Summer Skin Care for Kids (cont.)

Rule No. 4: Use sun block (such as zinc oxide) and children's sunscreens. These products are the next line of defense to prevent sunburn. Some tips:

  • Some parents worry whether sunscreen is safe for babies. "It's not that an infant's skin is more permeable. It can't absorb any more chemicals from sunscreen than an adult's can," Connelly tells WebMD. "It's their skin-to-body ratio that puts infants at risk. The question has been, if you coat them with sunscreen, are those chemicals going to overwhelm them?"

    Using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide eliminates that concern. "Those are the two ingredients we use on a baby's bum ? so I would say they're safe enough for the rest of the baby, too!" she adds. Two products that contain just those two main ingredients are Blue Lizard Baby and Total Block Cotz-SPF58. Another brand, Bullfrog, contains both chemical protection and sun blockers -- and comes in a mist form.

  • Don't be afraid to use children's sunscreen on babies -- in small doses. "If you're going for a walk, and the baby's feet are exposed, it's appropriate to put sunscreen on them so they don't get burned. It's better than not protecting them at all."
  • Don't forget to prevent sunburn on lips. "Sunsticks" and many lip balms offer sunscreen protection.
  • Read sunscreen labels closely for reapplication advice. Even waterproof lotions must be reapplied frequently, Hebert notes. Also, once wet skin gets toweled dry, sunscreen must be reapplied.
  • Look for sun-protection products your kids will enjoy. "There are spray and purple sunscreens that are fun for kids," says Hebert. In general, she adds, dermatologists advise an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn.

Rule No. 5: Shade is essential to prevent sunburn. At the beach, on a walk, at the sports field, the rule of thumb is "try to always keep yourself and your children covered," says Connelly. Your "shady" shopping list:

  • A big beach umbrella.
  • A stroller with a canopy (not always easy to find, but worth looking for).
  • Wide-brimmed hats and caps (with the bill pointing forward).
  • Solar tents. The little ones are perfect for a napping infant, but not big enough for anyone else to get inside. Bigger tents are available for family use.
  • UV protection sunglasses. Glasses that are close-fitting, and protect against UVA and UVB rays are best. Wraparound lenses are best, because they block 5% more rays. Protective styles are available for all ages, even infants.

Most of all, use the sunscreens you buy -- don't just keep them on the shelf.

Even sun tanners can be part of overall sun protection for your kids as well as yourself. "The key is that an artificial tan does not innately provide protection -- but it may have protection added in. Read labels closely," says Hebert.

Published May 2005.

SOURCES: Elizabeth Alvarez Connelly, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami. Adelaide Hebert, MD, director of pediatric dermatology, University of Texas Medical School, Houston. WebMD: "Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer." American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Dermatology.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/30/2005 1:21:09 PM