Sun and your child's skin - what the experts say
The specific features of children's skin when exposed to the sun
Children's skin is still in the process of forming. It has a great deal of unique cellular potential from birth, which it is particularly important to protect against the sun.
Its lack of maturity can be seen at several levels:
- In the epidermis, the pigmentation cells (melanocytes) are not as plentiful. Protection against sunlight is therefore less effective than in adults.
- The protective immune system cells (Langerhans cells) are also less effective, and so more sensitive to UV light.
- There is less cellular cohesion, and so the sun's rays are able to penetrate the skin more easily.
- The sebaceous glands do not mature fully until the age of 7 years. Children's skin thus has a tendency to be on the dry side, lacking the lipids that – together with sweat – form an effective barrier (the hydrolipidic film). Sun only makes things worse.
- Lastly, the sweat glands do not develop properly until the age of 3 years. In the event of prolonged exposure and strong heat, these glands are unable to produce enough sweat to eliminate the energy that has been stored up. There is therefore a risk of heat stroke, which can be extremely serious with acute dehydration, requiring hospitalization.
Children's skin is more exposed to the sun
Because of the lives that children lead (playing outside, walking, holidays, etc.), their annual doses are 2 to 3 times greater than those of an adult. So by the time we reach the age of 18, we have received virtually 50% of our total sun exposure.
Accumulated and irreversible damage
Skin has a memory: its stores up any childhood sun damage that can lead to more visible damage during adulthood. Many studies have demonstrated that too much sun exposure during childhood, frequent and painful sunburn in particular, can increase the risk of melanoma in adulthood.
Sun protection products have been shown to be effective against these risks: studies show that systematically protecting your child against the sun greatly reduces the risks of melanomas appearing later on in life. It is therefore essential that you protect your child every time they are exposed to the sun.
To find out more about what you can do to protect your child from the sun, consult our tip sheet.