As a mom of a pre-teen, I see my son starting to leave me for longer and longer amounts of time to go hang out with friends. He tags along with other kids in the neighborhood for hours at a time exploring on their bikes. Great for social fun, but very worrisome for me when it comes to the dangers of the sun.
There is growing concern about sun safety from professionals when it comes to the kids in the ten through teenage age range. In fact, NYC Dermatologist Dr. Rigel told us that the amount of young people, especially women 18 and up, that visit Dr. Rigel for skin cancer/sun damage related issues has astoundingly increased versus 20 to 30 years ago – then it was almost unheard of to even see a 30-year-old come in with a related issue. If you don't teach your child sun safety, you're putting them at great risk of sun burn, skin cancer and eye problems.
Life as a pre-teen and teen is about learning how to be independent and capable of taking care of day-to-day needs. Here are some sun safety facts and tips that you should add to the list of things your child should learn to be responsible about. Print it out and talk to them about it.
- 10am to 4pm are the times you're most likely to burn. But what do you do with this info? Most of the summer fun takes place during this time of day. The reality is that you will likely be in the sun at some point during this time span. If you can avoid the sun at this time, do. If there is the option of playing or hanging out in the shade, go there.
- Sunscreen should be applied every 1 1/2 hours. (This does not take into effect when you're swimming, which should be every 40-80 minutes.) Coming late 2012 and early 2013, labels will be changing on sunscreen bottles which will make them much easier to understand. But make sure you have a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 per the Skin Cancer Foundation (we like SPF 30) and reapply every 1 1/2 hours. If you are afraid you might forget, ask your parents to get you a watch with a timer to help you remember. (Our favorite drugstore sunscreen brands)
- Areas most forgotten. Again, according to Dr. Rigel, 1/3 of all skin cancers are on and around the nose. He told us that the two places most forgotten when it comes to sunscreen are right above the eyes and the nostril area of the nose. Other places commonly burned even when sunscreen is applied on most of your body are the tops of the ears, tops of the feet, area between your eyes and the back of your neck.
- Grab a hat on your way out. It is so easy to get a sunburn on your scalp because you're not really able to apply sunscreen to it. That's where hats come into play. This is easier for boys than girls, as boys gravitate to baseball caps, but if you can find a hat or a collection of hats that you like, you'll be more likely to wear one in the summer. Try to pick out one with a brim that will help shield the face, as well.
- Sunglasses aren't just for fashion. You can't apply sunscreen to your eyes but they still need protection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, eyelid cancer represents 5-10% of all skin cancers, so protection is important. And not protecting your eyes from the sun could also lead to cataracts and macular degeneration over time. Pick out a couple of pair of fun sunglasses but only buy the ones that specifically say they protect against UVA/UVB rays.
- Sunscreen is for cloudy days, too! While you might think that the cloudy days are sunscreen free days, it's still so important to apply sunscreen even on these days. While clouds can help reduce UV rays, it does not eliminate them. Use sunscreen every day.
- Stay away from tanning beds. This is so very important. People who use tanning beds before the age of 18 have a 75% greater risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of cancer, in their life. Think melanoma only affects older people? Think again! Tanning beds are as dangerous as mustard gas and arsenic! You're smarter than that. If you need a summer tan, stick to one that comes from a bottle.
That seems like a lot to remember, we know, and it seems like when you have a silly way to remember something, it helps. This is silly, but we're hoping it can help you remember all you need to know before you head out.
Before you run out the door: SSSH! Never Ever Follow Evil Ninjas!
- S - Sunscreen
- S - Shade, if possible
- S - Sunglasses
- H - Hat
- N - Nose
- E - Ears
- F - Feet
- E - Eyes (above)
- N - Neck (back of)
- Don't forget - Every 90 minutes