Babies and children under 3 years of age should not be exposed to the sun.
Intensive exposure to UV rays during childhood constitutes a major risk of skin cancer in adult life (note that skin cancer can also be genetic).
Sun prevention is essential from the earliest age. It is during childhood and the teenage years that one spends the longest time in the sun.
It is important to teach children how to protect themselves from the sun.
Sunscreens contain UV filters which partially block UV light and help to protect the skin. The higher the UV protection, the better the overall level of protection.
The Sun Protection Factor corresponds to the ratio between the time it takes to develop sunburn with as opposed to without sunscreen. With a 50 SPF, it will take 50 times longer to develop sunburn than if no protection is used.
The term « total screen » has been banned in Europe for several years, because none of them, even those with a high SPF, can filter 100% of UV rays.
However, the best defense is to avoid spending too long in the sun and to choose safer periods of exposure (before noon and after 4 PM). The sun can be dangerous, even if it is not visible. Clouds do not filter UVA rays.
This advice applies throughout the year. August is not the most dangerous month. The first rays of sun in May are also dangerous.
Sun screen should be applied between 15 and 30 minutes before exposure. The cream should be applied evenly, (the equivalent of 6 teaspoons for an adult). Do not neglect the forgotten areas: ear lobes, hairline, backs of knees, as well as the tops and soles of the feet.
The effect of the cream decreases with the intensity of the sun and other factors such as friction or moisture (water, perspiration). It is advisable to renew the application every time you bathe and if you sweat a lot.
Clear skins need higher UV protection than dark skins.
The index of protection allows the user to choose a specialist product suitable for their skin type, exposure and weather conditions (beach, mountain, daily care…). Some products do not display their IP on the label (= an IP of 1), so they do not claim sun protection. This is the case for most self-tanning products, classical monoï and bronzing oils (see chapter on “sun and non-subjects”).
Sun products are useful but must be used in association with other safety measures such as the wearing of appropriate clothing, sunglasses produced to European UV protection standards, a wide brimmed hat, avoiding sun exposure between noon and 4 PM during the summer in France (when radiation is at its maximum level), and limiting the time of exposure to the sun. Practically speaking, keep out of the sun if the size of your shadow on the ground is less than its actual size. Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Finally, beware of so-called « waterproof » sunscreens. Water droplets act like a magnifying glass and multiply the amount of UV after bathing in the sea and you must always dry yourself thoroughly and reapply sunscreen.
The risk of sunscreen is that it tends to encourage people to stay in the sun longer. Do not extend the exposure time because you have used a sunscreen product. Similarly, do not reduce the quantity or frequency of application of the product because you have used a product with a high index of protection. It is better use sunscreen 30 and renew the application every 2 hours, rather than applying a 50+ product less frequently.
On the first days of your holiday, increase the period of sun exposure progressively from 20 to 30 minutes to allow your skin to acclimatize and develop melanin. Remember that tanning provides limited protection against sunburn. It remains essential to continue using sunscreen products even when your skin has bronzed.
Clothing is the best protection against the sun! Nothing beats clothes, a hat… and a bottle of mineral water!
NB: it is important to combine clothing, UV protection and sunscreen!
Sun Protection factor (SPF)
There are 4 categories of protection and 8 SPF indices :
- 6 & 10 correspond to low protection;
- 15, 20 & 25 correspond to anormal protection;
- high protection corresponds to 30 & 50 SPF;
- whilst only at 50+ provides very high protection.
With a SPF = 6, the amount of UV transmitted will be 1/6, ie 16,60%;
With a SPF = 50, it will be 2%.
NB : the UV taken into account in the index calculations is the UVB (see chapter on “Clarifications”). Since 2006, regulations dictate that creams must protect against the two types of UV, with a ratio of 1 to 3 : a 30 SPF cream should guarantee a protection against UVA with a factor equal to 10. Unfortunately, even if manufacturers manage UVB protection well, this does not apply to the UVAs.
NB : Factors are calculated taking into account a very generous application of the cream which corresponds for example to 6 teaspoons for the body for an average adult. Application in lower doses results in a disproportionate reduction of protection : when less than half of the product is used, protection can fall by a third. It is necessary to apply and renew applications of the cream regularly, particularly after perspiration, swimming or drying onself with a towel.
Caution: by reducing the amount applied, you significantly reduce the level of sun protection.
Protection indices are recommended according to your phototype (the sensitivity of your skin to the sun).
There are 6 levels:
- Phototype 1 : 50+ SPF is recommended. Concerns individuals who are extremely sensitive to the sun:
People with “white-creamy ” skin, with freckles, blond or red hair, blue or green eyes
These individuals always get sunburnt during sun exposure and do not tan easily..
Also includes those with a history of skin cancer or diseases associated with photosensitivity.
- Phototype 2: 50+ SPF is recommended. Concerns individuals who are sensitive to the sun:
People with very clear skin, often with some freckles and / or venetian or auburn blonde hair, light or brown eyes.
These individuals often get sunburnt during sun exposure but can get a tan
- Phototype 3: 50+ SPF is recommended. Those whose skin is moderately clear, with blond or chestnut hair and few or no freckles. These individuals are moderately prone to sunburn and tan gradually,
They have brown eyes
- Phototype 4: 30 SPF is recommended. Termed as intermediate skin: the skin is dark and there are no freckles, the hair is chestnut to brown, the eyes brown / black. These individuals are rarely sunburnt and have a dark sun tan.
- Phototype 5: 30 SPF is recommended. The skin is dark brown, naturally pigmented. Hair and eyes are black. These individuals are rarely sunburnt and their tan is very dark.
- Phototype 6: 30 SPF is recommended. The skin is black, the hair and the eyes are black. The subject does not get sunburnt.
The Bisolaires recommend a minimum SPF of 30, regardless of your phototype.
A high SPF does not prevent tanning.
Although much rarer very real skin cancers can develop on dark or black skin. They probably appear when the natural and acquired capacity for photoprotection capabilities has been exceeded. Bob Marley died of melanoma, probably due to too much time spent in the sun.
NB : snow reflects 85% of UV rays , the proportion of which increases by 10% for each platform of 1.000 metres altitude. The sun is even more dangerous than it is on the beach.
Maximum sun protection is therefore advisable for all skin types together with high quality sunglasses which correspond to European UV protection standards.
Which brand should one choose? The most expensive is not necessarily the best.
Anthélios 50 by Laboratoire La Roche Posay, Avène 30 or Mixa Solaire which is competitively priced.
If you opt for an organic sunscreen, make sure that it deals efficiently with UVA rays.
Child special sun screen
A baby should systematically be covered with light, or anti UV clothes and with a hat and be left in the shade (there are UV parasols and canopies for strollers).
Sunscreen should be applied regularly to all uncovered body parts of the child. The highest SPF must be chosen, because sun exposure in childhood without protection presents a risk factor for skin cancer in adulthood.
The National Cancer Institute underlines the importance of teaching children to protect themselves from the sun.
Sunscreen which is specially adapted for children is strongly recommended as it ensures that allergens are almost completely absent.
The manufacturers endeavour to create safer formulas for the ranges which are aimed at children.
Sunscreens are accused of damaging coral reefs – essential to the marine ecosystem – because they often contain chemical components. Some brands claim to offer “water protection”, with anti UV formulas based on mineral filters. If you nevertheless wish to avoid using any solar product, make sure that you only go outside at certain times of the day and protect yourself with appropriate clothing: headscarves, umbrellas or parasols…