Exercise Common Sun Sense

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Choose a sun protection product that suits your activity.

80 percent of the sun he’s exposed to in his entire lifetime before his 18th birthday. How can you protect kids from such an overwhelming force? Not with sunscreen, if you listen to supermodel Giselle Bündchen.“I cannot put this poison on my skin,” the UK’s The Daily Mail quoted her as saying recently, adding, “I do not use anything synthetic.”
Say what?
Bündchen later backpedalled, saying she prefers to avoid the sun.
Believe it or not, the Brazilian bombshell’s sentiment isn’t entirely wrong. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends three ways to protect your kids from the sun and sunscreen doesn’t top the list. In fact, says Dr. Henry Ukpeh, a pediatrician in Trail, B.C., sunscreen is far less effective than avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wearing protective clothing. But let’s face it, that’s neither realistic, nor much fun. Instead, enjoy the outdoors wisely and slather on sunscreen with at least SPF 30 if you plan to be outside during the sun’s peak hours.

Sunscreen or sunblock?
The dizzying array of sun-care products at your local drugstore can be truly daunting, especially when you’re shopping for something you’re going to put directly on your pride and joy’s skin. The most important thing to consider, says Dr. Ukpeh, is SPF (Sun Protection Factor). While he doesn’t endorse any particular brand over another, he tells his patients to look for anything with an SPF higher than 30 that has broad spectrum protection, meaning it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays.
An SPF of 12 or higher is technically a sunblock, as opposed to a sunscreen, and uses a physical or chemical ingredient to block the sun. What’s the difference? A physical ingredient sits on the skin and blocks the sun. There are two physical sunblock ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which block both UVA and UVB rays. A chemical sunblock ingredient absorbs the sun, but is also absorbed into your skin. In some people, these chemicals can cause irritation. Most chemical sunblocks are made up of several active ingredients. Those that block out both UVA and UVB rays include:

  • Dioxybenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Trolamine salicylate

Just finding the right brand isn’t enough. Re-application is key with sun protection – especially for kids. The more children run around, sweat, and rub off sunscreen while they’re playing, the more important reapplying it becomes. “Continuous spray formats are very popular with parents since you can easily apply sunscreen to your kids without disturbing play time,” says Tom Meyer, a research fellow at the Coppertone Solar Research Center, in Memphis. Meyer suggests choosing a waterproof, hypoallergenic and non-irritating product for kids.

How much, how often?
The higher the number on your bottle, the longer you’re protected, right? Yes, but don’t be fooled by the numbers. While an SPF of 15 filters 93 percent of UVB rays, an SPF of 30 is not twice as strong. (It filters 97 percent of UVB rays). “The effectiveness of an SPF essentially depends on the type of skin, the length and time of exposure to the sun, the quantity of sunscreen applied and the frequency of application,” says Meyer.

A waterproof sun block with SPF 60 will protect skin for 80 minutes of activity in water but should still be reapplied after sweating and exposure to water.

So sensitive
Modern sun protection products are well tested and the formulations designed for kids are often hypoallergenic. According to Dr. Ukpeh, skin reactions are pretty rare; chances are if your little one has sensitive skin, you already know it. If you’re worried that new sun protection is going to cause a reaction, try it out on a small area for half an hour and if you’re in the clear, apply it everywhere 30 minutes before you head outside.

Burn interrupted
Prevention is the best cure for a burn, so stay inside when the sun is at its strongest. That said, your child will likely get a sunburn at some point in his life, whether he escaped without sun block or one of you simply forgot to reapply it. Little noses, the tops of ears, tummies and upper backs all see more than their fair share of burns over the summer, says Dr. Ukpeh. Here’s how to treat them:

  • Burns are a continuous process. Cover red skin with a cool cloth, or jump into the water, to stop sunburn in its tracks. Aloe or another cooling agent can also be applied, but do not apply butter or oil.
  • Ibuprofen or acetominophen can be used for pain relief, if required.
  • In the case of extremely uncomfortable burns or blisters, see a doctor.

We’ve put together a selection of the newest products to help you find one that’s right for any situation.

Dermalogica Solar Defense Wipes SPF 15
Leave these easy dermalogica wipes in your purse for impromptu trips to the park and days when you’re juggling too many things to remember sunscreen.
AVAILABLE AT: dermologica.ca for spa locations
$29 (package of 15)

Athletic adventures
Coppertone Sport SPF 50
Got a scorching soccer tourney this weekend?
Keep her eyes on the ball, minus the ouchy sunscreen, with a sweat and waterproof formula guaranteed not to sting her eyes.
AVAILABLE AT: mass retailers

Day at the beach
Wet Skin Kids SPF 60
Sunscreen you can apply to wet skin, the minute they leave the water? Brilliant! Plus, you don’t need to rub it all over sandy skin.
AVAILABLE AT: mass retailers

Splash pad adventures
Coppertone Oil Free Mousse SPF 60
Waterproof mousse is easy to apply and retains SPF after 80 minutes in the water –
a good choice whether it’s a run-through-the-freezing-cold-water day, or a hide-behind-mommy day.
AVAILABLE AT: mass retailers

Chasing kids
Banana Boat Kids SPF 60
Non-stop toddlers don’t pause for sunscreen touch-ups; that’s why continuous spray is a harried parent’s best friend.
AVAILABLE AT: mass retailers

Commuting to work
Tarte Smooth Operator SPF 20
Kids aren’t the only one whose skin requires TSC (total sun care). Slap on a tinted moisturizer with SPF before you step out, for sheer coverage and sun protection.
AVAILABLE AT: sephora.ca

Going green
Heiko SPF 40 Kids
Non-greasy with a lovely herbal fragrance, Heiko’s line is the first 100 percent natural product approved by Health Canada.
AVAILABLE AT: Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore and Whole Foods

Teen trip to the mall
Hawaiian Tropic Shimmer Effect SPF 15
Subtle shimmer and a delicious coconut fragrance make this product a teen
dream cream.
AVAILABLE AT: mass retailers

Published in June, 2011.

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