As a dermatologist, Dr. Carlos Gomez-Meade said he sees patients daily who are dealing with the effects and treatment of skin cancer. After his wife, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Carley Gomez-Meade, gave birth to the Lakeway couple’s first son, they searched for a way to protect him from the harsh Texas sun.
“Most of the sun-protective clothing available was swimwear,” Carley said. “I found a few shirts, but nothing looked like something I wanted to buy or [my son]would want to wear.”
The couple produced a product in October 2013 that was sun-protective, tagless, soft, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, moisture-wicking, affordable and served as playwear.
“Parents know what a struggle it is to put sunscreen on [children],” Carley said. “Even using a [spray]can [of sunscreen], you have to use almost the whole thing to get a layer on and then reapply it. [Little Leaves] is easy.”
Little Leaves clothing has separate styles, colors and designs for boys and girls—both boys and girls clothing includes pants and long-sleeve T-shirts. The clothing comes in sizes 2 through 12 with shirts costing $25 to $27, and pants costing $20 each.
“I had two main objectives—to make [the clothing]affordable and be something kids want to wear,” Carley said.
The cost of the initial purchase may be more efficient than buying cans of sunscreen over and over again, she said.
The material for the Little Leaves clothing is comprised of bamboo, cotton and Spandex and has no chemicals, Carlos said.
“Bamboo itself has sunlike reflective properties, but in order to get the right weave [we used]a combination of bamboo, cotton and Spandex,” he said. “When we were trying to find a fabric, everything out there was synthetic. Some of the other [sun protective]materials have titanium oxide in the material but, with ours it’s all about the weave—no chemicals.”
The clothing designs are water-based screen prints, and the clothing is approved by the International Melanoma Foundation, he said.
Interest in the product line first came from physician colleagues of the entrepreneurs, and sales grew after users experienced the clothing with trial coupons, Carlos said. Sales increase in spring and summer months—May, June and July, he said.
Little Leaves introduced a new summer line in June that includes adult-sized T-shirts. The Gomez-Meades will be marketing their clothing to sports teams that are constantly in the sun and have the option to add their logo to the gear, Carley said.
“We came up with a product to protect our own children,” Carlos said. “People always ask how good is it, and I always say, ‘Good enough for our children.’”
Little Leaves, Online sales only www.littleleaves.com
Why only long sleeves?
Little Leaves T-shirts are only made in long-sleeve styles, a requirement that developers Carley and Carlos Gomez-Meade maintain in their product lines.
“The whole point [of Little Leaves] is to protect the skin from the sun, so we only offer long sleeves,” Carlos said. “The shirt feels so light and breathable that you might as well be wearing a short- sleeve shirt. There is constant aeration throughout the material, so [Little Leaves] doesn’t feel like your typical long-sleeve shirt as far as constricting or too hot.”
Clothing has a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, rating, Carley said. The highest UPF rating is 50—the rating awarded to Little Leaves products—meaning the item blocks about 98 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, she said.
One blistering or five non-blistering childhood sunburns double the lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
The development of skin cancer has been linked to both intensive (beach, pool) and non-intensive (daily outdoor activities) sun exposure.
The sun damage done to every exposed part of your body is cumulative over your lifetime, continually adding to your risks of premature skin aging and skin cancer.
Source: Little Leaves