NEW YORK By this point in the season, parents are probably pretty good at slathering their children with sunscreen, but good summer skin care doesn't stop there.
Adults often adjust their health and beauty routines as they deal with heat, chlorine, sand, salt and increased bathing to alleviate all of the above. It makes sense to do the same for children:
• SUNNING. Sunscreen for kids isn't an option it's a must, says Dr. Carol Drucker, a dermatologist and associate professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
But it's important to find the right kind of sunscreen for your children's skin.
Some thicker formulas, often with higher SPFs, can clog pores and contribute to heat rash, especially when combined with sweat, sand and dirt. Drucker encourages parents to experiment with different textures and weights. Sprays, for example, tend to have a lighter touch.
For teens, clogged pores can lead to another problem: acne. When there's any sort of extra oil secretion, it's important to fully cleanse, tone, exfoliate and hydrate (with an oil-free formula), says Jeanna Nims, lead aesthetician at the Beach Plum Spa at the Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis, Mass.
Nims recommends choosing an astringent with humectants, which can help retain natural moisture instead of adding an extra layer on top; she's partial to products with hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally produced by the skin but tends to deplete with age.
• SWIMMING. Wet skin doesn't have as strong a barrier as dry
skin, so kids become more susceptible to funguses and viruses, especially warts, ringworm and athlete's foot, Drucker warns.
"They're not usually bad things, but you want to recognize them and maybe wear flip-flops or disinfect your feet when you get back to the car," she says.
Beach swimmers are also at risk for rashes.
An itchy, bumpy rash on skin that's either normally covered by a swimsuit or occurs in skin folds could be caused by larvae in salt water, Drucker says. One rash that occurs on exposed parts of the skin is more common in fresh water and is called "swimmer's itch." It's caused by little parasites of birds and snails, she explains, and while not dangerous, it can be uncomfortable. It can be treated with hydrocortisone, she says.
Another common ailment Drucker sees during the summer are children with raw finger and toe pads.
The culprit? The concrete at the edge of the pool.
"Kids hold on to the edge of the pool and walk on the concrete around it. It's especially a problem with new pools. It's an abrasion, and people don't realize what it is," Drucker says.
• BATHING. This is the grimy season for kids, but, Drucker says, they don't need a bath to wash off sunscreen. If anything, the buildup of a previous day's sunscreen just provides a little extra protection.
That said, sweat and dirt should come off.
Because of the frequency of washing, Drucker recommends switching to a milder soap and not soaping up quite so much just enough to get clean.
Dry skin is more of a problem during seasons of low humidity, mostly winter, but it still will bother some kids during the summer. One option is a moisturizing sunscreen, Drucker says, while another would be an oil-free lotion.
Nims, the salon aesthetician, also notes that moisturizers with aloe or shea butter are calming and might soothe sunburns.
• HAIR. Bathing and swimming do strip moisture from the hair, so it should be conditioned following every shampoo, advises Cozy Friedman, founder of the Cozy Cuts for Kids salon chain in New York. If hair is very dry and brittle, leave a little conditioner in as added protection.
"At the first haircut after camp or the back-to-school haircut, the stylists say it's like cutting off straw," Friedman says. "The stylists have to sharpen their scissors every September after the rush."
It's also the season for knots. To prevent tangles, Friedman recommends children with long hair wear a ponytail or loose braids both when they're active and when they're sleeping.
The other concern in the summer is the green tint that can come from chlorine.
"If I could tell people one little bit of advice, it's to use a swimmer's shampoo," Friedman says.
Her brand's version is made with orange extract, which helps remove chlorine and impurities, she says.