twitter white facebook white instagram white pintrest white linkedin white

Parents often ask me which sunscreen products they should be buying for their children.  Many are aware that UV rays are strongest in late Spring and early Summer and voice concerns about keeping them safe at the beach and lake. The secret to protecting young skin against sun damage using a sunscreen is a two-pronged approach requiring high quality sunscreens AND proper application.

High Quality Sunscreen Selection

High quality sunscreens display three important pieces of information on their product labels: BROAD SPECTRUM, WATER RESISTANT, and SPF. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on sunscreen labeling require manufacturers to substantiate their claims. For example, a BROAD SPECTRUM claim requires laboratory testing that shows protection against 90% of UVA (tanning/aging rays) and 93% of UVB (burning rays). WATER RESISTANT claims now provide a clear timeframe of protection, (80 MINUTES). SPF claims require that the sunscreen provide a proportionate degree of protection against UVA and UVB.  Higher SPF ratings, therefore, provide greater protection against both forms of UV radiation known to cause skin cancer.

Sunscreens come in different formulas, including creams, lotions, gels, sprays, sticks, and powders. Boys usually prefer gels and lotions, while girls often prefer creams. Sprays have gained great popularity, probably because of the ease of application, but they have a downside because of the risk of inhalation. “Sport” formulations and stick balms are great for active children because they usually stay in place when sweating. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are physical blockers of UV rays, are often recommended for children because they work quickly and do not penetrate the skin.  That said, the FDA has added a warning in the Drug Fact Box for all sunscreens stating:  “Do not use on damaged or broken skin.”

Sunscreen products may vary dramatically in price yet offer the same degree of protection and cosmetic appeal. Parents can check out Consumer Report’s sunscreen issue for product reviews including “Best Sunscreens” rated for price and protection reviews and comparisons.

Proper Application

Despite the thousands of excellent sunscreen products available, half of all American children reportedly experience sunburn each year.  This is most likely due to application errors and lack of understanding.   Because the FDA guidelines simply recommend the terminology apply “generously” or  “liberally”, most people do not apply adequate amounts of sunscreen. The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation advises using a handful of sunscreen per application per child.  This is the proper dose or amount needed to cover the entire body surface when wearing a bathing suit. As a general rule of thumb, re-application is advised at least every 2 hours.   Since sunscreen absorbs or reflects UV rays, it is important to realize that the higher the UV Index the faster sunscreen will dissipate off the skin.  When properly used, sunscreen products should be exhausted quickly, not lasting all summer.

Practical Tips

·      Read your sunscreen label, front and back

·      Use the BEENS Acronym to help remember commonly missed areas when applying sunscreen

§  Back of Knees,

§  Eyes,

§  Ears,

§  Nose,

§  Scalp

·      Keep sunscreen products out of excessive heat or direct sunlight by placing them in a shaded area or a cooler.

·      Check out the Environmental Working Group App for sunscreen’s active and inactive ingredients

·      Get a free UV app or UV meter and learn about UV intensity variability

·      Wear sun protection clothing, with a UPF Factor >50+.

·      Always wear sunglasses to protect your inner and outer eye.



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

162 Black Rock Drive

Hingham, MA 02043


Join our email list

Logo MPF BeSunAWARE white