Generation Next

As temperatures rise, the kids start heading outdoors – but make sure they apply sunscreen firstSummer Skin Care for KidsTeach your kids to protect their skin while they have fun in the sun

By Ayanna Shields 

The days are getting longer, the school year is almost over, and families everywhere are planning trips and vacations. Finally, summer’s here!

In the midst of all the excitement, though, it’s important that parents stay vigilant in protecting their children’s skin from the sun. This summer is a great time to start teaching your children good habits that will give them a lifetime of healthy skin.

Dr. J. Brewster Caldwell of Dermatology Advanced Care says that the easiest and most effective way to protect your kids’ skin is by using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 that guards against both UVA radiation, which causes premature aging, and UVB radiation, which causes sunburn.

Also, make sure to help your youngsters apply sunscreen at least a half hour before heading outside so it can be absorbed by the skin. Then reapply it every two to three hours afterward. If they are going to be sweating a lot or in water, use a water-resistant sunscreen. Clothing such as hats and pants also can help block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. 

Another way you can protect your kids’ skin is by avoiding direct sunlight in the middle of the day by keeping them out of the sun from about 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. This time of day is when the sun is highest in the sky, and harmful UV rays can easily reach and damage the skin.

According to Caldwell, there are some common misconceptions parents have about protecting their children’s skin from the sun. One is that they won’t burn as badly if it is cloudy outside. The truth is, while UVB rays are blocked by clouds or even glass (i.e. your car windows and windshield), UVA rays are not.

Another misconception is that kids need to put on sunscreen only if they are going to be outside for a long time. Sunscreen, he said, isn’t just for use in the summer or just at the beach.

“Sun damage occurs year-round, so it’s important parents make sure their kids’ skin is protected every day,” he said. 

While it can be frustrating for parents to stay on top of applying and reapplying sunscreen, Caldwell insists it’s critical that parents be responsible for protecting their children’s skin.

“People get 80 percent of sun damage before they turn 18,” he said, causing negative effects on the skin well into adulthood.

Parents of teenagers, however, have a different battle to fight when it comes to summertime skin care. The American Academy of Dermatology states that tanning is becoming more popular among teens. Although they know tanning can cause premature aging and skin cancer, American teenagers ignore dermatologists’ advice and either lie out in the sun or go to tanning salons in pursuit of the bronzed look.

The academy says that more than 1 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year – more than the number of all other cancers combined. This trend is directly related to the growing trend in teen tanning. Although the federal government recently added the light emitted from tanning beds to its list of known carcinogens, most states, including Florida, do not have laws requiring tanning salons to prohibit minors from using their facilities.

Aesthetician Jaclyn Rodet said that spray-on tans are a safe alternative for teens who want that bronze glow without the risk of sun damage.

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