Is Your Child Using the Right Type of Sunscreen?

Hannah Cline's picture
By Hannah Cline on May 30, 2019

This time of year, hot temperatures are here to stay, which means families are spending extra time at the pool, the beach and outdoors in general. While it is crucial to be aware of sun safety, some parents know more than others that it can be a battle getting a child to put on and reapply sunscreen.
 
Philip Wakefield, M.D., Carilion Clinic Dermatology, said children and teens often avoid putting on sunscreen for many reasons. Some children may sweat, for example, causing sunscreen to run into their eyes, while teens may worry that oily sunscreen will clog their pores leading to acne.

There is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen.

There are some easy ways, however, to make sure your child has a positive experience wearing sunscreen.
 
“Spray sunscreens typically work better for younger children as they can be quickly and easily applied. However, take care to avoid breathing the spray and avoid getting it into the eyes. It may have to be applied by hand to the face," said Dr. Wakefield. “Also using 'chemical free' sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide may help decrease the risk of stinging sensations.”

Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Wakefield also mentioned that, when it comes to teens, there are oil-free sunscreens you can purchase that will not clog pores. However for activities with heavy sweating or swimming it is important to use sunscreens that are water resistant.
 
“You want to make sure that your child has a positive experience when using sunscreen," said Dr. Wakefield. "The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum of SPF 30 for babies and toddlers. This blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays and will be easier to apply.”

Babies under 6 months old should be out of the sun altogether.

Of course, it is also important to remember that babies younger than 6 months old should avoid sun exposure altogether.
 
“Make sure that you are continuing to reapply throughout the day as even wiping off sweat or water can take sunscreen with it,” said Dr. Wakefield.  “It is recommended to reapply every two hours or so after sweating or swimming.”
 
Remember that there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen. Sunscreen will often say water resistant, which means that it will wear off after an extended amount of time in the water.
 
Final reminders from Dr. Wakefield include limiting you and your child’s time in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest and wearing protective clothing such as sun shirts, sunglasses and hats to limit the amount of sun exposure to your skin.

See your primary care provider if you have any concerns about sun exposure now, or the results of sun exposure in your past.