Sunscreen is a must. While it’s good to know the best sunscreens for kids, there are worries about how the body absorbs the sunscreen chemicals. To remove the rumors, we’ve gathered sunscreen facts and information that parents need to know.
“A child with soft, sensitive and thin skin must be protected from the harsh sunlight,” Dr. Rahul Nagpal, a pediatric surgeon at Fortis Hospital tell Parentology. While there is research to show that the body does absorb the chemicals, there are no studies showing how much or what the impacts is on a child’s health. Bottom line? “As of now, the longitudinal studies say that it is desirable [to use sunscreen] in children,” Nagpal says.
So, with that in mind, here are some additional sunscreen facts for parents.
Why Sunlight Is Harmful
Sunlight has two types of rays – UVA and UVB – that affect the skin. These rays are present whether it is sunny or cloudy. UVA rays are responsible for tanning, UVB rays are responsible for melanoma, which eventually causes skin cancer. Any sunscreen you use should protect from both UVA and UVB rays; it’s often called a “broad-spectrum sunscreen.”
A Mayo clinic study compared data on cancer diagnosis between 2000 and 2010. It concluded that skin cancer is on the rise in all age groups — especially young people. American Academy of Dermatology says that children above 6 months of age should use sunscreens.
Pediatrician, Dr. Apeksha Pathak, tells Parentology, “As skin cancer is caused due to prolonged exposure to sunlight, children are high-risk candidates for developing skin cancer. Since the time a child starts going to school, they spend lots of time outside. Hence, their exposure to sunlight is much more than an average adult whose primary workplace is inside.”
What Is SPF?
All sunscreens display SPF (sun protection factor) on their bottles. The number measures of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays, but it’s not easy to understand. According to Consumer Reports, “Assuming you use it correctly, if you’d burn after 20 minutes in the sun, an SPF 30 sunscreen protects for about 10 hours.” However, kids sweating or swimming can wash off the protection. The article also notes that UVB intensity and wavelength distribution varies throughout the day and by location, and these calculation do not apply to UVA rays.
The sunscreen you use must be at least SPF 15+, which protects from 90 percent of the sunlight. As SPF increases, protection percentage increases but it can never reach 100%. Therefore, you must apply sunscreen regularly.
Water-resistant sunscreen is recommended for people going into water or playing and sweating.
Finally, Apeksha says, “Chemical sunscreens are more effective than the mineral ones, especially if your child has to be out in the sun regularly. The mineral sunscreen is more like an umbrella protection that can be used for one-off or irregular activities like swimming or sea bathing.”
How to Properly Use Sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside — but ideally 30-45 minutes before.
- Apply on feet, ears, neck, and top of the head — all exposed areas.
- Re-apply every 2 hours to continue being protected.
- Re-apply after swimming, playing in water, or heavy sweating.
- Use sunscreen sticks to easily apply sunscreen on faces.
Finally, read the packaging label. Make sure the sunscreen contains essential components, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that provide protection against the sun’s rays. If a product claims it’s “natural” and doesn’t use these ingredients, find online reviews from consumers and doctors before purchasing.