Sun safety for children

Sun safety for children

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HomeBaby careChildren (3 and over)Sun safety for children

Are sunscreens / sun creams suitable for children?


The British Skin Foundation notes that at least 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are now diagnosed each year, and the disease kills over 2,500 people each year in the UK - that's seven people every day. Sunscreens play an important role of a sunsafe regime in helping protect skin from the sun's harmful rays that can burn and also cause premature ageing and skin cancer. The safety of sunscreens, and all cosmetic products, is the number one priority of the cosmetics laws.  These cosmetic regulations require a specific safety assessment for products, including sunscreens, intended to be used on or by children under three years old.

Sunscreens intended for young children undergo a specific safety assessment to ensure they are safe for this age group.

Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General at CTPA, gives some tips for staying sun safe this summer:

Top tips for keeping children safe in the sun


  • Keep them covered: One of the best ways to protect your child's skin from the sun's rays is to keep them covered up with loose-fitting, tightly-woven clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Children's eyes can be more sensitive to UV light than those of adults, so they also need protection. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses for your child with 100 percent UV filtration (toy sunglasses may provide no protection at all, and could be harmful).

  • Stay in the shade: Set up your children's play areas in the shade so they are less likely to suffer from over-exposure to the sun. The sun is usually at its most intense between 11am and 3pm, so shade is even more important during this time.

  • Wear sunscreen: The British Skin Foundation recommends that children should use a minimum SPF 30 product with UVA protection. Of course it is important to try to keep sun exposure to a minimum for young children and especially babies under the age of six months. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-applied every couple of hours throughout the day. Remember to re-apply if your child has been playing in the water and never use sunscreen to extend the time they spend in the sun.

  • Healthy and hydrated: Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, particularly in hot weather; keeping up their water intake prevents dehydration and maintains healthy kidneys and bladder.

  • Be wary of temporary tattoos: Temporary tattoos are a popular holiday treat for children, especially when visiting foreign countries, but be aware of the dangers they could pose to your child's skin. Some so-called "black henna" versions can contain substances that are illegal for use in tattoos and which can cause nasty skin reactions.

  • Vitamin D and the sun: Vitamin D is essential for good health and, in particular, to maintain healthy bones; but excessive sun exposure can cause damage too, so there needs to be a balance. Sunlight acts on the skin to produce vitamin D.  It is still possible to get all the vitamin D the body needs from incidental sun exposure, even if you're wearing sunscreen. Most people have sufficient exposure to the sun in their day-to-day lives to produce adequate amounts of this vitamin. It is not normally necessary to seek extra unprotected sun exposure.  Cancer Reesearch UK has a great website called SunSmart which gives helpful information and advice, with a specific section on vitamin D.