Australians take their sun protection pretty seriously - a hole in the ozone layer over the country means that Aussie’s get a lot of UV radiation and presumably a higher rate of skin cancer than many other countries. That means they have adopted some of the best, more rigorous skin protection regimes out there. I know this because my husband is Australian, and wearing a hat and a special UV protected bathing suit at the beach is something that has been ingrained in him since he was a toddler.
So, when I take advice about how to protect our kids when they are out in the sun, I take it from the Australians:
Put a shirt on your baby, but not just any old shirt
Clothes covering your baby’s shoulders, arms and legs are important, but make sure they wear UV protective clothing. Flimsy baby shirts might not protect that fragile skin. Many companies in the States (like Patagonia) test their beach clothes to the Australian/New Zealand standard and put their UPF ratings on their labels.
Shades, maybe. Hats, definitely.
Face it. Your baby looks cute in those pink shades shaped like a flower, but no one actually thinks a toddler is going to keep them on for more than a minute, so try a wide brimmed, floppy, sun hat to shade her face. Some babies won’t love it at first (and will test your patience by continually taking it off) but if you start them early, they’ll get used to it and it’ll just be part of going out in the sun.
Pitch a tent or an umbrella
In Australia, people take to the beach with portable tents that set up easily and provide sun cover. They don’t sell them in the States, but a big beach umbrella will do the trick. Put out some sand toys and let your baby have a blast in the shade.
Sunscreen – use it or don’t use it?
Sunscreen has always been the way to go – SPF15 or higher and with UVA and UVB protection - but recently people have been coming out against it. If you’re concerned about putting chemicals on your baby’s skin – and who isn’t, try a sunscreen with zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is the only FDA-approved sunscreen for babies under six months.
The question of vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential in preventing certain diseases, like cancer and heart disease, keeps you mentally healthy by fighting depression, and helps maintain strong bones to stave off osteoporosis. We get most of our vitamin D from ultraviolet B radiation from the sun. Our arms and legs need at least 15 minutes a day of sun exposure to make enough of the vitamin. So, how do you balance protecting your baby’s skin and helping him get his daily dose of vitamin D? Easy. Sunscreen works about 30 minutes after you apply it, so get your kids outdoors first and then apply the sunscreen. That way they can soak up some vitamin D while their sunscreen is getting set to keep them from burning.
Lastly, peak sun hours are around lunch, so that’s a great time to duck inside and have some lunch, or plan a picnic under a big umbrella. Common sense and moderation are the keys to safe fun in the sun…and maybe just about everything else in life!