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One in five parents forget to apply sun cream to kids in UK sunshine

Parents shouldn't underestimate the strength of UV radiation in the UK, say skin care experts

baby child sun cream

Parents could be putting their child’s future skin health at risk by forgetting to apply sun cream when they’re out in the UK sunshine.

Which? carried out a survey on more than 5,000 parents with at least one child under 12, to find out about their sun-protection habits.

We discovered that on holiday, parents are more likely to apply sun cream every hour, while at home they apply sun cream every three hours.

More worryingly, one in five don’t always remember to apply sun cream at home, and one in 10 simply don’t apply any sun cream to their child when they’re in the UK.

For more advice on keeping your baby or child safe in the sun, read our baby sun cream advice guide.

Why should you apply sun cream in the UK?

Whether at home, or on holiday, it’s vital that you protect your child’s skin from the sun to prevent burning and premature skin damage.

While the UK lacks some of the hotter temperatures of its European neighbours, the risk for UV damage still exists during the summer months, even on cloudy days.

The UV index is a measure of the strength of UV rays and runs from 1-11, with 3-5 being moderate, 6-7 rated as high, 8-10 as very high and 11 as extreme. It doesn’t usually exceed 8 in the UK, but indices of 9 and 10 are common in Mediterranean countries.

baby child sun cream

Dr Rachel Abbott, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson says:

‘People often underestimate the strength of UV radiation in the UK – particularly in the late spring when the UV index is often seven on a clear day. It’s also important to remember that the UV index doesn’t match the air temperature. The UV index peaks around midday, so although the air temperature rises during the day, the UV index falls in the afternoon. You can check the UV index via most weather websites.’

You can also download the World UV App for either Apple or Android phones for free. Developed by the British Association of Dermatologists in partnership with the Met Office, it uses your phone location to tell you what the UV levels are in that area.

Child sun cream use at home and on holiday

We also carried out research into what sun protection factor (SPF) parents used on their children.

When it comes to applying high factor sun cream (SPF 30 or above), parents tend to go higher when they’re on holiday.

More than two thirds of parents used SPF 50 or 50+ when on holiday, compared with 43% when at home in the UK.

Only 15% of parents used factor 30, and 5% used factor 15 while on holiday. However, they were more likely to use these SPF level creams when they were at home, with 23% of parents using SPF 30.

‘Nearly half of our yearly skin damage from UV is from our one to two-week holiday abroad, and so it is important to use appropriate sun protection measures when on holiday where the UV index is above three,’ says Dr Abbott.

‘However, it’s important to remember that the UV index in the UK is often 6-7 in late spring/summer and so it is just as important to use appropriate sun-protection measures, including broad spectrum, high factor sun screen of at least SPF 30.’

Keep your baby or child’s skin safe in the sun

Good sun protection isn’t just about applying sun cream. Experts agree that parents should also make sure that their child wears a hat, sunglasses, covers up with clothing and stays out of the sun during the hottest time of day.

Find out how sun creams work and how we test them by reading our sun cream advice guides.

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