10 expert tips on sun safety that every parent needs to know this summer

Before you jet off on a family sunshine holiday, make sure you're familiar with these vital sun protection tips from a dermatologist

Make putting on sunscreen fun for kids by drawing a picture with it as you put it on and asking them to guess what it is
Lisa Salmon (PA)

AT HOME or abroad, good sun protection is a vital part of enjoying the summer sunshine, particularly for children.

Yet new research from the pre-school channel Disney Junior UK has revealed nearly half of parents (49 per cent) are unsure how often to apply sunscreen to their children, and 46 per cent don't apply enough.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), has teamed up with Disney Junior UK to help protect children from the sun. Disney Junior UK is giving away 10,000 packs of sun stickers, featuring characters from its child vampire show Vampirina, to parents in selected supermarkets and airports this summer. The stickers can be put on children's skin, and change colour when it's time to reapply sunscreen.

Here, dermatologist Dr Sweta Rai from BAD offers some tips. "One single episode of sunburn under the age of 20 can increase the risk of skin cancer in later life so it's really important to get kids into good habits from a young age," she says.

1. Avoid the midday sun

The sun is strongest and its UV rays the most intense between 11am and 3pm, so avoid direct sunlight then and seek shade.

2. Cover kids up

Dressing children in loose-fitting clothing, a sun hat and sunglasses is one of the best ways to keep their skin safe. Look for a Unit Protection Factor (UPF) of 40 or above on clothing labels.

3. Sunscreen expires

Sunscreens' efficacy lasts a certain time so check the expiry date when you find it in the back of the cupboard.

4. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin

If avoiding direct sun isn't possible, cover all exposed areas of your child's skin with sunscreen containing SPF 30 or above, which also has high UVA protection.

5. Check easily missed areas

With squirmy children, it's easy to miss patches when applying sunscreen. Don't forget to check easy-to-miss areas such as the ears, tops of feet and hands, scalp and back of neck.

Rai says: "In clinical practice, I most commonly see sun damage on the scalp, eyes, ears, behind the ears and the backs of necks. These are all common sites for skin cancer. It's important not to forget lips either, and there are UV protective and water-resistant lip balms available."

6. Reapply frequently

Applying a second coat of sunscreen about 15 minutes after the first helps cover any patches missed initially. Make sure you reapply sunscreen every two hours, and straight after children have been in water."There's no such thing as waterproof sunscreen," warns Rai.

7. Make it fun

To make sunscreen application more fun for young children, try drawing a picture or writing a word as you squeeze the sunscreen on to their skin. Then ask them to guess what the picture or word is, and tell them they can help rub it out (ie spread it onto their skin). Alternatively, do a 'join the dots', letting them spread the cream from one dot to the next.

8. You can get sunburned in the shade

"Even if you're sitting in the shade, depending on the thickness of cover, UV light can still penetrate through and it's possible to burn. UV rays can also reflect off other surfaces and cause sun damage."

9. Lead by example

Children learn by example, so make sure they see you putting on sunscreen, say how nice it feels on your skin, and explain why you're putting it on.

10. It's not just burning that's dangerous

"I see a lot of skin cancers as a result of chronic low-grade sun exposure which can come from sun tanning. Even if you're not being burned, suntan is a sign of skin damage," says Rai.

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