Try to avoid direct sun exposure in peak hours – 10am to 2pm. All children should be protected from sunburn with protective clothing (hats, rash guards, SPF clothing) and sunscreen.
There are two main types of sunscreen on the market:
- Mineral/physical sunscreens
- Chemical/Absorbent sunscreens.
Mineral sunscreens have Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide as their active ingredients. These sunscreens are naturally “broad spectrum” as they work by reflecting and scattering most types of UV light. You might recognize Zinc Oxide as the main active ingredient in diaper creams. Titanium Dioxide occasionally causes reactions in folks with sensitive skin, so always try on a small area first. These sunscreens are safe for application on babies, children and adults. The good news is that they start working as soon as they are applied. The down side is that they are thick, difficult to spread and give skin a pale appearance. Your baby and toddler won’t care about that, but your preteen might.
Chemical sunscreens have benzophenones, esters, and occasionally PABA as their ingredients. These sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays and keeping them away from the skin. These sunscreens tend to be more irritating to skin and can run into eyes, causing discomfort. However, they offer slightly better sun protection since they are much easier to apply and do not cause streaking like the mineral sunscreens do. Chemical sunscreens need to be applied 20-30 minutes prior to sun exposure in order to be affective. The best thing about chemical sunscreens is that they do not change the appearance of skin when applied, which increases compliance with older children.
There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen, so please re-apply frequently, especially when sweating and swimming
There is no better protection than protective clothing
Sunscreen needs to be applied even when in the shade – water, sand and snow strongly reflect UV rays
Children learn by example, so apply YOUR sunscreen often
Skin cancer is much worse than any trendy controversy over sunscreen.