Is there anything softer and smoother than a baby’s skin? So precious and fragile, you can never be too careful when exposing a baby to sunlight. The truth is, an infant needs only a small amount of sunlight for growth and development. Too much sunlight in the early years of life often results in premature ageing of the skin and an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
In short, sunlight is a spectrum of energy consisting of radio waves, x-rays, infrared, light and ultraviolet radiation. Infrared is what we feel as heat. Light is just that, the yellow sunlight we see. Ultra-violet radiation cannot be seen or felt, but we know that skin damage caused by the sun is due to ultra-violet radiation (UVR). The skin contains a pigment called melanin, and when the skin is exposed to sun, more melanin is produced, darkening the skin and resulting in freckles or a tan. If the skin gets too much sun, sunburn results. Freckles and tanning are the body’s way of trying to protect itself from further sun damage. Despite what you may have been told, tanning does NOT protect against skin cancer. When UV rays penetrate the top layers of skin, they cause damage to the lower layers. This causes the skin to become rough, wrinkled and to appear loose and leathery. UV rays also contribute to skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the world.
Fair-skinned babies have very little melanin in their skin, and are very susceptible to sunburn. Babies with darker skin have slightly more protection, but should still follow sound suncare principles.
It is important to remember that you do not have to feel hot sun on the skin, to experience sun damage, as UV rays cannot be felt. Therefore, take the necessary precautions, because Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure. Follow these tips and suggestions from our Pharmacists:
- Avoid being in the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm. This is when the sun’s UV levels are highest.
- Dress the baby in sun-protective clothing such as long sleeve T-shirts, long pants and a wide brimmed hat. Some clothing and swimsuits carry a UPF rating, indicating their sun safety.
- Keep the baby in the shade as much as possible. Shade does not offer full protection against UV rays, but it helps.
- Use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30+ and apply it at least 20 minutes before being exposed to the sun. Also, reapply every 2 hours if the baby goes in the water.
- Ask your Pharmacist for a sunscreen that has been specially formulated for infants, as adult sunscreens can be harmful to babies.
- Durbell stocks sunglasses specially made for children. We highly recommend regular use from an early age, as sunglasses can reduce damage to the eyes later in life, such as cataracts.
- Give children plenty of drinking water to prevent dehydration.
- After a child has been in the sun it is a good idea to apply a cream or gel to soothe and cool the skin e.g., aloe vera gel or vitamin E cream. Ask your Pharmacist to recommend a suitable aftersun lotion.
Summer sun is supposed to be fun for young and old. It’s so relaxing and enjoyable to hang out in nature, at the pool or on the beach, at a braai or just on the lawn as a family. By using these guidelines you can eliminate any possible harm or danger, making it even more memorable in positive, life-enhancing ways. Not to mention preserving baby’s beautifully soft skin for years to come.