Dr. Kelly Stankiewicz hears the same thing almost every day from her patients at The Dermatology Institute in Naperville.
"All day long we hear people who say if I would have only known that sunscreen would have stopped these sun spots, that sunscreen would've prevented these deep wrinkles, that sunscreen would've stopped this skin cancer -- if only I would've known that," Stankiewicz said.
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Stankiewicz and two other dermatologists agree that sun protection is the most essential step in a child's skin care routine. They advise parents to establish good skin care habits for their children early on, so that it will become a regular part of their children's daily routines.
As a dermatologist and a mother of two children, Dr. Dina Yaghmai understands how important it is for parents to have a routine in place when it comes to their children's skin care.
"The earlier parents start the better it is," said Yaghmai, who works at Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago. "Good habits are best taught at an early age. It is never too early to teach our kids how to keep their skin clean and protected."
Stankiewicz said whenever children are outside they need to be wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or above. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. Stankiewicz recommends that parents try to avoid the sun, by planning their children's activities to avoid the sun's strongest rays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Yaghmai said a great option for parents is to purchase sun protective clothing for their kids, because they don't have as many exposed areas to cover with sunscreen. She suggested Sunday Afternoons and Coolibar as good places to purchase the clothing online.
Besides sun protection, basic cleansing and moisturizing of the skin are also integral components of a good skin care routine.
Dr. Amy Derick said it's important that starting from infancy, children are given regular baths using mild soap and put on body moisturizer afterward.
When children start getting acne, which usually occurs during the teen years, steps need to be added to their skin care routines. Derick, who is the founder and director of Derick Dermatology in Barrington, recommends that teens wash their face once in the morning and at night to remove any dirt and oils that have accumulated.
Stankiewicz said teens with mild acne can try over-the-counter products like benzoyl peroxide before seeing a dermatologist. But if over the counter products aren't effective, Stankiewicz said the teen should see a dermatologist in order to prevent acne scarring.
Clean and moisturized skin that is free of acne is definitely important, but Stankiewicz is most concerned about decreasing risks for skin cancer, which is a serious health issue.
"By establishing habits early on, hopefully the next generation, if I live to be a dermatologist for the next generation, won't be coming into my office every day saying if I would only have known that sunscreen would've stopped this or that from happening," Stankiewicz said. "Now we know a lot more and sunscreens are better today, so hopefully we will start to see a decrease in skin cancer."