Sunscreen and sun protection are very important for children and adolescents. Skin cancer is becoming more common in young people. Protecting your child’s skin from too much exposure to the sun can greatly reduce this risk. Sunburn during childhood has been linked to a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Sunburn is a sign of skin damage that you can see, but invisible damage occurs too, in all skin types.
There are two types of sun rays that are harmful to the skin:
Types of Sun Screen to Use
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that all kids wear sunscreen. Make sure the sunscreen has these characteristics:
Check the front label and the ingredient label of the sunscreen. The product you choose should include one of these ingredients:
These tend to be thicker, but provide better protection for the skin.
Your child can do these things:
Check your child’s skin regularly. Look carefully all over the skin for new moles or changes in the skin. Talk to your child’s doctor about any changes you see. Read Helping Hand HH-I-199.
Infants have delicate skin and are more sensitive to the effects of sun exposure and heat. Sunscreen has not been extensively tested in young babies; therefore the AAD discourages use of sunscreen for those less than 6 months of age.
Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds and lamps use UV radiation that damages the skin and suppresses the immune system. This increases the risk of premature aging, wrinkling, leathery skin and melanoma. These effects occur years later but can be extensive.
The UVA light that is used in tanning beds and lamps is less likely to cause burns but cause deeper skin damage. The risk of damage, aging and skin cancer increases with each tanning bed use. Self-tanning products give the skin a tan look without UV exposure. Sun screen should still be used.
Sunscreen is even useful in the winter because snow can reflect UV radiation from the sun and UVA light penetrates through windows. You may want to use a sunscreen on your child if he or she is outside for an extended period of time during these months.