With summer and outdoor activities rapidly approaching, parents are once again urged to educate themselves about the best practices when it comes to children and sunscreen.
Many local doctors said they should seek out “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Many believe SPF 30 is the magic number for children to protect from exposure.
Babies under 6 months of age shouldn’t wear sunscreen at all. They should be protected by clothing, hats and shade. From 6 months to 2 years, parents should look for products that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. After the age of 2, regular sunscreen is fine as long as your child doesn’t have sensitive skin.
When it comes to spray sunscreens, those should only be used if your child is old enough to hold their breath to prevent them from inhaling it. Spray sunscreens should never be applied directly to the face.
Some doctors believe that while kids sunscreen is more expensive, it usually contains the same ingredients as the adult version. They said it’s fine to save your money and buy regular sunscreen for kids as long as it has the protection factors you’re seeking.
Dr. Joan Thode of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics offered the following advice for parents:
“Every episode of sun exposure puts your child at risk for cancer-unless they are protected. UV-A and UV-B rays are the most concerning for skin health. While UV-B rays are more likely to burn your skin and UV-A rays cause more of skin aging, both can cause cancer.
Therefore, the first thing to look for in a sunscreen is protection from BOTH UV-A and UV-B rays.
SPF, or sun protection factor, is a measurement of a product’s UV-blocking ability in a specific time frame. Simply put, the higher the number, the greater the protection. The minimum SPF, especially for children, should be 30.
Keep in mind that the protection number is only accurate if the sunscreen is applied liberally to the skin. A thin layer will provide less protection.
Adding the protection of clothing, such as hats and sleeves, and keeping to the shade as much as possible will greatly increase skin protection.
Sunscreen should be worn every day and applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow it to fully sink into the skin where it works. It should be reapplied every two hours, or sooner if after swimming or extreme sweating.”