A Pediatrician’s Tips for Choosing Sunscreen for Your Child

Summer means fun in the sun. We all know that kids love spending their summer vacations outdoors and that we need to protect their skin to keep them safe to avoid serious problems later down the road. But one look at the sunscreen aisle may make you want to turn around and leave. With so many options, how can a parent choose which is best?

Dr. Jack Maypole, Educational Advisory Board member at The Goddard School and pediatrician for medically complex children at Boston Medical Center, has some advice.

Image via Flickr/ the half-blood prince

Avoid oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate

Because of potential concerns for toxicity, Dr. Maypole recommends that parents avoid the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate. Sunscreens containing the metal oxides (such as titanium or zinc) are the safest.

While the metal-based sunblocks are thought to be safer than the chemical agents used for sunblock, it is important that parents avoid any preparations using so-called nanoparticles. Among other things, nanoparticles are marketed for their tendency to minimize the whitening, clown-makeup appearance of traditional metal-based sunblocks.

Choose sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays.

Look for terms like broad spectrum or multi spectrum.

Get the right SPF

When picking by SPF, Dr. Maypole recommends that parents use products rated for sun protection factor (SPF) between 15 and 50.

{ MORE: Read Here to Help Prevent These Common Summertime Injuries }

Slather and repeat

No sunscreens are truly waterproof. Although some sunscreens may be formulated to stay on longer than others, eventually, all of them thin out, and sun protection diminishes.

Because of this, experts recommend that kids get reslathered with sunscreen to maintain sun protection after any swim, bout of vigorous exercise, or after every two hours of sweating in the summer heat.

Image via Flickr/ planetc1

Skip the sprays; go with the lotions

Lotions are best, given that they allow for a more even application versus roll-ons or sprays. Sprays are not recommended because kids can inhale ingredients, including propellants and chemicals used to dampen the impact of UVA and UVB on the skin, which can be toxic. Lotions tend to be absorbed less through the skin.

Avoid applying to babies

Routine sunscreen use is OK for kids over 6 months. For babies under 6 months, experts consider sunscreen a less preferred, but usable option if it looks like other measures (shady spots, hats, clothing) won't cover it, so to speak.

Do some research

Check the Environmental Working Group's site every year for a ranking of the best sunscreens and latest recommendations.

You can find it here.

What is your sunscreen routine in the summertime?

Read More

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A Pediatrician’s Tips for Choosing Sunscreen for Your Child

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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1 comment

  1. Great advice! SPF 30 + broad spectrum is the way to go. Broad spectrum on the label means you’ll get UVA and UVB protection (our natural mineral sunscreen is an example). So important since both cause skin damage.


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