It seems there are many factors to consider when it comes to selecting a child’s sunscreen, but this does not need to be an overwhelming decision! Doing some research in the beginning to understand what’s in the sunscreen and why we even need it should help in narrowing the choices down.
What is sunscreen for?
Sunscreens, also known as “sunblock,” are lotion-like products that help prevent the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching our skin. There are two types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB. UVB causes sunburn and is the greatest factor in causing skin cancers - some of which simply look like moles (malignant melanoma). UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and is largely responsible for the premature aging of the skin which manifests in wrinkles around the face or “laugh lines,” Both UVA and UVB can damage the skin in as quickly as 15 minutes, so protection is a must even if you think you are only going to be under the sun for a “short time.”
At what age do we need to start wearing sunscreen?
Anyone over the age of 6 months should wear sunscreen daily. Even if your child is only going for a car ride, or playing or attending school indoors, they should be made to wear sunblock because windows (even tinted ones) cannot generally filter against UVA rays. Forming the habit of wearing sunscreen as a child will help them maintain this practice as they grow up, helping to ensure protection from radiation throughout their lives.
Infants under 6 months will have very sensitive skin, so sunblock is not ideal for them. As such, they should be kept out of direct exposure to sunlight, and brought out only in the shade while wearing full clothing. This is where a dilemma arises, as “morning sun” is generally recommended in order for newborns to obtain the Vitamin D required to strengthen calcium absorption for their bones. If your baby is under 6 months old, a 10- to 15-minute sunbath between 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning is enough to give infants sufficient the Vitamin D.
How to choose the right sunscreen?
Selecting the right sunscreen for your child or yourself can become quite overwhelming when you start to consider the factors: What type of sunscreen should we use? What ingredients are in the lotion? Which SPF should be used? Will the sunscreen damage the environment?
To begin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use “broad spectrum” sunscreen, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB. Since we are discussing sunscreen specifically for swimming, make sure the product is water-resistant. There are different types of sunscreen available in the market: lotions or creams, spray, wax-types and gels. To keep it simple: lotions and creams are best for the face and sprays are preferred for full-body protection of children because they are quick and easy to apply.
Once you have determined the type that best suits your needs, be sure to read the ingredients before making your purchase. Usually, at least three active ingredients are called for: PABA derivatives, and/or cinnamates for UVB absorption; benzophenones for shorter-wavelength UVA protection; and titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for the remaining UVA spectrum. Do your research! Ensure that there are no harmful chemicals in the lotion which might cause an allergic reaction with your child’s skin.
A widely-used chemical called “oxybenzone” has been proved to cause damage and deformation of corals. If protecting the environment is high one of your priorities (and we hope it is!) please consider buying a sunscreen which does not contain oxybenzone. The Environmental Working Group’s Annual Sunscreen Guide provides a growing list of over 200 sunblock brands which are safe for the animals and plants in our seas.
Does SPF Matter?
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of the product. This is the measure of a sunscreen's ability to protect against UVB. SPF 15 generally filters out 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays, but it is high recommended that children’s sunscreen be SPF 30 (to out 97 percent) or higher. SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent, and above that, the SPF makes little difference. No sunscreen can block out all UV rays, so do not be fooled by false product promises! Help the sunblock do its job by re-applying it regularly in the amounts specified in the instructions.
If you have any questions about sunscreen for your child, The Noodies trained coaches will be glad to assist you. Do not hesitate to contact anyone from Our Team with any questions!