Sunscreen choices can often be overwhelming with so many different products on the market.
Pediatric dermatologist Dr. Brian Green with Penn State Children’s Hospital says parents should keep it simple by looking for three key things on each bottle.
First, he suggests an SPF of 30.
“An SPF of 30 is usually plenty,” Green said. “At an SPF of 30, you’re blocking 97 percent of the UV rays that are hitting your skin. Higher than that, you’re not getting much return.”
Second, he says to make sure the sunscreen says broad spectrum, blocking both UVA and UVB rays. And look for a product that is water resistant.
What you don’t need to look for is a sunscreen marketed specifically for kids or babies.
“Generally using what you’re using on yourself on your kids is perfectly okay,” Green said. “It’s interesting, the FDA has never defined what ‘for babies’ means.”
Sunscreen should be reapplied every 80 minutes if the child is swimming or sweating. And don’t use any product on a child under six months of age. Instead, keep infants out of the sun entirely.
“Babies don’t regulate their temperature very well, so being out in the sun they can often overheat very easily, they don’t sweat as well,” Green said.
Many parents might also wonder if spray sunscreens are safe for children.
“They’re fine if you’re sort of using them neck down,” Green said. “Once you get neck up, I would advise spraying your hand and then rubbing it on. Most of the time it’s a fine mist and if you inhale it, that’s the worry about the face.”
Green says you should also make sure to rub it in to ensure you’ve covered the entire area, especially if your child didn’t stand still for the application.
Green says people who have multiple sunburns are at a much higher risk for skin cancer down the road and most sun damage is done before the age of 18.
“You can’t fix it,” he said. “Once you’re burned there’s no going back.”
If your child does get too much sun, Green says you should avoid any more exposure. Keep the skin cool and avoid any products that claim to numb the skin, as kids can absorb those chemicals, leading to other serious health issues.