How can I protect my child from the sun?
What are the most important factors for protecting the skin?
Many families will finally start to enjoy the first rays of sunshine, which also means taking a series of precautions to look after our health.
Children’s skin has certain characteristics that differentiate it from adult skin. Although it is softer, it actually has a thinner protective outer layer (horny layer), which means that the probability of erosion, infection or sunburn is considerably greater than that of an adult. Hairlessness also contributes to the fragility of children’s skin. Adults have a greater amount of skin sebum and specific antibodies in their skin that protect them against any external aggression, whereas children’s skin is much more exposed due to these deficiencies.
- Know the basic care of children’s skin.
The first and most important thing is skin hygiene. Bearing in mind that children’s skin has fewer natural defences against infection, we should not neglect daily bathing. It is recommended that the bath be short, with lukewarm water and “soap-free” or “syndets” soaps (without detergents). In this way, at the same time as we cleanse the skin, we moisturise it.
Immediately after the bath and while the skin is still damp, apply a moisturising substance in any texture: oil, lotion, milk or cream without perfumes.
- Avoid exposure to the sun.
This is fundamental because in infancy, 50-80% of the sun exposure of a lifetime is received. Children’s skin is more susceptible to sunburn and sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of melanoma. Healthy sun exposure habits up to the age of 18 significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Choosing the right sunscreens
The ideal sunscreens for children are physical sunscreens, as chemical sunscreens present higher risks of irritation and allergies. Newborns and children under one year of age should not be exposed to direct sunlight if the ultraviolet index is higher than 5.
The first sun rays of the season are the most dangerous for two reasons: because we are caught unawares, without a filter, without a hat, etc… and because the skin has not yet synthesised the melanin that will protect it for the rest of the summer.
- How to choose the right chemical sunscreen and apply it correctly
There are 2 types of sunscreens, physical filters and chemical filters. Physical filters have a screen effect that reflects solar radiation so that it does not reach the skin. They act as a portable shade. Chemical filters absorb solar radiation and transform it into radiation that is harmless to the skin. Most sunscreens combine both types of filters to achieve higher protection.
Physical or mineral filters are the safest because they are not absorbed, but they are also the aesthetically worst because they do not penetrate the skin and leave a very obvious whitish layer.
But to avoid this effect, many manufacturers have started to use mineral filters in nanoparticles. The nanoparticles are such small structures that these filters are no longer visible.
The cream must always be reapplied after 2 hours. Why? Because SPF measures protection against UVB rays, and protection against UVA rays is variable and cannot be measured. If the cream ensures a protection of at least 1/3 of the protection it offers for UVB rays, the word UVA should be circled, indicating that the protection is also high for this type of radiation.
The amount of sunscreen is also very important. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen. You should calculate 1 or 2 teaspoons for each body area: 1 for face and neck, 2 for chest and abdomen, 2 for back and 1 for each arm and leg.
It is also important not to forget particularly delicate areas such as lips, ears or the back of the feet. Apply to dry skin about 30 minutes before sun exposure.
Water resistant sunscreens can withstand up to 40 minutes of immersion, and water proof sunscreens up to 80 minutes, but should still be reapplied after swimming.
The activity of sunscreens is altered by heat, so it is important to leave the cream in the shade. Of course, it should not be used if it has expired, nor if the shelf life has been exceeded once the container has been opened: this information can be found on a symbol in the shape of an open jar that indicates the number of months that the cream retains its activity once it has been opened.
The best care is to avoid exposure to the sun in the middle of the day and especially in the summer months. The use of a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen clothes are habits that will help us to keep the sun off the skin.