Sun Care for Babies & Children
The dangers of exposure to sunlight have become widely publicised in recent years. However, most of the advice that has appeared in the press relates to adults and teenagers. But what about babies and young children; what can parents do to ensure that they avoid the pitfalls of too much sun exposure?
Firstly, it is important to understand exactly why sunlight can be bad for us and just what effect it can have on our skin.
Sunlight consists of a wide range of different wavelengths of radiation. Some of these we can sense - the warmth we feel in sunlight comes from Infra-Red radiation, and the light we can see comes from radiation in the visible spectrum. However, there are other wavelengths in sunlight that we can't see, and chief among these are those in the Ultra Violet group. There are at least three different types of Ultra-Violet radiation and these are generally referred to as UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVC has the shortest wavelength and although it is potentially very harmful to our skin, it is completely filtered out by the earth's atmosphere so does not affect us.
UVB Radiation - B for Burning
UVB radiation plays a key role in the development of skin cancer as well as skin ageing. It causes the appearance of a tan after sun exposure. It does this by stimulating the formation of the pigment 'melanin' in the deeper layers of the skin. Melanin acts as a skin protector by filtering out UV light - it is part of our natural defence against sun damage.
UVA Radiation - A for Ageing
UVA radiation is potentially the most damaging form of UV as it penetrates deep into the skin where it can cause changes to the living cells in the basal layer. It is now understood that these changes to living skin cells are the primary cause of the most serious forms of skin cancer.
UVA also damages collagen and elastin, the main causes of wrinkles and premature ageing in skin that is often exposed to sunlight.
The general sun advice given to adults reflected in the now famous Australian adage of 'Slip, Slop, Slap' - Slip on a Shirt, Slop on a Hat, Slap on some sun cream. Clearly, all three of these actions are designed to reduce exposure to sunlight and therefore minimise the risks involved.
Other common advice given is to avoid exposure to the sun when it as its strongest - between 12 and 3 in the afternoon. This is the traditional time when many Mediterranean countries have lunch followed by a Siesta, both taken indoors.
What about Sun creams?
All sunscreens carry a Sun Protection Factor, usually abbreviated to SPF. This is followed by a number: 15, 25, 50, etc. But what does this mean to the user?
The higher the SPF value, the longer the user will be able to stay in the sun without visibly burning. As an example, if someone would normally start to burn after 5 minutes in the sun when unprotected, by using an SPF15 sun-cream they should be able to stay out for 75 minutes without visibly burning.
However, the SPF rating of a sun lotion only tells you the protection it gives against UVB rays. Under new EU legislation, sun lotions must also offer protection against the more damaging UVA rays equal to at least one third of the claimed protection against UVB rays. This is not easy to achieve using natural UV filters but Green People’s organic sun lotions have always provided protection against both UVB and UVA rays and therefore comply with the new EU recommendations.
What about Babies and Children?
Children's skin is far more sensitive than adults so we have to even more careful about exposing them to sunlight.
Newborn babies should not be exposed to sunlight at all until they are at least 6 months old. After that age, and depending on their skin type, short periods of unprotected exposure lasting just a couple of minutes at a time may be introduced.
Other than for these brief moments, all other sun exposure for babies must be carefully controlled and must not be allowed to take place without some protection. As with adults, keep the skin covered with light clothing, although bear in mind that UV radiation can pass through thin materials, especially if they are wet. It is now possible to buy UV clothing for babies and children that blocks a higher percentage of rays than normal materials.
Make sure that babies wear a wide-rimmed sun hat that shades the neck, ears and face - the best ones have ribbons attached so they can be tied under the chin. Alternatively, use a parasol for protection. Use a broad-spectrum sun cream that filters out both UVA and UVB radiation.
Green People offers Lavender and No Scent SPF25 Sun Lotions especially for babies and children and these can be used from 6 months onwards. These have been designed to filter out both UVA and UVB, and are both also water-resistant formulations.
As with all sun lotions, apply liberally at least 30 minutes before exposure to the sun to give the filter time to become active. Also, remember to re-apply regularly, and especially after bathing.
As children become older and more active it becomes even more important to keep applying sun lotions especially if they are in and out of water. Again, keeping covered with a light T-shirt will help but you will need to apply lotion underneath for better protection.
If you are in a hot climate, try to copy the locals and take a break in the heat of the day. Babies and children soon adapt to the idea of a Siesta and by avoiding the heat of the day they are often happier and less irritable.
As your children grow up, try to encourage them to take some of the responsibility for ensuring they are safe in the sun. Give them their own bottle of sun lotion and show them how and when to use it - soon it will become a habit that will protect them for the rest of their lives.
Allergies to sun lotions
Rates of eczema and allergies amongst children continue to rise and early introduction of 'toxic skin care products' may be a contributing factor.
It is now known that up to 60% of any substance applied to your child's skin may be absorbed and enter the bloodstream. Many of today's sun lotions contain a cocktail of synthetic chemicals such as:
Parabens, Petrochemicals, PABA-sunscreen, Urea, PEGs, DEA, TEA, irritating emulsifiers, synthetic colours and perfume
If your child is sensitive to sun lotion, avoid products that contain these chemicals nasties and choose organic and natural sun protection instead.
There have been recent suggestions that the use of microscopic particles of Titanium dioxide, also called nano-particles, may increase the formation of free-radicals on the skin. This rumour has come about because isolated nano-particles of Titanium dioxide can react with UV light and oxygen to form free-radicals. However, the form of Titanium dioxide used in Green People sun lotions and creams has been coated with silicates to prevent this happening – in short, it is impossible for it to react with oxygen or indeed any other substance on the skin.
Another concern is that nano-particles may penetrate the skin and thereby enter the body. Again, this is not possible with the form of Titanium dioxide used in Green People sun products as the individual particles clump together during the manufacturing process to form aggregations which are too large to penetrate the skin.
- Avoid all sun exposure under 6 months of age
- Always provide some form of protection from the sun
- Wear a wide-brimmed sun hat, preferably tied on
- Use a broad-spectrum sun lotion that filters both UVA and UVB radiation
- Apply at least 30 minutes before sun exposure
- Reapply frequently, and especially after bathing
- Avoid the heat of the day between noon and 3:00pm
View our natural sun care products for children now.