British Skin Foundation Q&A
It's Sun Awareness Week! What with internet forums, your Mother, and the check-out lady in Waitrose all giving their two cents’ worth, it’s hard to differentiate fact from fiction when it comes to sun protection. So we thought we’d go direct to experts, The British Skin Foundation, to get the low down on how to keep the family protected.
What are the top tips for new mums in regards to sun protection?
Never allow babies to be left in direct sunlight and certainly never, ever let them burn. Always protect them by keeping them in the shade, whether this is with an umbrella or simply by being indoors. They should also be covered up by clothing.
Is children's skin different to adult's skin?
A baby’s skin simply isn’t as developed as an adult's, which means parents need to be extra vigilant when it comes to the sun, even in Spring. Babies should never be left out in direct sunlight, as they can dehydrate and be sunburnt very quickly. What’s more, babies can’t regulate their temperature in the same way as adults, so can easily overheat. For children we would recommend using a sunscreen with a high SPF of at least 50, as children’s skin is more delicate and more sensitive to burning.
At what age is it safe for new babies to be exposed to the sun (with adequate protection)?
We would recommend that a child is kept completely out of the sun until at least 36 months. A baby’s skin is delicate and easily damaged by the sun, so you’ll have to be extra vigilant when it comes to protecting them in the sun. Once babies are walking (and potentially if they are crawling), any parent will tell you that it is impossible to keep them in the shade, which means you have to make sure they are adequately sun protected with clothing and sunscreen. Any exposed areas of their body should have as high sunscreen as possible applied to it.
Are there any scenarios that parents should be careful to avoid that might not be entirely obvious?
This would of course depend on environment and actives taking part in. When undertaking any water activities sunscreen has to be reapplied more regularly. When indoors babies/children should be kept away from direct sunlight coming through windows as UV can penetrate certain types of glass.
What are some easy strategies to sun-proof?
- For children we would recommend using a sunscreen with a high SPF, such SPF50, as children’s skin is more delicate and more sensitive to burning, as well as a high UVA rating, those with a four or five star UVA rating.
- Wearing a wide brimmed hat that covers a child’s face and ideally the ears and neck.
- Wearing loose long sleeved clothing natural fabric clothing, such as cotton.
- Seeking shade between 11am – 3pm when the sun is at its strongest, especially when aboard or in hotter climates.
- Regular re-application especially after activities such as swimming.
- In the UK we’d recommend using sunscreen from the beginning of April until the end of September.
Are different sun-protection strategies needed for different holiday locations? For example in Australia where the Ozone layer is thinner?
Same strategies should be applied in the UK as aboard, remembering in hotter climates to reapply sunscreen more frequently i.e. every hour, especially when out in direct sun.
Should we protect babies' eyes from the sun?
Children's eyes are very delicate and need protecting from the sun. From birth, it is a good idea to protect a baby's eyes with a sunhat, umbrella or just by sitting them in the shade. As soon as possible, they should be wearing sunglasses. As children tend to be very active, look for lenses that are plastic and scratch resistant (unless stated otherwise by a doctor or optician). In addition look for the CE and British Standard marks, which prove they conform to the European Community Standard. Find glasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays and ideally a wraparound style.
There we have it, the experts have spoken, and we certainly feel more clued up on sun-safe behaviour. So now the next time your prenatal class discuss their homeopathic cucumber and oats ‘suncream’, you can set down some home-truths about how to stay safe in the sun. As the only charity in the UK dedicated to fighting skin disease and skin cancer, BSF have validated our UPF50+ swimwear and we are proud to donate 10% of profits on selected lines to such a worthy cause.