Sort out which are myths or scares and put what you read into perspective

Sunscreens

Children's sun protection 

Print this page

Sunscreens play an important role in protecting skin from the sun's harmful rays that can burn and also cause premature ageing and skin cancer. As with all cosmetics, making sure that sunscreens are safe is a key priority of cosmetic regulations. These laws require an extra safety assessment for products, including sunscreens, intended to be used on or by children under three years old. However, because a baby's skin is very sensitive to sunlight, it is recommended that parents keep children under six months out of direct sunlight altogether.

Dr Emma Meredith, a pharmacist and Director of Science at CTPA, gives some tips for staying sun safe this summer:

 

Top tips for keeping children safe in the sun

 

  • Keep them covered: One of the best ways to protect your child's skin from the sun's rays is to keep children covered up with loose-fitting, tightly-woven clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Children's eyes can be more sensitive to UV light than those of adults, so they also need protection. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses for your child with 100 percent UV filtration (it’s important to remember that toy sunglasses may provide no protection at all).
  • Stay in the shade: Set up your children's play areas in the shade so they are less likely to suffer from over-exposure to the sun. The sun is usually at its most intense between 11am and 3pm, so shade is even more important during this time.
  • Wear sunscreen: The British Skin Foundation recommends that children should use a minimum SPF 30 product with UVA protection. Of course it is important to try to keep sun exposure to a minimum for young children and especially babies under the age of six months. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and again around the time of going out in the sun. Then reapplied every couple of hours throughout the day. Remember to re-apply if your child has been playing in the water and never use sunscreen to extend the time they spend in the sun.
  • Healthy and hydrated: Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, particularly in hot weather; keeping up their water intake prevents dehydration and maintains healthy kidneys and bladder.
  • Be wary of temporary tattoos: Temporary tattoos are a popular holiday treat for children, especially when visiting foreign countries, but be aware of the dangers they could pose to your child's skin. So-called "black henna" versions can contain substances that are illegal for use in tattoos and which can cause nasty skin reactions. See our video and read our Safe Summer Skin guide to find out more.
  • Vitamin D and the sun: Vitamin D is essential for good health and, in particular, to maintain healthy bones. Sunlight acts on the skin to produce vitamin D; but excessive sun exposure can cause damage too, so there needs to be a balance.. When exposed to the sun it is still important to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. Cancer Research UK has a great website called SunSmart which gives helpful information and advice, with a specific section on vitamin D.