I know, we tell you that kids should get less time in front of screens and need more time outside playing.
And we tell you that they shouldn’t be tanned or get sunburned.
So what can you do?
But you are using sunscreen and your kids still get real dark and tanned?
Then make sure to apply it 15 to 30 minutes before your kids go outside, use enough to get good coverage, and reapply it every few hours.
Any other tricks?
You want to use sunscreen every time they go out, even if it is cloudy, and not just when they are going to be at the pool all day, limit exposure during the hottest parts of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), use sun protection clothing with a UPF of 15 to 50+, a hat, and sun glasses, and find shade when it is available.
Choosing the Best Sunscreen for Babies and Kids
Are there any tricks to choosing the best sunscreen for your kids?
Although I’m sure you can find a lot of buying guides that try and score or rate sunscreens, it is a lot simpler than that.
The best sunscreen is the one that you are actually going to use and:
- provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection
- has an SPF of at least 15 to 30 (you can go higher, but get a minimum of 15 to 30)
- is water-resistant (even if your child isn’t going to be in the water, they will likely be sweating…)
For infants, or a child with eczema or sensitive skin, also make sure your child’s sunscreen is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.
Do you want your child’s sunscreen to be tear-free and non-greasy?
Do you want sunscreen that comes in the form of a stick, gel, foaming lotion, lotion, dry touch lotion, wet skin sprays, spray, or continuous spray?
Do you want a kids’ brand, like Aveeno Baby, Banana Boat Kids, California Baby, Coppertone Kids, Coppertone Waterbabies, Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids, Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby, etc.?
There are plenty of options to help you get a sunscreen that you will actually use regularly. Personally, I like the dry touch lotions. They go on quick and easy, don’t leave a lot of left-over residue if you over apply, and don’t leave you feeling greasy afterwards.
I strongly dislike all of the spray sunscreens. What’s my beef with them? Ever see someone apply a spray sunscreen on their kids outside? If you have, then you have seen that the sunscreen doesn’t just end up on the kid. That’s also easy to see if you ever make the mistake of trying to apply spray sunscreen inside your home. It leaves a big greasy puddle on the floor. What does that mean? You likely aren’t applying as much sunscreen as you think you are when applying a spray sunscreen.
More on Sunscreen and Protecting Kids from the Sun
What else should you know about sunscreen and keeping your kids safe in the sun?
- It is best to keep younger infants out of the sun, until they are about six months old, when you can start using sunscreen safely.
- An SPF or Sun Protection Factor of 15 to 30 blocks 93 to 97% of UVB rays. Going up to SPF 50 only increases that to 98%. In theory, that is supposed to mean that it would take you 50 times longer to get a sunburn wearing SPF 50 sunscreen than if you were lying in the sun unprotected. Of course, even with SPF 50, your kids would eventually get a sunburn if you didn’t reapply their sunscreen every few hours.
- On clothing, a UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating of 15 is considered good sun protection, but for excellent sun protection, look for a UPF of 50+.
- The UV index forecast can help you figure out when you should avoid being out in the sun, especially when UV Alerts are issued for your area.
- Many people only use about 25% of the amount of sunscreen that is needed to provide real protection and keep kids from getting a tan or a sunburn. How much do they need? You can use the teaspoon rule (half a teaspoon for each arm, a full teaspoon for each leg, a full teaspoon for their chest, abdomen, and back, and half a teaspoon for their face, head, and neck) or just use a palmful of sunscreen to cover your child’s body. Of course, that’s your child’s palm, not yours. And for older teens and adults, you should use about 5 to 6 teaspoons of sunscreen at a time to cover your entire body.
- If you think that your child had a reaction to their sunscreen, try a sunblock with Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide, or simply try another sunscreen that uses different ingredients. Apply a small amount to a small area of their body to see if they have a reaction before using it regularly though.
- Sunscreen expires and becomes less effective after its expiration date. It also needs to be stored properly. Don’t use expired sunscreen or sunscreen that has been left in a hot car.
- The ideas around “chemical-free” sunscreens, the need to avoid certain sunscreen ingredients, and that some sunscreens are safer than others is the same kind of hype that scares folks into thinking that they have to eat organic food, avoid GMOs, and that their are toxins in vaccines.
And remember that sunscreen is for everyone, not just people with light skin.
What to Know About Sunscreen and Sun Protection
Think about sun protection before your kids go outside, making sure you use a good amount of sunscreen every time they go outside, reapplying it often, and using other methods of sun protection too, including clothing, sun glasses, and shade.
More on Sunscreen and Sun Protection
- FDA – Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually
- Sunscreen Myths and Facts
- The Chemistry of Sunscreen: Organic vs. Non-Organic, a Marketing Misnomer
- CDC – How Can I Protect My Children from the Sun?
- CDC – Make Summer Safe for Kids
- EPA – Sun Safety
- EPA – UV Index Forecast
- EPA – UV Alert
- Don’t Fry Day
- Sun protection for children
- How to choose and use a sunscreen
- How do I know if I’m using the right sunscreen?
- How to apply sunscreen
- Topical sunscreen agents
- FDA – Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun
- FDA – Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses
- Sunscreen FAQs
- Research highlights common sunscreen mistakes
- Red itchy bumps from wearing sunscreen outside?
- Sunscreen allergy
- OUCH! That Stuff Got in My Eye!
- FDA – Rulemaking History for OTC Sunscreen Drug Products
- What to look for: ABCDEs of melanoma
- Heat Index Calculator
Last Updated on May 18, 2018 by Vincent Iannelli, MD