By: Katrina Lubiano
With the approach of the hot and sunny Queensland summer, it is getting to be increasingly important that your children are protected with a good quality sun block to keep their skin safe from the intense Australian sun.
The Dangers of UV light
UV light comes in 2 main forms, UVA, and UVB. Don’t be fooled by recent advertisements suggesting UVA is safer than UVB. They both have the same amount of danger and both will damage the skin. Children are especially affected by exposure to UV, which can increase the chances of getting skin cancer later in life.
What Does SPF Mean?
SPF stands for “sun protection factor”. It is a scale designed to measure the ability for a sunblock to protect the skin from UV light radiation. It works by multiplying the SPF by the time it takes your child's skin to redden in the sun.
For example; if it takes 15 minutes for your child's skin to redden without sunscreen, then it would take 15 minutes multiplied by 15 (SPF). With an SPF 15 sunblock, it would now take your child around 225 minutes for their skin to redden.
This of course depends on the amount of sunscreen applied, and whether or not your child has gone into the water or not.
How To Protect your Child From Sun Damage
It is important to ensure your child has adequate amounts of sunblock while outside. Wear proper clothing to protect the head, neck and face from the sun's rays, and repeat sunblock applications after swimming or entering the water.
1. Role Modelling
The main goal when it comes to childrens sunscreen application is to develop lifelong patterns. Skin cancer and UV damage don’t happen after a single exposure, but rather, after many repeated exposures. This is why role modelling and regularity can offer so much of a benefit for protecting your children from the damaging effects of UV. Children learn mainly by watching their parents or guardians, so teaching them these skills requires ready
Role modelling has proven so effective, that it has prompted several recent studies on the effects of role modelling on a children's behaviour and their ability or likelihood of developing a variety of healthy habits (like using sunblock). The results have all shown a strong connection between the regular actions and role modelling from a parent or guardian.
Role modelling is one of the most significant actions a parent can take towards instilling healthy behaviours like regular sunscreen use in their children.
2. Choose The Right Sunblock
Occlusive (Physical) Sunblocks
Physical or occlusive sunblocks use a physical filter to block the sun's rays. They are also commonly called mineral or inorganic sunscreens. They work by placing a barrier such as mineral particles like zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide to block the sun's rays from reaching the skin. They reflect the sun's rays, and stop them from damaging the skin.
In truth, these sunscreens will not completely block all of the sun's rays, but a good sunblock will manage to keep out the vast majority of the sun’s harmful rays.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both very safe to use, and will not absorb into the skin. They are the best option for children with sensitive skin as they won’t cause irritations. In fact, zinc oxide is actually a common additive in products designed for reducing skin irritations and inflammation!
Chemical sunscreens use special chemicals to filter the light hitting the skin instead of blocking it like physical sunscreens.
They work by actually absorbing the UV rays, and converting them to heat which is dissipated across the skin.
These sunscreens come with a variety of positive and negatives. Eye irritation, skin inflammations, rashes, and photosensitivity are all negatives of using this type of sunscreen.
The positive is that a good quality chemical sunblock can neutralize nearly all of the UV that reaches the skin including both UVA and UVB. They also tend to be more common in the waterproof sunscreens.
Make sure your children are wearing a hat that covers the entire head, especially the ears and eyes. This is going to offer better protection than any sunscreen. Choose a wide brimmed hat for best results.
It is also important that your child has sunglasses with a UV coating. The eyes are very sensitive to UV and can easily become damaged in the intense Queensland sun. Without protecting the eyes, UV exposure can lead to cataracts or worse which can diminish vision and eye health later in life.
Sunscreen and Babies
Babies have notoriously sensitive skin. For this reason, it is important to avoid putting any chemicals on your baby's skin. Try to avoid using sunscreen until about the 6 month mark unless you can find a sunblock with zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. Even with these sunblocks, try to use only on small areas of the body, and rely more on shade, and clothing to protect your baby's skin.