Go Beyond SPF
Hats off to the parents who shield their kids from the sun by going beyond SPF with UPF.
UPF, short for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, is like built-in SPF for clothes. Used by sun protective clothing manufacturers, UPF is a measuring system that rates protection against both UVA and UVB waves and the highest protective rating is UPF 50+ which means that the garment will block 98% of the sun’s harmful rays. Coolibar is one of our favourite UPF 50+ online stores, as they have the largest selection of kid-friendly prints in breathable fabrics.
All of the kids photographed in this story are wearing head-to-toe Coolibar, cute right?
Seeing kids in sun protective clothes reminds me of something that our derm Dr. Lisa Kellett once told me that really stuck: “People will get most of their sun exposure by time they turn 25. And it can take about 20 years for skin cancer to present itself.” As a mother of four, Dr. Kellett is a big advocate for sun protection at an early age. Common sense should prevail when it comes to outdoor play time, “Don’t put your kids in the sun at noon…everyone should try to avoid the sun during peak hours, 10 A.M. – 2 P.M.,” says Dr. Kellett.
And what of sunscreen? Today’s formulations are nothing like the chalky goop we were subjected to as kids. Modern sunscreens now contain a mix of traditional physical blockers (zinc, titanium oxide) and non-physical blockers (chemical ingredients), which provide a smooth spreadable texture and optimal protection. Despite this advancement, some parents are wary about sunscreen being carcinogenic. To that, Dr. Kellett responds by saying “the risk of skin cancer is much higher than having problems with the chemicals in sun block. The basal cell carcinoma rate from the sun is 67 per cent.”
That’s high. To put things into context, Dr. Kellett has always stressed this: “Your chance of having a problem with the chemicals in the sunscreen is likely much less than your chance of having a problem from taking a breath of air in a busy city street.”
So how early should we start slopping on the SPF? Well, “Sunscreen should always be used with other protection methods,” suggests Dr. Kellett. The American Academy of Pediatrics approves the use of sunscreen on infants younger than six months when adequate clothing and shade is not available. The first and best line of defence against the sun is covering up with hats (a 3-inch brim is ideal), sunglasses, and UPF clothing as the primary methods of protection. This is then followed by the use of shade and sunscreen with reapplication every 2-3 hours if exposed to sunlight.
In terms of using a cream or spray SPF, it’s really about preference. What is easiest to apply and what feels good on the skin will be what you use more often. And that’s what matters. Dr. Kellett likes clear sunblock sprays over creams and lotions for children. “Sprays are non-greasy, don’t run and are cosmetically acceptable. All of these reasons increase compliance and thus they are very useful in children.”
With a new report about skin cancer being on the rise from the Canadian Cancer Society, we should all take a moment to rethink our behaviour in the sun this summer. The facts on skin cancer are pretty alarming, folks.
- In 2013 about 6,000 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma and about 1,050 died from it.
- The chances of developing melanoma in a lifestyle is about one in 63 Canadian men and one in 79 Canadian women – these numbers are higher than they were in the past.
- From 1996 to 2006, the proportion of Canadians spending two hours or more in the summer sun grew, but there was a significant drop in the number of people who reported wearing sun protective clothing and hats.
While melanoma can affect all ages, most of the patients dermatologists see in their practice for skin cancer treatment are in their 40s and older. Again this has to do with the 20-year timespan it takes for cancer to develop, which interestingly is the main reason why dogs don’t get skin cancer (they just don’t live long enough). For us humans, “There’s such a lag time between your exposure and when you actually get skin cancer, people don’t relate the two. It’s not like you go outside and get a burn and all of a sudden, you get skin cancer,” says Dr. Kellett who thinks that we’re doing a better job of protecting our children thanks to more sun awareness in the media and the growth of sun protective clothes, such as Coolibar. “It will be interesting to see how skin cancer rates correlate to that over the next 20-25 years,” Dr. Kellett notes.
Keep your little ones this summer.