As we enter the warmer months, it is important to have a clear understanding on how to help our babies maintain healthy and safe skin, regardless of what shade their skin is. That said, we want to take a brief moment to debunk a recurring myth: SUNSCREEN USE!
So, What's the Fuss?
A common misconception about sunscreen is that is only necessary for fair or white skin. While it is true that darker skin tones do have more melanin which provides some natural sunscreen protection**, the reality is that everyone, regardless of skin color, is at risk of sun skin damage and skin cancer if they don't protect themselves adequately from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Identifying the Roots of Sunscreen-Use Misconceptions
Ironically, this long-believed misconception may be contributed to by health professionals' lack of consideration for people of color (POC). A 2021 study* found that dermatologists counseled POC less on sunscreen use, and that 42.9% reported that they either never, rarely, or only sometimes take patients’ skin type into account when making sunscreen recommendations.
In addition to this, people of color are not being properly educated on summer sun safety as many tend to believe that sunscreen is to protect the skin from becoming sunburned only. What's the rationale? Darker skin equals a decreased likelihood of the skin burning in the sun** (see figure below). This is what has become common knowledge for POC and so the only natural response to this would be "I don't need sunscreen!" However, aside from sun burn, skin cancer and sun damage is a whole other concern that does not get adequately expounded upon when offering sun saftey techniques to POC.
Figure Source: Passeron, T., Lim, H. W., Goh, C. L., Kang, H. Y., Ly, F., Morita, A., ... & Krutmann, J. (2021). Photoprotection according to skin phototype and dermatoses: practical recommendations from an expert panel. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 35(7), 1460-1469.
General Protection for Children in Summer Months
DISCLAIMER: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies younger than 6 months should be out of direct sunlight. Instead of using sunscreen for protection, parents and caregivers are encouraged to limit sun exposure, wear a hat and find shade under a tree, an umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
Here are some tips that can keep small children safe in the summer sun:
- Apply sunscreen: Children should wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) and reapply every two hours. Use waterproof sunblock if they will be swimming.
- Cover up: Have your child wear loose, lightweight clothing that covers their skin, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. A broad-brimmed hat is also a good idea.
- Stay in the shade: When possible, keep your little ones in the shade, especially during the hottest part of the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Keep hydrated: Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids all day long, even if they do not feel thirsty.
- Use sunglasses: If able, let your child wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect the eyes.
- Check the temperature: Check the temperature regularly and avoid outdoor activities during extremely hot periods.
- Never leave children in a car: Never leave your children in a parked car, even for a short period. The temperature inside a car can rise quickly and cause heatstroke. By following these tips, you can help protect your child from overheating, sunburn, and other heat-related illnesses.
Protecting Children with Eczema-Prone Skin in Summer Months
If your little one has already-sensitive skin, then taking some extra care along with sunscreen use can ensure that they have a great summer!
- Moisturize frequently: Eczema can become worse in the summer due to the heat, humidity, and sun exposure. So, it is important to keep your skin moisturized. Use a thick and fragrance-free moisturizer two to three times a day to prevent your skin from becoming dry and itchy. We recommend our 'Goodbye 2 Dry' Dry Skin Relief.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep your skin hydrated. Dehydration can make your skin dry, flaky, and itchy.
- Avoid long exposure to the sun: Sun exposure can make your eczema worse. Try to avoid being in direct sunlight for extended periods, especially during peak sun hours. If your little ones must be outside in the sun, help them to wear a hat, long-sleeved clothing, and use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.
- Take cool showers: Taking cool or lukewarm showers can help soothe your child's skin and prevent it from becoming irritated. Avoid hot water, which can dry out your skin and exacerbate your eczema.
- Wear light and breathable clothing: During hot and humid weather, it is important to get comfortable and breathable clothing. Wearing cotton or other natural fibers allow air to circulate and won't trap moisture under your clothes.
- Avoid allergens: In the summertime, many children are exposed to allergens such as pollen, grass, and other irritants, which can worsen eczema symptoms. Try to avoid exposure to allergens by staying indoors or wearing a mask if you have to go outside.
- Consult a dermatologist: If your child's eczema becomes severe, it is important to seek medical advice from a their pediatrician or dermatologist. They may suggest other treatment options such as medicated creams, oral medication, or phototherapy to help manage your symptoms.
Check out this article for more helpful tips for maintaining summer safety for children.
So, there you have it: using sunscreen is important for children of every skin tone. Consult with your pediatrician or a dermatologist to get specific recommendations for your child's skin type and sensitivity and remember to reapply the sunscreen regularly, especially after sweating, swimming, or towel-drying.
*Song, H., Beckles, A., Salian, P., & Porter, M. L. (2021). Sunscreen recommendations for patients with skin of color in the popular press and in the dermatology clinic. International Journal of Women's Dermatology, 7(2), 165-170.
**Passeron, T., Lim, H. W., Goh, C. L., Kang, H. Y., Ly, F., Morita, A., ... & Krutmann, J. (2021). Photoprotection according to skin phototype and dermatoses: practical recommendations from an expert panel. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 35(7), 1460-1469.
***American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021, July 14). Sun Safety: Information for parents about Sunburn & Sunscreen. HealthyChildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Sun-Safety.aspx?_ga=2.197358383.1877277628.1686752625-1793667306.1686752625&_gl=1%2Ako7xjo%2A_ga%2AMTc5MzY2NzMwNi4xNjg2NzUyNjI1%2A_ga_FD9D3XZVQQ%2AMTY4Njc1MjYyNC4xLjEuMTY4Njc1MjYzNS4wLjAuMA..