Apply sunscreen throughout the day, says Helen O’Callaghan
Own your tone — the advice of Helen Forristal, Marie Keating Foundation director of nursing, to parents about being comfortable in your skin whether it’s freckled, pale or darker-hued.
And she urges passing this message on to your children. “Behavioural change happens from a young age — if children are told when young that there’s no such thing as a safe suntan, it stays with them into their teens and beyond.”
With rates of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) rising faster than any other cancer — more than 1,000 cases are diagnosed annually in Ireland — it’s vital to be SunSmart. “It’s a bit like being on a plane — parents should first look after themselves, putting on sunscreen, and then do so for their children.”
Warning that infants up to six months “shouldn’t see the sun at all” because their skin’s so delicate, Forristal says protecting your child means putting them in heavily-woven linens/SPF clothing, wide-brimmed hats that protect eyes/ears, sunglasses with UV protection and having the whole family stay in shade between 11am-3pm.
UV rays come through clouds even when the sun isn’t shining.
Forristal recommends first applying a coat of sunscreen — factor 50 for children — then re-apply 20 minutes later, all before going out.
“It should then be applied every two hours,” she says, adding that it’s “a bit of a myth” that sunscreen’s waterproof.
“It hasn’t always proven to be true that it’s resistant in water for 40 minutes. Chlorine in pools and salt in seawater can wash away the protective lotion. You can also lose the effect of the SPF through sweating and towel-drying.”
A new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests benefits of sunscreen use can be got without compromising vitamin D levels. The study’s lead author said the study – “during a week of perfect weather in Tenerife” — showed that even when sunscreens are used optimally to prevent sunburn, they still allow “excellent” vitamin D synthesis.
“SPF 50 gives 98% coverage and SPF 30+ on adults gives 97% coverage so there’s a small percentage of exposure that would give an element of vitamin D absorption,” says Forristal.