May 20, 2021 4 min read
The Sensitive Skincare Edit
Why is sun protection for children so important?
Children need some sun exposure so that their bodies can make vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium for healthier bones. But it doesn’t take long to get all the vitamin D you need – around 20 minutes, a couple of times a week, will do it. On the other hand, too much unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression, and skin cancer.
Those with fair, sensitive, freckly skin – which includes most Irish children – are more sensitive to UV rays and are at most risk of damaging their skin because the lighter someone's natural skin colour, the less melanin it has to absorb UV rays and protect itself. Children’s skin is also immature, as it does not fully develop until the age of 18, so it needs particular protection.
Skin cancer, or melanoma, can be of the non-malignant or more dangerous malignant type. Around 11,000 people a year in Ireland develop skin cancer and around 1,000 of those cases are malignant. The National Skin Cancer Registry of Ireland predicts cases will double by 2040. As many skin cancers do not develop until 40 years after the damage is done, that means you may not see the signs until you are in your 50s or 60s!
How UV light damages your child’s skin
Around 90% of skin cancer cases in Ireland are caused by exposure to sunlight. The sun radiates light to the earth, and part of that light consists of invisible UV rays transmitted in three wavelengths. The first, UVA, is associated with ageing because it affects the elastin in the skin. The second, UVB, is mostly responsible for sunburn and has strong links too many types of skin cancer, including malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. Luckily the third, UVC, does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere.
The darker a person's natural skin colour, the more melanin, and the more natural protection it has - but both dark and light-skinned kids need protection from UV rays because any tanning or burning causes skin damage. A tan is the skin’s natural defence against sun damage and is a sign that the person’s skin has been damaged. If you have to work at your tan, or burn to then tan, it is a sign that you do not have a strong defence against skin cancer.
No child under the age of one should be exposed to direct sunlight at any time. After that age, it is important to keep your child out of the sun at the hottest times of the day, to dress them in loose clothing and a hat, and to use lots of sunscreen. Irish children – despite often inclement weather – need to use sunscreen from 1st March until 30th September. Applying sunscreen should become as routine as them brushing their teeth!
Why all sunscreens are not equal
Elave specialises in skincare formulations for fair, sensitive Irish skin. All Elave formulations, including the sunscreens, are allergen-free, making them particularly suitable for dry, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea-prone skin. As adult sunscreens can irritate delicate young skin, use Elave Sun Paediatric SPF50+, which is safe and paediatrician approved from newborn.
Elave Sun Paediatric SPF50+ provides protection from UVA, UVB and infrared rays in a light, water-resistant, oil-free formula. It contains 12 antioxidants, including vitamins B5, C & E, nine botanicals, and emollients to soothe and protect delicate young skin and repair environmental damage. It is a broad spectrum sunscreen, which means it contains both physical and chemical protection, as well as an encapsulated sunscreen, which means it is not absorbed into the skin, leading to longer periods of high protection.
Remember to top up your child’s sunscreen regularly, preferably every two hours. Exposure to water and towel drying can remove sunscreen, leaving skin exposed and vulnerable, as can any kind or abrasion, for example from running around, playing sports or sweating.
What to do if your child does get too much sun
After exposure to the sun, soothe and recondition dehydrated skin with Elave Sensitive Botanical Aftersun with aloe vera and cooling menthol. Extremely gentle and easily absorbed, this light, non-greasy formula contains lots of nourishing ingredients, including antioxidant vitamin E and natural glycerin, to repair and recondition all skin types.
If your child has been burnt, however, you can expect a sensation of heat and pain which will tend to worsen for several hours after sun exposure. Some children also get chills. Skin can become itchy and tight and is sure to be followed by peeling. Encourage your child not to scratch or peel off loose skin because the skin underneath is at risk of infection.
Have your child take a tepid (not cold) bath or gently apply wet compresses to the skin. Seek medical advice from your pharmacist for pain relief suitable for children under the age of 16. Do not apply petroleum products to your child’s skin, as they prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping, and avoid first-aid products that contain benzocaine, which may cause skin irritation or allergy. If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor.
Elave Skincare and Ovelle ranges of dermatologically-approved free-from natural products are available at gardinerfamilyapothecary.com, Boots, Dunnes Beauty and local pharmacies.
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