Sun Safety: Teaching Kids To Protect Their Skin
Explain what the term SPF means: While you are slathering their exposed skin with sunscreen, talk about what the abbreviation SPF means. The term SPF is an abbreviation for Sun Protection Factor. It is how much protection from the harmful UVB rays that product will give you.
One common misconception of higher SPF sunscreens is that they are twice as powerful as the lower SPF versions. Reality is that an SPF 15 sunblock will block 93% of UVB rays that can burn and damage the skin. However, the SPF 30 sunblock only blocks 97% of UVB rays. That is only a 4% increase. While it is an increase, it is not double the protection as some would be led to believe. An SPF 50 sunscreen is truly about as powerful in protecting your skin as anything higher would be.
Explain what the term UVB means: UVB are the short and harmful rays of sun that affect the outside of the skin. UVB is what causes sunburn, and it is also what creates melanin. Melanin is the pigment in skin that creates a tan. UVB rays damage the skin which can cause cancer. They are the most harmful sun rays.
Important sun safety facts:
- Cloudy skies do not offer protection from the sun’s UV rays.
- Sunscreen is needed year round, not just in summer.
- Children have thinner skin and thus are more prone to be sensitive to damaging UV rays.
- The sun is brighter and more prominent between 11am and 4pm.
- Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours for safety.
- Skin cancer is the most prominent form of cancer, but also the easiest form of cancer to prevent with proper skin protection.
- Tanning beds are also unsafe and can harm your skin just like regular sun can.
Explain how harmful sunburn is in the long term. Many children and adults don’t realize how truly bad for them a “little sunburn” can eventually be. All it takes is one exposure to the harmful UVB rays of the sun to damage your skin. Once your skin has been damaged, it can heal but never be fully repaired. Damaged broken skin cells can then morph into skin cancer more readily. While not every sunburn results in skin cancer, many do. No suntan is worth losing your life to a preventable cancer.
Nobody wants to use scare tactics to teach sun safety. However, teaching kids to protect their skin has to be explained in a way they can fully understand. Explaining what these terms mean, and how they can have long term residual problems if they do not protect their skin is an important part of being a parent and educator.