Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to Have a Sun-Safe Summer

By guest blogger Molly Borter

When it comes to sun safety, I have lots of less-than-fond memories of my mother’s frequent attempts to keep my very fair skin protected. I remember her calling me over in front of the big kids at the pool, pulling out a massive bottle of SPF 30, and lathering me up, despite my scrawny self’s attempt to run the other way. As she wiped globs of lotion over my face, my nose scrunched up worse than if I were eating a bag of lemons, and in a shrill, glass-shattering whine, I’d firmly—and repeatedly—object. Sound familiar?


Nowadays, while I put sunblock on my triplet three-and-a-half-year-old nieces before heading into the summer sun, I’m reminded of my young self. Kids don’t realize the importance of sun protection, and that’s why it’s so important for moms to understand how to properly protect their children from harmful UV rays. Studies report that up to 80% of UV damage occurs under the age of 18; it’s scary statistics like these that make me grateful for my mom’s sunblock persistence. Here are some ways to keep your kids sun-safe and your mind at ease during these hot summer months.


Choose and Apply Wisely
  • While you’re packing for your backyard barbecues and trips to the water park, make sure sunscreen is the most important item on your shopping list.
  • The FDA recently announced new guidelines for sunscreen that will help all of us know which labels are trustworthy enough for our kids. The regulations go into effect in a year and demand that sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for the “broad spectrum” label on sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher for proof that it prevents sunburn and reduces the risks of skin cancer.
  • Be careful of sprays, so your children don’t end up breathing, eating, or getting the sunscreen in their eyes. I personally love sprays, so I point the nozzle towards an area that’s away from my nieces and spray into my hands first.
  • Apply before leaving for the location, and don’t be fooled by a label that boasts a higher SPF, which the FDA says is misleading. Anything higher than SPF 50 might tempt you to let your kids stay in the sun too long. Take a tip from my mom and always reapply frequently.
  • It’s important to apply even if your kids are wearing a t-shirt over their suits, because when clothing gets wet, the amount of sun protection it offers is less than SPF 5!
Invest in Sun Gear

  • Whenever we go to our cottage in Michigan, I always make sure to cover the girls’ heads with a hat, which provides shade and blocks out most of the sun’s UV rays from hitting their little faces. Hats are also a no-fuss way to keep kids’ scalps from burning (which is hard to prevent with sunscreen), and prevents them from getting headaches from squinting.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses! So many moms forget about one of the most delicate body parts when it comes to sun protection: the eyes. Sunglasses protect children from UV radiation, which causes cataracts and blindness. Look for ones that provide 100% protection from UV rays, and keep your guard up: if the sunglass label doesn’t list protection percentages, it probably doesn’t have any. 
  • There are so many hats and sunglasses in fun colors and patterns out there these days, so your kids usually see this as a fun way to block the rays. Around July 4th, these are great pieces to make your kids feel as patriotic as they are protected. 

Be Sun Smart
  • If you know you’ll be basking in the sun all day (first off, lucky you!), make sure the kids take a break from the sun and go indoors for a bit to limit their time spent in direct sunlight.  I suggest having a snack under a shaded tree or heading to a kid-friendly restaurant for a meal. Or, you could make your own shade by bringing an umbrella or canopy.  With infants especially, make sure that they are constantly in the shade, because they lack tanning pigments (melanin) to protect their fragile skin.
  • UV rays are strongest when the sun is highest in the sky. Try to keep outdoor playtime to a minimum between 10 and 4. Plan on taking the kids to the park early in the morning or later in the afternoon for better protection. For those of you who have a full time job like me, I take my nieces on an after-dinner stroll in the wagon, which is a great alternate outdoor activity (and form of exercise for you!).
  • When the clouds are out, sometimes it’s hard to remember that UV damage can still happen, so make sure to take the same sun-protection precautions that you would on a sunny day.
  • Apply all of these steps above to your own outdoor routine, and you have an entire happy, healthy, sun safe family. Now that’s a worry-free summer vacation.
Molly Borter works as an Internet Marketing Specialist in Indianapolis, IN and is a lover of family time, fashionable sunglasses, the outdoors, and feeling fabulous. For more information on everything from UV protection to the right self-tanner for you, check out The Sun Authority.

Thank you, Molly, for all of the great summer safety tips! If you have any summer safety tips to add, you're welcome to leave a comment! I have a summer safety GIVEAWAY coming up this month! Keep your eyes open!

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