Here Comes the Sun: A Dermatologist’s 5 Best Rules to Protect Your Family from Sun Damage

Updated: May 15, 2023

Sun protection is key, even when you're all eager to race out the door. One dermatologist based in the South shares her five key strategies most every parent or caregiver can try.

How A Dermatologist Protects Her Kids From Skin Cancer Gettyimages 1363802345 Jvedit
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As the weather heats up and days grow longer, nothing feels better than getting outside, especially for little ones escaping the classroom for the summer. Time moving outdoors and a little sunshine can do wonders for you and your children’s health—the benefits of sunlight include improving sleep and boosting your immune system, among others.

But of course, the sun has its dangers. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, people on average get 80% of our sun exposure by the time we turn 18, and a bad sunburn in childhood can raise an individual’s risk of developing malignant melanoma later in life.

As a dermatologist and mother in sunny Texas, here are the five tips I follow most for practicing sun safety with your kids.

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Young mother hand applying sunscreen lotion on little girl shoulder. Skin protection. Safety sunbathing in hot sunny day at beach. Side view. Closeup.
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1. I apply sunscreen to all sun-exposed areas daily

Fifteen minutes before we head out the door, I apply sunscreen SPF 30 or above. I use one ounce per childthat’s the same amount as a shot glassto cover their whole bodies. I cover all bare skin, such as face, neck, ears, the top of their feet, and legs.

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Portrait of little girl wearing sun protective clothing on the beach
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2. Sun-protective clothing

When we’re going to be outside for more than an hour, I make sure my kids are wearing sun-protective clothing. I specifically choose shirts with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate fabric and reach your skin. Although most clothing gives the skin some protection, the amount of protection varies greatly depending on the fabric type, thickness and color.

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cute two year old boy on beach wearing large straw sunhat
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3. I have them wear a hat

The ideal hat is wide-brimmed, in a darker color.

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happy group of children sitting under a tree for a shade break
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4. We take frequent “shade breaks”

The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Within this window, we take frequent breaks for snacks and water in a shady area.

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setting an alarm on a phone
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5. I set an alarm to reapply sunscreen

Once the kids are out and playing, it can be hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. I set a recurrent alarm every two hours so I remember to apply sunscreen or use our shade breaks to do it then.

Mamas know: This can be hard when they’re busy and don’t want to break away from having fun, so to make it speedy I specifically focus on the highest exposed areas like face, ears and back of neck.

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