Sunscreen Tips For Parents

Don’t forget the Slop!

The phone rings at SunSmart HQ. It’s a parent. Their child has just started back at school. It’s hot, the sun is burning brightly and the sunscreen sitting in the school bag is doing just that – sitting in the school bag! The parent caller laments the fact that during the holidays sunscreen application was a regular part of the outdoor routine but once school goes back, it’s just a slip and a slap but no slop. The parent is fully aware of the importance of a slop and is concerned schools may have forgotten this SunSmart step.

Of course the ‘slop’ refers to slopping on sunscreen. It should be SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum and it should be reapplied before outdoor activities. But are all schools ensuring children apply their sunscreen? Data from a national survey showed that 92% of Australian primary schools actively encourage sunscreen application however only 20% of schools had between 76-100% of students applying sunscreen before heading out to lunch. Perhaps that’s why so many parents call SunSmart for help.

SunSmart does not expect teachers to apply sunscreen to students but it is helpful if a school has strategies in place to help remind students about this task. Strategies may include appointing sunscreen buddies or sunscreen monitors, placing reminder notes near the exit door or on the board, setting up a sunscreen station table, playing a music reminder before recess times or setting up a committee of students to develop reminder ideas. Sunscreen application needs to be just as much a part of the SunSmart routine as hat wearing. Regular use of sunscreen has been shown to reduce the incidence of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both in the short and long term. That’s why it’s so important to instil good sun protection habits from an early age.

Parents can help support their child’s pre-school or school’s SunSmart initiatives by ensuring their child wears sun safe clothing and remembers to bring their sun protective hat each day. Make sure SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen is in their bag so this can be reapplied before outdoor times. Develop good sunscreen application techniques at home so your child will be all set when they get to preschool or school.
With the longer preschool sessions commencing in 2014, it’s very important for all preschools to include sunscreen application as part of their regular routine. One application at drop off time is no longer enough.

Ensure your child’s early childhood service or school actively encourages sunscreen application before outdoor activities.

Sunscreen tips for parents

•   Choose an SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen.
•   Make sure it is within its use by date and is kept in a cool place (below 30 degrees).
•   Apply sunscreen at least 20 mins before going outdoors to help give it time to bind to the skin.
•   Even if sunscreen states “4 hours water resistance’ – reapply every TWO hours
•   Choose a sunscreen that your child feels comfortable wearing and is easy to apply.
•   Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or water play
•   When trying a new sunscreen on babies, test it out on a small patch of skin first.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommend the use of a sunscreen ‘at any age when there is unavoidable exposure to the sun’ and states sunscreen is safe to use on babies. Many brands of sunscreen have a babies or toddlers formula. These are just as protective, but much gentler on the skin. Look for sunscreens that have been dermatologically tested for sensitive skin. 

•   From age 3, practice applying sunscreen so children can develop this skill ready for school.
•   Set up a sunscreen station in the bathroom to easily apply sunscreen and wash hands.
•   Pop sunscreen in the cooler section of a lunchbox, especially nice on a hot, summer’s day
•   Try a clip on sunscreen that can hang from your child’s bag and act as a visual reminder
•   Remember role modelling – children learn best from what they see adults doing.

For further information on sunscreen and being SunSmart visit

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