This guide gives you information on the effects of the sun on babies and children and how best to protect them. We provide baby sun care advice on the best sun cream for babies and children and tips on how to look after young skin in the sun.
Protecting delicate young skin from the sun
No-one can have failed to notice all the publicity that has been given to the dangers of exposure to sunlight over the last couple of years.
Most of the advice that has appeared in the press relates to adults and teenagers - people who can generally be expected to take some responsibility for their own health.
But what about babies and young children - what advice should parents follow to ensure that they don't put their children at risk during sunny weather?
Allergies to sun lotions
Rates of eczema and allergies amongst children continue to rise and early introduction of toxic skin care products may be a contributing factor.
It is known that some substances, when applied to the skin, may be absorbed and enter the bloodstream. Research has shown that, depending on the nature and properties of the chemical, as much as 60% of what is applied to the skin may be absorbed.
Many of today's baby sun care products contain a cocktail of chemicals including irritating UV filters, parabens, petrochemicals, PEGs, DEA, TEA, irritating emulsifiers, synthetic colours and artificial perfume.
If your child is sensitive to sun cream, avoid products that contain these ingredients and choose organic and natural sun care for babies and children instead.
Why is the sun dangerous?
Before looking at what parents should and shouldn't do to protect their children from the sun, we need to understand the reasons why too much sun can be bad for us.
Sunlight consists of a wide range of different wavelengths of radiation. Some of these we can sense - the warmth we feel in sunlight comes from infrared radiation, and the light we can see comes from radiation in the visible spectrum.
There are other wavelengths in sunlight that we can't see, and chief among these are those in the ultraviolet group. There are at least three different types of ultraviolet radiation and these are generally referred to as UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVC has the shortest wavelength and although it is potentially very harmful to our skin, it is completely filtered out by the earth's atmosphere and so does not affect us.
UVB RADIATION - B IS FOR BURNING
UVB radiation plays a key role in the development of skin cancer as well as skin ageing.
It causes the appearance of a tan after sun exposure.
It does this by stimulating the formation of the pigment 'melanin' in the deeper layers of the skin.
Melanin acts as a skin protector by filtering out UV light - it is in fact part of our natural defence against sun damage.
UVA RADIATION - A IS FOR AGEING
UVA radiation is potentially the most damaging form of UV light as it penetrates deep into the skin where it can cause changes to the living cells in the basal layer. It is now understood that these changes to living skin cells are the primary cause of the most serious forms of skin cancer.UVA also damages collagen and elastin, the main causes of wrinkles and premature ageing in skin that is often exposed to sunlight.
Sun advice for parents
The general advice given to adults who are going to be exposed to sunlight can be summed up in the now famous Australian adage of 'Slip, Slop, Slap' - Slip on a Shirt, Slop on some sun cream, Slap on a Hat . Clearly, all three of these actions are designed to reduce exposure to sunlight and therefore minimise the risks involved.
Avoid exposure to the sun when it as its strongest - between midday and three in the afternoon. This is the time when many Mediterranean countries traditionally have lunch followed by a siesta - both taken indoors thereby avoiding the worst effects of the sun.
What does SPF mean?
All sunscreens carry a Sun Protection Factor, usually abbreviated to SPF. This is followed by a number: 15, 30, 50, etc. But what does this mean to the user?
"The higher the SPF value, the longer the user will be able to stay in the sun without visibly burning."
The higher the SPF value, the longer the user will be able to stay in the sun without visibly burning.
As an example, if someone would normally start to burn after 5 minutes in the sun when unprotected, by using an SPF15 sun cream they should be able to stay out for 75 minutes (5 minutes x SPF15) without visibly burning.
Babies and prickly heat
Prickly heat is an irritating red rash caused by sweat becoming trapped under the surface of the skin.
It can be brought on by a number of factors including high temperatures, strenuous activity and reduced levels of hydration, and may be aggravated by the use of waterproof sun lotions with ingredients that prevent the skin from breathing.
The first way to reduce prickly heat is to reduce the amount your child sweats. This can be achieved quite simply by:
- Staying in the shade
- Wearing only loose-fitting, cool clothes
- Showering in cool water regularly
- Avoiding exercise in hot weather
- Drinking more water than usual
You can also help your child's skin by avoiding waterproof sun lotions which often contain petrochemicals and silicones (which are like wrapping their skin in cling film) and choosing instead ones that let their skin breathe naturally. Our sun creams for children are suitable for those with prickly heat.
Baby sun care advice
Newborn babies should not be exposed to sunlight at all until they are at least 6 months old. After that age, and depending on their skin type, short periods of unprotected exposure lasting just a couple of minutes at a time may be introduced.
Other than for these brief moments, all other sun exposure for babies must be carefully controlled and must not be allowed to take place without some protection.
As with adults, keep the skin covered with light clothing, although bear in mind that UV radiation can pass through thin materials, especially if they are wet. Make sure they wear a wide-rimmed sun hat that shades the neck, ears and face - the best ones have ribbons attached so they can be tied under the chin. Alternatively, use a parasol for protection.
As children become older and more active it becomes even more important to keep applying sun lotions especially if they are in and out of water in a pool or at the seaside. Again, keeping covered with a light t-shirt will help, but don't forget to apply lotion underneath to prevent burning.
If you are in a hot climate, try to copy the locals and take a break in the heat of the day. Babies and children soon adapt to the idea of a siesta and by avoiding the heat of the day they are often happier and less irritable.
As your children grow up, try and encourage them to assume some of the responsibility for ensuring they are safe in the sun. Give them their own bottle of sun lotion and show them how and when to use it - soon it will become a habit that will protect them for the rest of their lives.
Babies and sun: top tips for parents
- Avoid all sun exposure under 6 months of age
- Always provide some form of protection from the sun
- Wear a wide-brimmed sun hat, preferably tied on
- Apply at least 30 minutes before sun exposure
- Reapply frequently, and especially after bathing
- Avoid the heat of the day between noon and 3:00pm
We also have more advice on protecting babies from the heat.
If you wish to find out more about our natural and organic sun lotions for babies and children, please get in touch. We are always happy to help so please call us on 01403 740350 or leave your comment or question below.