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.
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.
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.
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.
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