How To Choose The Right Sunscreen For Your Child

child sunscreen

Now that the weather is getting warmer kids are spending more and more time outdoors. Soon school will be done for another year and summer vacation means endless hours playing outside at the park, pool and beach and simply soaking up the summer sun. While it's amazing that the kids want to be outside so much when the weather is nice, nothing can ruin a fun day outside like a sunburn.

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Sun safety is important for children of all ages which is why it's important that parents choose the right sunscreen for their child. Not all sunscreens are created equal which is why it's important for parents to know what to look for to make sure their children are fully protected when they're outside.

Broad Spectrum

One of the most important things to look for when buying sunscreen is that it states that it is a broad spectrum sunscreen. This means that the product you are buying not only protects against UVA rays but UVB rays as well. UVA rays are the rays that typically cause aging of the skin and can cause skin cancer after prolonged exposure, while UVB rays cause sunburns, contribute to aging and also potentially cause skin cancer.


high spf sunscreen

Experts suggest choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 to ensure you and your children are protected. While SPF 30 is the minimum protection you should be looking for with your sunscreen, many groups suggest you don't need to purchase anything higher than SPF 60. The Environmental Working Group suggests that people often feel a false sense of security when they buy a sunscreen with a higher SPF rating, assuming that the higher the SPF the greater the protection. The EWG suggests that the effectiveness of anything above SPF 50 is negligible. The FDA recommends not purchasing anything higherthan SPF 60 stating there is a “lack of data showing that sunscreens with SPF values above 60 provide additional meaningful clinical benefit.”

Choose a Mineral Sunscreen

There are a lot of things to look at when buying sunscreen including the SPF rating and ensuring it is broad spectrum, but you will also want to ensure that your sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen as well. Mineral sunscreens contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which help block the UV rays as opposed to chemical sunscreens which filter the rays. Chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the skin as well causing the potential to disrupt hormones. The FDA has stated that both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safe to use while still investigating many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens.

Spray or Lotion?


Parents everywhere rejoiced when spray suntan lotions started to appear on store shelves. Having an impatient child sit still while rubbing suntan lotion all over was often a difficult task, and many parents appreciated the efficiency of using a spray. Unfortunately, that are many experts who disapprove of the sprays for a variety of reasons. Sprays make it hard to see if your child is fully covered and protected from the sun's harmful rays. The EWG also is concerned that spray sunscreens can pose an inhalation risk to those exposed to the spray.

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Kids Health suggests using a cream for maximum coverage on the body as well as dry skin areas, while sunscreen sticks can be useful in harder to cover areas like the eyes. Gels can be useful for the scalp to help prevent burning through hair.

When to Apply?

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Most experts suggest applying sunscreen between 10 and 15 minutes before you are going to be outside. If your child is going to be swimming, in water or even playing outside you should be reapplying every two hours to ensure they are protected.  The AAP suggests not using sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old, instead, try to keep them out of the direct sun by having them in shaded areas. If they must be out in the sun make sure they are wearing clothing that covers their body, a hat for protection on their face and head and if necessary apply sunscreen only sparingly.

What Are The Best Sunscreens?

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It can be overwhelming trying to ensure you have picked the best sunscreen for your children with so many different products on the store shelves. Fortunately for parents, EWG provides a yearly list of their best sunscreens available for children and have listed them online here. The EWG looks specifically at sunscreens marketed for babies and kids and looks at their ingredients, filtering out "products with ingredients that EWG considers particularly worrisome, like formaldehyde-releasing chemicals." Print out the list and have it handy next time you head to the store to stock up on sunscreen for your kids.

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