Most parents remember to put sunscreen on their kids when going to the beach or pool, but sunscreen should be used every day. As a rule of thumb, sunscreen should be applied daily, and not just on sunny days. It should be applied every two hours while outdoors and more often if your child is sweating or getting wet.
Protecting against UV rays requires a lot more than sunscreen alone. In addition to wearing a good sunscreen, you still need to take other precautions. Keep your kids in the shade when possible, and stay inside when UV radiation levels are highest. Have your kids wear a hat and sun-protective clothing, preferably with a UVP (ultraviolet protection rating) on the label. And most importantly, babies under 6 months should be kept out of the sun altogether.
Need help choosing a sunscreen? First and foremost, make sure it’s kid-friendly. The sensitive skin of babies and children is easily irritated by chemicals in adult sunscreens, so avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzephenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Unlike chemical ingredients, these protect babies’ skin without being absorbed.
For children 6 months and older, look for a sunscreen designed for children that is labeled “broad spectrum,” to ensure that they are protected from both UVA and UVB rays. The AAP recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, but many experts (as well as myself) recommend an SPF of 30 or higher.
There are plenty of options to choose from, so here’s a quick list of my favorites: Aveeno Baby, Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby, California Baby, Mustela High Protection Sun Lotion, and Blue Lizard. All of these offer excellent protection, are safe on sensitive skin, and are chemical free.
One final note, remember, sunscreen doesn’t work unless it is applied generously and often, even on cloudy days!
Have a great summer—Dr. Gina Rosenfeld