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How Do I Choose & Use The Right Sunscreen For My Child?

With summer around the corner, it is time to start thinking about protecting your children from the sun. Overexposure to the sun can be dangerous to their health, especially for babies and young infants.

It does not take long for sunburns to develop, which can be considerably painful and uncomfortable. Though, this would be for a short period. The chief concern people have and what doctors want parents to be aware of is how unprotected exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.

The sun naturally produces and emits ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays. Too much exposure to UV rays, whether it’s from natural sunlight or sunbeds, can damage your skin cells on a genetic level. When this happens, it causes cells to grow out of control and may lead to skin cancer. (1)

You can help protect your child from sunburns and reduce their risk of developing skin cancer by ensuring they are well protected this summer. Whether you’re going to the beach or off on a day trip to a new city, you should use a healthy amount of sunscreen when they go out.

The trouble is, especially for new parents with young children, how do you know you’re picking the right sunscreen for your child?

In this article, we look at what parents need to know and consider when picking the right sunscreen lotion for their children.

What Sunscreen is Right For my Child's Age?

Your child’s age is an important factor when considering the right suntan lotion.

If they’re under 6 months, you should avoid using any as their skin is very thin and sensitive and can easily absorb chemicals. The only lotion you can use have zinc oxide as an active ingredient, which is safe for young babies.

Otherwise, it is best to avoid sunscreen until they’re older. You can still protect them from the sun with clothes like wide-brimmed hats or a pram that covers their face, ears and neck. These are areas that are very vulnerable to sunburns. (2)

Once your child is over 6 months old, you can begin using sunscreen lotion. At this age, we would recommend avoiding sprays. They are handy and a great way of applying sunscreen. However, at this age, you’ll find your child struggles to sit still when being cleaned or having their face wiped. With that in mind, they could accidentally inhale the spray or get it into their eyes. Naturally, this can be harmful, and you’d want to be avoided.

What is SPF And What Does it Stand For?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor; it is the metric which measures how much protection your sunscreen lotion provides. This scale starts from SPF2, being on the lower end of the spectrum, and can go beyond SPF50, offering higher levels of protection. (3)

Sunscreen lotion that is under SPF15 is rated as providing low protection from UV rays while SPF15 to SPF 29 offers medium protection. SPF30 to SPF49 provides high protection and any creams are SPF50 or higher offers very high protection.

Most parents are advised to use a sunscreen lotion of a minimum SPF30 or higher to provide adequate protection for you and your child.

What is Water Resistant Sunscreen Lotion and How Often Should I Reapply It?

When selecting a sunscreen for your children, you should consider whether water resistant lotions are appropriate for your child.

As the name suggests, these lotions are designed to be more difficult to wear off by water. Whether it is from swimming or sweat, which would naturally wash away any creams, these would remain and offer protection UV rays.

Of course, this does depend on what activities or plans you have for the day and whether you need water resistant sunscreen lotion. That and if it is a particularly hot day and your child would be more likely to sweat.

However, it is important to remember, you still need to reapply. While it is designed to be resistant, it will start to diminish and weaken in protection when it makes contact with water. Normally, you would need to reapply more sunscreen after 40-60 minutes in the water.

That said, a good rule of thumb would be to always towel off and reapply after any time swimming.

At Chemist Direct, we understand that parents are concerned about their children and their skin this summer. It is why we work with leading skincare brands to provide mothers and fathers with the very best sunscreen creams, lotions and sprays possible. Click here to view this extensive selection of sunscreens and lotions.  Check them out today.

This article has been medically approved by Superintendent Pharmacist Shilpa Shailen Karia, MRPharmS. - GPhC Reg No: 2087328

Article Sources:

  1. Cancer Research UK
  2. NHS
  3. The Independent