The ABCs of Sun Protection

Melanoma is one of the scariest, most aggressive cancers. Most of us are aware of its association with excessive sun exposure. Dermatologists use a mnemonic, “The ABCs of moles,” to help distinguish innocent moles from cancerous melanomas. It is my deepest desire to help your child avoid such cancer; to that end, I offer my own ABCs of sun protection.


Avoid the sun as much as possible during its peak intensity, essentially 10 am to 3 pm. One will get burned much more quickly during these times.


Break up your child’s time in the sun. Most of us know that the SPF predicts how long one can stay out before the skin starts to burn. If one starts to look pink after 10 minutes in bright sunlight without any sunscreen, then an SPF 30 product should give 300 minutes of protection, 10 times 30. Because the number is calculated using artificial light, I recommend cutting that time in half, to 150 minutes, 2 ½ hours; if your child will be swimming, probably cut that time in half again, as much of the sunscreen gets washed away. Most people think that if they just reapply more sunscreen after the calculated time, they will continue to be protected; sadly this is not true. The sunscreen is a filter, not a barrier, so harmful UVA and UVB rays continue to penetrate. So when your child’s time is up, take her in for lunch or a nap, a good hour before returning to the sun.


Cover your baby’s head with a hat.

Cover his eyes with sunglasses.

Clothe your child with SPF protected clothing: Remember that a white T- Shirt only has an SPF of about 10. Babies under 6 months should be protected primarily with clothing, rather than sunscreen.

Finally, I strongly recommend you visit the Guide to Sunscreens by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) before choosing a product. This nonprofit group strives make consumers aware of potentially unsafe chemicals found in the sunscreens of many leading brands. They even have a smartphone App, Skin Deep, with which you can scan the barcode of a sunscreen, to make sure it’s safe before you buy it.