Sunscreen Your Teen

Should you be supervising your teen with their sunscreen application?  Maybe.  I know they are of an age where they should be taking on more responsibility for themselves. But the fact is that they often don’t, at least not without repeated nagging from you.

In fact, teenagers are the population group that is least likely to practice sun-safe habits. Many teens think a tan makes them more attractive. And that desire to be attractive seems to take precedence over any concerns about skin damage or skin cancer later in life. The American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) recently presented some information for parents. (AAP News, July 2012)

Did you know?

  • 80% of sun-related skin damage is due to total sun exposure before age 18.
  • One blistering sunburn in childhood can double a person’s risk of getting skin cancer.
  • The second most common cancer in teens and young adults is melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer).

Avoid the tanning salons 

Tanning salons are everywhere and teens are frequent visitors.

  • Teens who use tanning salons 4 times a year or more have an almost 1 in 5 increased risk for basal cell skin cancer by the time they are in their mid-thirties.
  • Those who start using tanning salons as teens (7 times a year or more) have an almost 3 out of 4 increased risk for basal cell skin cancer by the time they are in their mid-thirties.
  • The AAP discourages any person under 18 years of age from using tanning beds. So far, California is the only state that bans people under 18 from using tanning salons. (Keep in mind that tanning salon use is not recommended for anyone of any age.)

Encourage sunscreen use and discuss with your teen 

Encourage and discuss this with your teen—over and over and over. A National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly three-quarters of teens do not wear sunscreen, even if they will be out for over an hour. And girls are more likely than boys to not wear sunscreen.

  • Help your teen to find a sunscreen that they like. If it is “too sticky” or “too white,” they are even less likely to use it. Involve them in the choice.
  • Try to get a sunscreen with SPF 30-50. 
  • Water resistant sunscreens are probably best for an active teen. However, discuss with your teen that no sunscreen is waterproof.  The FDA now requires that sunscreen labels include the duration of water resistance. Look at this time and discuss. Emphasize the importance of reapplication. 
  • Encourage swim shirts or long sleeve shirts, pants, and hats.
  • Discourage sun exposure during peak sun intensity (10am-2pm) when possible.

Nag, nag and nag your teen again. They will eventually get the message. They won’t thank you for it now but they will years from now. 

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