School is out. And for kids around the world, summer means hours of fun in the sun.
But harsh ultraviolet rays, chlorine and saltwater can wreak havoc on a child's hair and skin. That's why it's so important to take steps to protect your child from the elements.
Skin damage is a major concern during summertime. Most children rack up between 50 percent and 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. And UV rays are strongest during the summer months. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the country, and doctors are diagnosing it in much younger people.
With the right precautions, you can greatly reduce your child's chance of developing skin cancer. Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for kids with moles, those with very fair skin and hair, and those with a family history of skin cancer.
Try to avoid the strongest rays of the day -- normally between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Teach your child the shadow rule: If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun is high in the sky and the UV rays are intense.
Whenever your child is outside, always be sure to apply protective, waterproof sunscreen -- the highest SPF you can find -- about 30 minutes before you go outside so that a good layer of protection can form. Don't forget hands, ears, feet, shoulders and the back of the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them.
American Cancer Society Recommends 1. Slip! on a shirt. -wear protective clothing when you are out in the sun. 2. Slop! on sunscreen. -with an SPF of 15 or higher. 3. Slap! on a hat -it should shade the face, neck and ears. 4. Avoid midday sun -plan activities accordingly
Reapply it often -- every 2 to 3 hours, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Keep an extra bottle of sunscreen in the car and your handbag.
Sun-protective clothing can help protect children from the negative effects of the sun. Sun-protective fabrics typically have a tighter weave or knit, and usually are darker in color. Garments with a rating over SPF 50 offer the most sun protection. Get your child a good hat with a brim to protect their head and face from the sun. This also protects the hair from harsh ultraviolet rays.
Children younger than six months old should be kept out of the sun as much as possible.
Get your child some sunglasses. Sun exposure can damage the eyes. Even one day in the sun can result in a burned cornea, and cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts later in life. Purchase sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.
Sunburn isn't the only hazard of a day outside. Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, also are a hazard when the temperatures rise. They can occur when your kids become overheated and dehydrated. Call your child's doctor if your child has an unexplained fever higher than 102 degrees, if they feel nauseous, if they faint or if they're delirious.
Although hair doesn't technically get sunburned, it also needs tender loving care to protect it from the ravages of heat, humidity and chlorine.
Get your child's hair trimmed at the beginning of summer. Then plan on getting another trim at the end of the summer to snip off any dry, damaged ends.
In terms of haircuts, Cozy Friedman of Cozy's Cuts for Kids in New York suggests buzz cuts for boys during the summer.
"Buzz cuts are the best heat buster around, and they look so cute on the little ones," Friedman says.
For older boys who want a little style, they can leave the top a little longer and spike it with some styling gel.
When it comes to girls, it's best to go either long or short. Anything in between can be a challenge because it reduces styling options.
With long hair, it can be pulled off the face with ponytails, braids, headbands and other hair accessories. Long layers are recommended for curly or wavy hair. Short curly styles are a fun and easy look for summer that keep the hair off the face and accentuate the curls.
"With girls with curls, I like doing short bobs," says Brigitte Pratt of Lulu's Cuts & Toys in Brooklyn, NY.
To keep short curly styles looking their best -- and to ward off frizz -- put a little gel or styling cream into the hair. In addition to defining the curls, it provides some protection from the sun.
Stay away from harsh shampoos, especially baby shampoo, which can be very drying. Instead, shampoo once or twice a week with a moisturizing shampoo. On the other days, rinse and condition. Leave-in conditioners are especially good for summer because they help reduce frizz provide sun protection.
"A good detangler is essential if they're in the pool and sun a lot," says Melinda Dansby of Yam's Childrens Hair in Evans, Ga. "It conditions in addition to keeping the tangles away."
To protect against chlorine -- the No. 1 cause of broken, damaged hair -- there are some quick and easy steps you can take. Make sure your child rinses her hair with water before going into the pool. Then comb a little leave-in conditioner into the hair.
"When it's wet, it won't absorb so much chlorine," says Pratt.
If your child is in the pool a lot, make sure he or she uses a shampoo especially for swimmers, to remove chlorine. There are many available just for children.
There is scientific proof that curly girls and boys do have an advantage in the summer. Curly hair is raised above the scalp, and can actually permit wind eddies to cool the head, according to Desmond Tobin of Bradford University in England.
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