sunlight especially during the hottest hours of the day. Seek shade and cover up. We highly recommend the pop up shade pods for the kids at the beach. It's a great way for them to keep playing but to stay out of the sun when you are at the beach for a while.
Any recommendations of brands? There is so much choice out there!
If your head is spinning as to which brand is best after a lot of research and trial and error with my own kids trying to find one that goes on easy, has a high factor, does what it says and works well with sensitive skin (both the boys get a little bit of eczema from time to time) this has won out against the rest for us every time. I highly recommend it. We love La Roche Posay and really trust this product.