Sunscreen Safety


We moms know all about the importance of sunscreen, but the amount of options and applications available can be overwhelming. This post helps us navigate the choices, the cautions, and the coverage that will keep our family healthy and safe in the sun.

Sunscreen Safety

Which Sunscreen Is Safest?

Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind as you browse the variety of sunscreen choices:

  • Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” because that indicates it protects from both UVB and UVA rays.
  • There are inconclusive studies out there, but, if you are concerned about potentially toxic chemicals, avoid the chemical oxybenzone as an ingredient in sunscreen.
  • Water-resistant is a good option if you or your children will be around water, however be sure to reapply after about 90 minutes of water activity.
  • SPF of 30-50 is sufficient, and anything with a 50 or above SPF has not been shown to be more effective and may even lead people mistakenly to think they have more coverage than they really do.
  • Lotion sunscreen is recommended over spray sunscreen for a few reasons: (a) to avoid accidental ingestion in the child’s mouth; (b) to ensure better application and coverage, especially with wiggly kiddos; and (c) the risk of potentially toxic chemicals absorbed by the body. If you must, spray the sunscreen into your hands and then apply on your child.
  • Don’t forget to apply your SPF 30 lip balm!
  • Sunscreen kept for three years or longer may lose its effectiveness, so don’t risk it. When in doubt, throw it out.

How to Apply

Application of sunscreen seems obvious enough, yet there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Apply the sunscreen 20 minutes before kids go outside to allow time for it to soak into the skin.
  • Be sure to lift swimsuit straps and cover feet, necks, and ears, even hairlines parts, and wherever you spent last summer applying aloe!
  • Be generous in your application – many times we under-apply. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends about a 1 ounce shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover the exposed areas of the body.
  • Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours, and be sure to reapply after your child has been in the water or has been sweating.
  • Don’t get over-confident on cloudy days. UV rays can come through the clouds and reflect off of water.

Exposure, Clothing, and Accessories

We know our children need Vitamin D, but how do we know when enough is enough?

  • When it’s possible, have your family dress in cool and comfortable clothing that covers up the skin as much as possible.
  • Swim shirts for both girls and boys, also called rash guards, offer more protection (and be sure to put the sunscreen on under the swim shirts, too).
  • Hats are a great idea to shield the neck and face from harmful rays.
  • Sunglasses with at least 99 percent UVA protection are good for both kids and adults, and you might invest in polarized sunglasses to cut glare, especially off of water.
  • Think through how much exposure you will have. For example, if you plan to be outside for much of the day, bring a tent, umbrella, or other option to get a break from the sun. Babies younger than six months old should be kept out of the sun; grab the stroller shade or umbrella for them.

Yes, getting ready to go outside takes time, so think of it as part of your everyday summer wardrobe. Some days, just making it to the pool with all the kids in tow is a success for parents. Plan ahead and keep a bag in your car or purse/diaper bag at all times with sunscreen, lip balm, bug repellent, hats, sunglasses, and plenty of water.

And, like all things, when it comes to parenting, model sun safety behavior yourself. Wear sunglasses, use sunscreen, and stay hydrated. Oh, and have fun!



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