By Maria Masters
Yet another hurdle to keeping your child safe this summer: The majority of teens believe people with tans are more attractive. But you can protect your kid's skin by making sure she avoids these three common mistakes.
Getting a "base tan"
Your teen might think getting a glow from a tanning salon prevents sunburns later on -- and therefore is safer. But while burns increase her risk of skin cancer, so does regular sun exposure. "A tan is a sign of sun damage," says dermatologist Ali Hendi, M.D. "It's the body's way of trying to repair the DNA that was harmed by ultraviolet radiation." Spray tans do no harm but don't prevent her from being burned.
Chances are your child needs to be more diligent about applying -- and reapplying -- sunscreen. Try a spray, which kids often prefer, says Adelle Quintana, M.D., spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation. Have her spritz the sunscreen on her hand before applying it to her face. And make sure she knows to close her eyes and mouth before spraying it on her body. "Kids need about 1 ounce for every two hours they're outside," she says.
Wearing the wrong clothing
Not all beach apparel is created equal. White cotton T-shirts range from an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF, indicating how effective fabrics are at blocking UV rays) of 3 to 7, which isn't sufficient, says Dr. Quintana. Buy sun-protective clothing with a UPF of 30 or higher. Coolibar and Columbia Sportswear are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
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