As a melanoma-affected family, we (perhaps more than most), feel it's imperative to spread the word about protecting kids (and their parents) wisely---in the summer, and everyday!
When we were approached by Coppertone, and given the opportunity to ask Dr Ana Duarte (division director of dermatology for Miami Children’s Hospital, founder and president of the Children’s Skin Center and consultant to Coppertone), our questions about how to maximize the summer with skin safety at the fore, we jumped at the chance!
Have you ever wondered how "waterproof" sunscreen really is?
What SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is truly best--or necessary?
How often should we reapply?
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "Thanks so much for being willing to answer our questions, Dr. Duarte. As a mom, I swear by spray application sunscreen! Typically, I spray our kids’ extremities, backs and chests…and I then spray a small pool in their hands and they gingerly rub it on their faces. Clearly, that’s not ideal, but we are spoiled by the sprays! Unfortunately, we have also found face-specific creams sting eyes (even those listed as tear-free) with eventual sweat and pool time. What easy tear-free option(s) do you advocate?"
Dr. Duarte: "Spray sunscreens are great but for sensitive areas, try a sunscreen that is oil, fragrance and dye-free. One example is Coppertone KIDS tear-free SPF 50, which is specially formulated to protect and keep children’s skin soft and smooth. The hypoallergenic and ultra-gentle formula is moisturizing and won’t sting or irritate the eyes."
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "Your colleagues at Coppertone were gracious enough to send us an assortment of new products to try, and that was amongst them...we will give it a go. We will be thrilled if it proves non-stinging. We're also VERY excited to try the new FOAM sunscreen! That said, tell me the truth: we’ve heard so many different things, how often does sunscreen need to be reapplied?"
Dr. Duarte: "It’s important to reapply at least every two hours and/or after swimming, sweating or towel-drying. I tell my patients to be vigilant when they’re near water, because the reflection can intensify the sun’s rays. If they’re going to be in and out of the water, they should be using a water-resistant sunscreen and reapplying more frequently. Once out of the water, they should keep other sun protective measures in mind, such as wearing long sleeves, hats, sunglasses and using an umbrella."
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "You mentioned water-resistant sunscreen, what about those sunscreens that claim to be waterproof/water-resistant? Do they last longer?"
Dr. Duarte: No sunscreen is waterproof, but the new FDA labeling guidelines make it much easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for on the packaging. The new requirements stipulate that sunscreen manufacturers must label products according to water resistant SPF testing. This means that your sunscreen will be water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes of activity in the water. To reiterate however, you must reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating or towel drying to help ensure protection.
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "Can you tell us your feelings as a dermatologist about the “SPF” numbers? What is ideal? What is too little coverage and what is overkill?"
Dr. Duarte: "I like going ‘back to basics’ when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen and SPF. First and foremost, look for a sunscreen that is broad spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and an SPF 30 or higher, which is the official recommendation from the American Academy of Dermatology. At my practice, I follow the AAD recommendation and advise my patients to apply a sunscreen with SPF 30. I do leave it up to the individual patient if they prefer a sunscreen with a higher SPF. Some people would debate that you do not need more, and most of my patients do well with SPF 30, but I do not discourage them from using a higher SPF. In order to ensure proper application, I recommend measuring an appropriate amount of sunscreen by cupping it in your palm. This process ensures effective coating with all exposed skin. It’s also important not to forget to use other sun protection measures like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and UV protective clothing."
Twinfatuation Cheryl : "Our Double Daddy has melanoma, so our children have been 'body-mapped' by a pediatric dermatologist, and are re-examined annually. However, most of our kids’ peers haven’t seen a dermatologist. Children typically make their first dental visit by age 3 or 4. Do you feel it’s a good idea for children to have a body-mapping done with a pediatric dermatologist? If so, at what age? "
Dr. Duarte: "Absolutely, I would recommend visiting a pediatric dermatologist at least once a year. Children who have a family history of melanoma and/or moles, should most likely visit twice a year. If a child has many moles, parents should conduct an at-home body-map once a month. Follow the ABCD rule, and check the scalp or any hair baring or hidden areas. If they notice a change of any kind, it is vital to visit a dermatologist as soon as possible. This process enables parents to instill sun-smart habits in their children, so they are able to report whether a mole has changed shape, color, or is painful in the future. Therefore, prudence is key. Early melanoma diagnosis, especially with children, is treatable. While rare, the disease can occur at a young age and I have seen patients as young as newborns who have had their moles checked. If there is no family history or moles on the child, I would advise parents to schedule a check-up by age one. Pediatricians can follow basic cases but if you have any family history or moles present, then book an appoint with a pediatric dermatologist."
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "There has been much in the news lately about children being sunburned during school hours due to limitations placed upon teachers/administrators regarding sunscreen application. Could you share a bit about Coppertone's 'Making the Sunscreen Grade' program?"
Dr. Duarte: "Although parents may be applying sunscreen to their children before they get on the school bus, ideally it should be reapplied by the time a midday recess begins, to avoid potentially risking unsafe sun exposure and sunburns. However, many U.S. schools have rules and restrictions around the usage of sunscreen, because it is an over-the-counter drug among other reasons. Because school districts differ on policies, I recommend that my patients’ families check with their school administrator to find out more about their district’s policy on sun protection. The Making the Sunscreen Grade program from Coppertone helps to educate parents around the importance of sun protection for their child during the school day and year-round. Parents should learn what their school policy is and start the conversation with their school staff. Together, they can craft a sunscreen-reapplication program. Perhaps they can make this a topic of discussion at their next PTA meeting, as well. For additional steps to ensure children are protected from the sun during the school day and year-round, parents can visit www.coppertone.com to download a free sun protection guide in English or Spanish. They can also download a sample letter to help them start the conversation with their school staff."
Twinfatuation Cheryl: "Thank you so much, Dr. Duarte...and friends at Coppertone!"
Do you have questions about protection from the summer sun? Put them in the comments, and we'll see if we can get them answered for you.