Everyone knows that we should all wear sunscreen to protect our skin from the damaging effects of too much sun. You really can’t start too early, that’s why choosing the right sunscreen for your child is important.
Parents typically choose a sunscreen based on a few characteristics, often picking a sunscreen labeled as a product for children and the highest SPF they can find.
There’s no harm in using these, and often they are a good choice, but they are not that much different than a sunscreen made for adults.
Cost shouldn’t be a factor when choosing a sunscreen. The more expensive they are isn’t related to how well a sunscreen may work. In fact, some of the highest rated sunscreens in a Consumer Reports test were the least expensive, including Up & Up Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 (Target) and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50. All of the most popular sunscreen brands tested by Consumer Reports tested either good or very good though.
When choosing a sunscreen for your baby, toddler, young child, teen or yourself look for one that:
- Provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
- Has an SPF of at least 15 to 30. You could go for a higher SPF, but most experts believe that these high SPF sunscreens don't provide that much extra protection. Some experts go as far as to say the SPF rating should be capped at SPF 30 or SPF 50, which provides protection against 97 to 98 percent of UVB rays. Using a high SPF sunscreen might provide more protection for those parents who don't use enough sunscreen and don't reapply it often enough though.
- Is water-resistant. Even if you aren't going swimming, if your child is outside, he will likely be sweating, so a water resistant might provide better protection than a regular sunscreen.
- Is hypoallergenic and fragrance free, especially if your child has sensitive skin. is in a form that is easy to use on your child, whether that means it is a stick, gel, lotion, spray, or continuous spray, etc.
The FDA will soon make choosing a sunscreen a little easier when new rules are implemented next summer.
The rules will require testing for broad- spectrum sunscreens, and new labels that make it easier to see all sunscreen ingredients. There will also be restrictions on terms like waterproof and sweat-proof. They may even cap SPF ratings at "SPF 50+.
Check the ingredients on sunscreens to see if they are truly offer broad-spectrum protection.
To get good protection from UVA rays, look for sunscreens that list avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide as one of their ingredients, in addition to one or more sunscreen ingredients that provide UVB protection.
If your child gets a rash from his sunscreen, you might review the sunscreen ingredient list and choose a different one next time. Make sure to choose one that is PABA free. You might also look for one that gets its UVA protection from a sunblock, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, since they can be less irritating than avobenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient.
Start by applying a small amount on your child’s skin and see if they have a reaction before applying it all over.
Of all of the sunscreen ingredients, the ones that may concern some parents include retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone. Although many experts already think they are safe, if you are concerned, you can choose to avoid them by looking for sunscreens with different ingredients.
About.com.pediatrics offers this list of kid-friendly sunscreens and sunblocks for parents.
They are listed alphabetically and not according to preference.
- Aveeno Baby Sunblock lotion, SPF 55
- Badger SPF 30 For Face & Body Badger SPF 30 Unscented Natural Sunscreen
- Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Continous Spray Sunblock, SPF 50
- Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50
- Banana Boat Baby Faces Sunblock Stick, SPF 50
- Banana Boat Kids Dri-Blok Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30
- Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sunblock, SPF 50
- Banana Boat UltraMist Kids Spray, SPF 50
- Blue Lizard Australian Suncream, SPF 30
- Bull Frog Kids FastBlast Sunblock Spray, SPF 36
- California Baby Water Resistant, Hypo-Allergenic Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 50
- Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 70+
- Coppertone WaterBabies Quick Cover Lotion Spray, SPF 50
- Coppertone WaterBabies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Coppertone WaterBabies Sunscreen Lotion Spray, SPF 50
- Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces & Tender Places Sunblock Spray, SPF 50+
- Neutrogena Kids Spray Waterguard Sunblock Mist, SPF 70+
- Neutrogena Waterguard Kids Sunblock Lotion, SPF 70+
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion, SPF 60+ NO-AD
- Sunblock Lotion, SPF 45 Up & Up Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30(Target)
- Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50
Low SPF sunscreens and suntan lotion do not provide enough protection for adults or children.
Also consider using lip balms with sunscreen and sunscreen protection clothing made with fabrics that provide a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 to 50+.
Most importantly make sure your children spend only a limited time outdoors when the sun is at it’s strongest, from about 10:00 am to 4 pm.
Sunburns can have a lasting effect. While painful and uncomfortable when they happen, the long-term effect can be skin cancer many years from now.
Summer is the time when kids get to be kids – just make sure that their skin is protected while they enjoy the great outdoors!