Did you know that research has found having skin UV damage as a child can lead to a higher risk of developing melanoma as an adult? Apparently the structure of your skin as a child plays a huge role in how much UV radiation is absorbed from the sun. Our vellus hair follicles are situated closer to the exposed skin as children, therefore we absorb more harmful UV radiation, which has been linked to developing melanoma (skin cancer) as an adult. Never before has protecting children from the sun been more important, and although most are clued up about how best to do this, we wanted to find out just how much parents know.
We surveyed 2,114 parents on whether their children, aged 0-3 years old, have ever been sunburnt and what they know about sun protection. The results were very eye-opening!
The survey revealed that two thirds (61%) of children under the age of three had suffered from sunburn, with 5% of those children hospitalised because of it.
The parents were also asked how they protect their children against the sun. More than four fifths (84%) of parents did not know there was a difference between SPF (sun protection factor) and UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) and how best to protect against the different types of radiation.
In addition, more than two thirds (70%) believe that all clothes offer the same protection against the sun.
Just over a fifth (22%) of parents do not reapply sunscreen when their child has been in water and more than half (51%) are unsure what factor they should use on their children.
In response to these results we’ve put together an informative guide for parents on how best to protect their children against the damaging effects of the sun.
Use a sunscreen that protects against all UVA and UVB rays. If a sunscreen says ‘broad spectrum’ is will protect against both UVA rays, if it doesn’t say this it just protects against UVB. The mineral zinc oxide is particularly effective at protecting against UVA and UVB rays, because it deflects rays, so look for a sunscreen that contains it.
On young children use a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 minimum, reapply every hour and apply it 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
Have your children wear clothing that protects against UV rays. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes provide more of a barrier between the sun and skin, as do bright coloured clothes because they reflect UV radiation.
UVB rays, which cause sunburn, are most prevalent during the summer and between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so avoid direct exposure to the sun during this time and stay in the shade. Have your children sit under an umbrella and wear large brimmed hats if you’re out and about during these times.
UVA rays can penetrate through glass so use protective tints on car windows when travelling.
The majority of UVB rays bounce off of reflective surfaces like snow and water, therefore hit the skin twice, so when skiing or playing in the sea/swimming pool make sure children wear UV protective sunscreen and clothing.
SPF, UPF and UV rays explained
SPF or Sun Protection Factor doesn’t actually indicate the strength of sun protection but in fact the length of time you will be protected for. The length of time you would be protected is calculated by taking the amount of time it would take for your skin to burn without protection multiplied by the level of protection. For example, if you were to use a SPF 50 sunscreen and you usually start to burn after 2 minutes, you will be protected for 2 minutes x 50 or 1 hour and 40 minutes wearing a factor 50 sunscreen.
UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor is a standard used to measure how much clothing protects against ultraviolet radiation. Not all clothing will protect against UVA and B rays, and if it does it should say what the UPF is, for example a UPF of 50 only allows 1/50th of UV rays to penetrate the fabric when worn, so offers 98% protection which is excellent!
UVA - Ultraviolet A is the long ray radiation that penetrates deep into the skin's dermis and accounts for the majority of UV radiation in our atmosphere. They are present during all daylight hours, including when it’s cloudy. UVA rays are the ‘silent killers’ because you don’t feel the damage they are causing, for example they don’t cause sunburn but make the skin tanned, and are a major contributor to skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate glass so make sure your cars are treated with a protective UV tint.
UVB - Ultraviolet B is the short ray radiation that causes sunburn and is also a contributor to skin cancers. It doesn’t penetrate as deeply as UVA, however can cause damage to the upper layers of the skin quickly. UVB are much more intense at higher altitudes, so skiers and mountain hikers need extra protection.