Choosing a sunscreen for your child
Choose the right sunscreen protection for your child…and enjoy the summer!
The sun is shining…it is going to be a great day! Whatever your plans are they must include some sunscreen. If you are a bit confused about which one is best for you and your little one, then join the club! Walking through a sunscreen aisle at the store can be very overwhelming. We have SPF numbers, lotions, sticks, sprays, natural, baby sunscreen, discount brands, expensive brands, dry touch, waterproof, water-resistant, and the list goes on. Reading labels and comparing sunscreens feels like a parent should have a doctorate in chemistry. The new labeling makes it a bit easier to figure out, but there is still room for lots of confusion. So begins another spring/summer of walking the aisles of Target wondering which sunscreen is the best! Is it easier just to keep your child inside? Definitely not! Here are a few tips that may help your sunscreen decisions.
Sun safety tips:
Babies under 6 months
- As much as possible babies this age should avoid sun exposure. Dress your baby in lightweight long pants, sleeves and brimmed hats that shade the neck. When you are not able to cover your baby completely and keep him or her in the shade, then you can apply a small amount of sunscreen to exposed areas. It is better to use sunscreen than for your baby to get a burn!!
- Be aware of reflection of the sun off water and other objects. The best time of day for an infant is when the sun is not at its highest intensity. Try to stay out of direct sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside if you are using a chemical block. Use sunscreen everyday as part of your routine. Look for sunscreen of at least 30 SPF that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure you are using enough sunscreen–about 1 ounce or a shot glass full!
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating. Even waterproof sunscreens need to be reapplied after swimming and towel drying. Sunscreen sticks work well for under eyes and those hard to apply areas such as ears, and noses.
- The best defense is covering up, use hats, sunglasses, and cotton clothing for your children.
- Try to be shaded as much as possible and remember that the peak hours of sun are between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
- New labeling regulations are in effect this summer for sunscreen manufacturers.
- Just because a sunscreen is labeled for kids or babies does not mean that it is the best for your child. The ingredients make the difference!
- The label must say broad spectrum or protects against UVA and UVB rays. Both types of rays cause skin damage.
- SPF numbers can be misleading. SPF higher than 30 does not provide much more protection, and there are sunscreens with a high SPF that do not provide broad spectrum coverage. You must have both.
- Try to stay clear of vitamin A. There has been some research that vitamin A listed as retinyl palmitate on labels, can cause more skin damage when the skin is exposed to sunlight. (doesn’t make sense to put it in sunscreen!) Vitamin A is the darling of cosmetic companies right now, with claims of anti aging. Vitamin A in vegetables is great…not so great in sunscreen.
- Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These are mineral based sunscreens. They are effective immediately and are not readily absorbed by your child’s skin. They are more of a physical barrier to the sun, not a chemical barrier. Avobenzone is a common chemical used in sunscreen. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for it to be effective. There has been no real definitive research that proves it is harmful, but zinc and titanium oxide both have been shown to be easy on sensitive skin and there are no chemicals that are absorbed. Sometimes these ingredients will make the sunscreen thicker and whiter on the skin.
- Do not buy sunscreen with insect repellent!
- Buy a cream or lotion rather than a spray. There is concern about your child breathing in the small particles in the sunscreen spray and studies show us that parents do not apply enough sunscreen with a spray. Remember, we need at least an ounce of sunscreen for good coverage.
- Do your homework The Environmental Working Group reviews sunscreens each year. Take a look at the best sunscreens of 2015 http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/and then make your decision.
So make some plans for the wonderful weather. We have been waiting for this! Head outdoors with your child and have some fun! But first, take a shopping trip today and find some sun protection for yourself and your child. Purchase that all important sunscreen….and maybe a cute pair of sandals for yourself!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.