However, says Bevan Lewis from Everysun, “it’s imperative for sun protection to stay top of mind, even when it’s time to return to school. Whether at the beach, swimming pool, park, or on the school playground or sports field, the sun’s UV rays are just as damaging.”
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) sunburn can occur within 15 minutes, and the damage caused is permanent, and adds up with each exposure to the sun. Frighteningly, South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world and at least 20 000 South Africans are diagnosed annually with non-melanoma skin cancers*, and approximately 1 500 are diagnosed with melanoma.
CANSA emphasises that the youth should take special precaution when spending time in the sun – two blistering burns before the age of 18 can dramatically increase the risk of getting skin cancer later in life. “This is why it is crucial to instil sun safety habits in our children from a young age,” says Lewis. “Kids as young as three years old can be taught correct sunscreen application techniques. The end of year school holidays gives both parents and kids enough time to make sunscreen application a routine habit, so that by the time the new school year begins they’ll be all set.”
Think of applying sunscreen in the morning, and try explaining this to the little ones too, like brushing your teeth, getting dressed and eating breakfast; it’s just as important. “You’ll often find that if kids know they should be, and why they should be, wearing sunscreen and hats while outside, they may be more likely to follow suit at school, without a parent or teacher having to remind them. Let them know gently that if they don’t wear sunscreen their skin will be very sore, red and burnt, and they won’t be able to enjoy playing outside with their friends.”
Lewis provides the following sun safety tips for parents, to help make the transition from holiday to back to school as smooth as possible:
- Apply a broad spectrum, UVA and UVB protection, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF 20 or higher to your kids’ skin 30 minutes before leaving for school. Everysun’s SPF 50 Kids range includes a 300ml Milk Trigger Spray, 200ml Aerosol Spray and a 200ml, 100ml and 50ml Lotion. The 50ml Everysun Lotion tube is perfect to pop in their school or sports bag.
- Send your kids to school with a hat, possibly sunglasses, and of course, sunscreen so that they can reapply it throughout the day.
- To remain effective, sunscreen should be reapplied every hour, or immediately after swimming or sweating. At a minimum, children should be reminded to reapply sunscreen before school sports and outdoor activities.
- Make sure your child’s sunscreen is kept in a cool spot out of the sun such as a locker or in their chair-bag and has not expired. Sunscreen loses strength with time – those expiry dates are there for a reason.
- Choose a sunscreen that your child feels comfortable wearing and is easy to apply. All Everysun kids’ range are fragrance free and therefore great for kids’ sensitive skin.
- Seek shade. UV rays are the strongest and most harmful during 10am and 3pm. If being indoors during break time isn’t an option, encourage your kids to sit under a tree or gazebo.
- To make sunscreen application more enjoyable and interactive, why not set up a sunscreen station in the bathroom? Your kids can then apply their sunscreen in front of the mirror. You can even do it with them.
“Children learn best from what they see us do, so be a role model. Young and old, we should all be practicing sun safety daily,” Lewis concludes.