With hundreds of available sunscreen products, it can be difficult for parents to choose what is best for their children. Here are my recommendations:
Three things to look for in a sunscreen:
- Broad Spectrum – It must say “broad spectrum,” which means that it protects against UVA rays that cause age spots and wrinkles and UVB rays that cause sunburns. Both UVA and UVB cause cancer.
- SPF – For children an SPF of at least 30 is best. Larger numbers not necessarily better, which is why the FDA proposed the maximum SPF on a label should be 50+.
- Ingredients – Choose a chemical free sunscreen. This means zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are physical or mineral blocks. They are less irritating, more hypoallergenic and won’t sting eyes.
Tips for applying sunscreen to kids:
- Apply at home before you get to the pool or beach where kids will be so excited to jump in the water. Also, the sunscreen will have had at least 15 minutes to sit on the skin before they get wet.
- Make it part of your morning routine. My kids apply sunscreen after they brush their teeth. Remember to use lots.
- Teach kids how to reapply their own sunscreen when they are away at camp and other activities and not miss spots like tops of ears and behind knees. All sunscreen wears off. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen so it really needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
To spray or not to spray?
- Lotions are best for good coverage, as sprays don’t usually cover the skin well enough.
- Use sprays with caution. Always spray outside and not near the face because the tiny particles can easily be inhaled and cause lung irritation or potentially future problems.
- With kids, whatever sunscreen they like you to put on is often best. So if they like sprays, use for reapplication during the day
Sunscreen is ok for babies!
- Choose SPF clothing (many cute options for kids and adults), hats and sunglasses for all ages. Make sure your stroller has a good sunshade to completely cover baby.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics says that it is ok to use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months of age when protective clothing and shade are not available.
- Test out a small amount of chemical free baby sunscreen before you slather him completely.
- Always wash off the sunscreen at night before bed so it doesn’t sit on skin longer than needed.
Who is at risk for Melanoma?
Melanoma can happen to anyone. I recently had a mole test positive for melanoma. It was completely removed. And I’m fine, but it’s a good reminder to cover up, wear sunscreen every day and get to know your skin and moles.
Check yourself from head to toe every month. Most of your moles should look similar, so if you have a mole that looks different from its neighbors, you want to get that checked by your doctor or dermatologist. Things to look for are:
C—more than one color
D—diameter, larger than an eraser
E—evolving, if a mole evolves or changes over time
Every year at your check up or physical exam, your doctor should thoroughly evaluate your skin and if you have any concerns, see a dermatologist.