sun protection: everything you need to know
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Spring has sprung and here in Indiana temperatures are hovering in the high 70s. This means lots of outdoor playtime with the kids, and of course time to whip out the sunscreen. I’m sure you’re already aware of the importance of sunscreen, so I won’t lecture you on that aspect. But, while we all know we should use sunscreen, it turns out most people aren’t using it properly. In fact, studies have shown that most people don’t use nearly enough sunscreen for adequate protection.
To make sure you and your kids are covered for the summer, I put together a simple tip sheet to get your started. For ideas on products I like, check out my post Top Sunscreens for the Average Parent.
1. Thorough and frequent application is essential. According to Coppertone Solar Research Center fellow Patricia Agin, a product’s SPF rating is determined by controlled laboratory-based testing. Therefore, if the sunscreen is not used properly the protection level decreases accordingly. Put simply: if you’re not applying generously and frequently, you’re not getting the full SPF on the label.
2. Applying sunscreen in the morning is not enough protection, no matter which product you use. Experts tend to agree that sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, and even more frequently after swimming or excessive perspiration. And, just because a sunscreen is “water proof” or carries a high SPF rating doesn’t mean you don’t need to reapply.
3. The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends using at least 1 ounce or enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass to maintain the SPF level. What this means is that an average person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle during a long day at the beach.
4. It takes time. Most sunscreens take 20-30 minutes to be fully absorbed into the skin, so make sure to check the label and be patient when necessary.
5. Don’t forget the often missed spots. Make sure to use sunscreen on the ears, tops of feet, neck and hair part, as well as a lip balm with SPF protection.
6. Children need extra protection. Not only do children have more delicate skin, but they also spend more time in the sun than the average adult. Before your child becomes a teenager and develops the desire to tan, it’s important to protect him while you can. By using a high-level sun protection in the early years, you can set the tone for good skin care and reduce the risk of skin cancer and other damaging effects from the sun.
In addition to sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and specially-designed SPF clothing can dramatically reduce the effects of sun without compromising comfort or style.
7. Young babies need protection too. In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged the use of sunscreen on infants under the age of 6 months. That’s changed. They still recommend using proper shade and avoiding the sun when possible, but they also say that: “for babies under 6 months of age, sunscreen may be used on small areas of the body such as the face and the backs of the hands if adequate clothing and shade are not available.” They suggest testing the sunscreen on a small area of the back for sensitivity.
8. Tackling the kids with SPF doesn’t have to ruin the day. There is a wide range of products available for kids, including manual and continuous sprays, SPF wipes, sticks and traditional lotions. It might take a little trial and error, but the trick is to find a product that is easy to apply AND the kids don’t hate. For babies and toddlers it may be easier to apply sunscreen before you get them dressed and then reapply with a SPF spray every hour.
KINeSYS recommends allowing each person in the family to claim ownership of their own bottle of sunscreen and getting involved when it comes time to apply. “We have found the most effective way to promote sunscreen use in kids is to let them be part of the process,” they say. “In general, if sunscreen application time is fun and not forced, this makes it much easier to protect sensitive skin.”
9. Know when to toss the bottle. I used to think sunscreen needed to be replaced every year. Come to find out, that’s not actually the case. Energizer Personal Care, of which Banana Boat is a brand, says the active ingredients in most sunscreens are actually very stable, even under stressed storage conditions. However, it’s the inactive ingredients such as the lotions and bonding materials that might deteriorate similar to the way salad dressing separates over time. Their recommendation is to toss a sunscreen that has passed its expiration date or if it’s texture is compromised.