Like healthy eating and regular exercise, skin cancer education is something best taught early on in life. But how do you speak to a child about the role sun protection plays in preventing skin cancer without scaring or scolding them? And how do you encourage good habits that will enable them to have fun in the sun without putting their health at risk?

Read on to discover top skin cancer prevention tips for the whole family—and the recommended sun care regimen to help.

Explain UV Rays in a Kid-Friendly Way

Children are generally more willing to do something when they understand why they're being asked to do it. It's worth explaining in simple terms why they're applying sunscreen. One of the main factors to communicate is that the sun's invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin over time—even when it's cloudy—so they need to wear a protective sunscreen to keep their faces and bodies safe while playing outside.

You can also get the children involved when conducting skin checks on everyone in the family. Explain why keeping an eye on each other's moles and freckles for changes in size, texture, or color is important, as well as how sun exposure can affect those spots. Understanding how to physically check for signs of skin cancer is a habit that will go a long way in protecting your family's long-term health.

Make Re-applying Sunscreen Fun

It's notoriously tricky to apply sunscreen on wiggly babies and impatient toddlers, so try to make it as fun and engaging as possible. Consider making up a song to sing and dance to while you apply sun protection on your little ones. Or, if your child is older, set a timer on your phone to remind yourselves and make re-application into a game. You can initiate a race to see who can (thoroughly) re-apply sunscreen to their face and body the fastest. Whenever they're handling the application, make sure and check they've covered all areas (songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" work great here). It's also advisable to have a sunscreen on hand that is easy to apply to tricky areas, like EltaMD's UV Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50+.

Instilling a consistent habit of re-applying sunscreen will help everyone in the family avoid sunburn and prevent skin cancer later in life. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a single incident of severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chance of developing melanoma later on.

Take Breaks in the Shade

The American Cancer Society advises limiting exposure to the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV radiation is at its strongest. Protect your children during this time of day with sun-protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat, rash guard or long-sleeve top, and sunglasses. Above all, plan to take breaks in the shade.

You can schedule in regular snack, water, and "chill-out" breaks throughout the day, so they're spending plenty of time out of direct sunlight. This is also a good opportunity to re-apply sunscreen. Don't forget to also re-apply your own protection at the same time!

Set a Good Example

At times, you may be guilty of telling your children to do something while not following the same advice for yourself, but practicing good sun safety is vital for everyone. Skin cancer can affect anyone at any age, so covering up, seeking shade, and regularly re-applying sunscreen should be practiced by the whole family.

The most effective way to ensure the family sticks to a good sun protection regimen is by using products that are effective and easy to apply. EltaMD offers a range of skin care products with formulas suitable for babies and children, teens and young people, and mature adults. It's easier than ever to find a sunscreen that treats your individual concerns while providing excellent broad-spectrum protection.

Find the Perfect Sunscreen for Everyone in Your Family

A great all-around sunscreen for both children and adults is EltaMD's UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47. It reflects and scatters UVA and UVB rays and can be worn in water for up to 80 minutes, making it great for a summer vacation.

For young adults in their 20s, consider a formula like EltaMD's UV Glow for the face and UV Sheer for the body. Both products bring a dewy glow to your skin while protecting a youthful complexion from skin-aging aggressors.

If you're in your 40s and beyond, consider EltaMD's Skin Recovery System Kit with UV Clear SPF 46. Powered by patented AAComplex technology, this three-step system is shown to visibly reduce redness and increase hydration in 24 hours after just one use. It can also help to repair and strengthen a damaged skin barrier.

Enjoying the Sun With Confidence

Preventing skin cancer starts with education, which is why it's so important to talk to your children about sun safety. The earlier, the better. By doing so, you and your family can confidently enjoy time outdoors, safe in the knowledge that your skin and long-term health are protected.


  • Catherine Hufton

    Catherine Hufton is a UK-based freelance journalist and writer who has worked for some of fashion's most iconic companies and written for the world's best known magazines and newspapers. Beginning her career at Net-a-Porter and Matches Fashion over 12 years ago, she has created content for L'Oréal, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, The Telegraph and more.

    View all posts