May 15, 2019

Protecting the skin from damaging sun rays is as easy as “slip, slop, slap, slide and shade”

Young mother applying sunblock cream on her baby

It’s never too early to start using sun safety tips, especially when it means preventing skin cancer, says a pediatric dermatologist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Sharon Albers, MD, assistant professor of Dermatology and director of Pediatric Dermatology, said skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and the number of cases continues to increase.

“Damage from sun exposure builds up over time,” said Albers. “Most skin cancers are caused by too much UV ray exposure, and there’s a lot that parents can do to protect their children.

“And no matter the skin pigmentation — sun protection is vital.”

Albers offers the following sun protection tips:

  • Use SPF products of at least 30
  • Apply sun protection at least 30 minutes before going outside
  • Reapply every two hours, no matter what the label states

“We recommend that infants, 6 months and younger, be kept out of the sun and wear protective clothing,” said Albers. “It is not necessary to use any sunscreen or sun block because they should not be exposed to the sun at all.

“For those children older than 6 months, parents need to apply sun screen or sun block a good 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. It takes sunscreen at least 30 minutes to bind and become effective.

“It’s not just about applying sunscreen or using sun block,” she said. “People need to wear hats, long sleeve rash guards and swim tights. It’s also a matter of avoiding being out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the height of ultra violet ray exposure.”

Sunscreens and blocks work best when combined with other protective options.

Albers said the American Academy of Dermatology’s simple slogan — Slip, Slop, Slap — can be an easy reminder of the steps to take for sun protection.

Slip into clothing to cover the skin, slop on sunscreen or sun block and slap on a brimmed hat to protect the face. For additional protection, experts added two additional steps: slide on sunglasses and shade from the sun.

Albers said sunscreens come in a variety of applications and that the best one is “the one that you like and that you will use.”