Ah, the joy of soaking up the sun. While basking in the warmth can feel good, unfortunately, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the main cause of skin cancer. While you’re not doomed to a life indoors, you do have to focus on protecting your skin against skin cancer. Here are some tips for preventing sun damage at every age.
Baby that newborn skin
Babies are born with perfect little everything, including their soft, precious skin, and it’s a parent’s job to protect it. Babies under six months shouldn’t wear sunscreen on their sensitive skin, so the best option is to avoid the part of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). If you do have to be out with your newborn, make sure to cover them up with protective clothing, and add a hat and shades.
Toddlers are wiggly little things and putting sunscreen on them can be very difficult. But it’s a struggle worth having — and winning. After all, you wouldn’t allow your tots to decide to boycott brushing their teeth or washing their hands, and they’re less likely to balk when you make sunscreen as routine as any other hygiene task. Shielding them is key, as severe sunburns in early childhood can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer later in life, the Skin Cancer Foundation has found. Make sure to share your sunscreen requirements with caregivers also.
Teaching kids the ABCs of sun care
Once kids reach elementary school age, you will likely have less control over their schedules and habits. After all, they’ll be heading out to recess and after-school activities, often without so much as a check-in, which might be why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that less than one-third of U.S. youth practice effective sun protection. Make sure yours is one of the sun-smart ones by ensuring they apply a long-lasting, water-resistant sunscreen before they leave in the morning. In addition, send them on their way with an additional supply of sunscreen and a reminder to use it before going outside. Seek their input on what types of sunscreen they prefer and what’s easiest for them to use themselves. For example, would they like a stick to quickly gloss over their nose or a spray to easily reach vulnerable areas, such as their necks and shoulders? Encourage them to wear a hat and sunglasses for further protection.
Having the sunscreen “talk” with your teen
Teens don’t give a lot of thought to the future, and that can extend to their skin care. But whether they’re pursuing the sun-kissed look of bronze skin or are just a little forgetful, it’s worth ignoring the eye rolls to insist on sun safety. Remind your teen that the only safe tan comes from a bottle and to only use self-tanning lotions or spray tanning facilities — never a tanning bed. Prompt teens to include sunscreen in their morning routine so you know they’re protected as they head out the door, and remind them to reapply before afternoon sports practices and other outdoor activities.
Practice “adulting” with proper skin care
If you’re a 20-something (or a 30-something or even a 40-something), it can be said with certainty that “future you” is going to wish you’d been more vigilant about sun protection. Ideally, sunscreen is already part of your daily routine, but if not, start using it regularly. In addition to amply applying sunscreen, take control of your skin health: Perform monthly body checks to identify any changes in existing moles, and pay an annual visit to your dermatologist just as you do your general practitioner, recommends the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Prevent further skin aging through the middle ages
As you reach 50 and beyond, you’ll likely begin to develop more spots and wrinkles — one of the byproducts of too much sun accumulation over the years. You may wonder if there’s any point in protecting your skin now. The answer, of course, is yes. No matter how you’ve treated your skin in the past, using adequate sun protection as you age can help prevent new sun damage and can reduce thinning skin. In addition, it’s never too late to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by shielding your skin with protective clothing, seeking shade and maintaining that sunscreen application habit.
You’re never too old, or too young, to take steps to stave off skin cancer.