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Do you know these sunscreen facts?

By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

Why apply sunscreen?

Exposure to sun exposes our skin to UVA and UVB rays.  These rays can be damaging to our skin, eyes, etc. The bulk of sun exposure occurs during childhood and this exposure can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, skin aging, wrinkling, etc.  Everyone, no matter what your skin color, should be using sunscreen. Darker skinned people (like myself) tan easily.  Remember, tanning is a sign of skin damage. So, it is critical to apply sunscreen and practice safe sun exposure practices for infants, toddlers, children and teens (as well as ourselves).

What about babies?

Infants under the age of 6 months should have very limited sun exposure. Their melanin is still immature and their skin is very sensitive.  How can a parent handle this during the summer months?

1. Avoid having the baby out in the direct sun during the hottest times of day

2. If you need to be out during those times, keep your baby in the shade such as under a tree or large umbrella.

If you do need to take baby out with you bring a wide-brimmed hat and cover as much skin as possible with clothing. If there are small areas of skin that are uncovered, apply a sensitive skin sunscreen of 30 or higher (do NOT use spray on sunscreen).

Sun Safety (for all ages):

1. Try to avoid direct sun during the hours of 10 am – 2pm.

2. Keep as much skin covered as possible when out in direct sunlight.

3. Wear a hat. Even better, wear a hat with a wide brim.

4. Use sunscreen.

Choosing sunscreen for children

There are many choices on the market.  Hopefully this basic information will help you narrow the choices. There are two basic types of sunscreen: those that provide a physical barrier (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) and those that provide a chemical barrier.  If you will be using the sunscreen during the summer months and for water activities, select one that is waterproof.

What SPF should you choose?

You should use a sunscreen with SPF 30 (or higher) when out in the sun continuously.  SPF 30 will block 97 percent of the harmful UV light.

How to apply sunscreen:

1. It is important to apply enough sunscreen.  The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that one ounce is applied over all the skin for adults.  Remember to place some on your hands and apply to the face (being careful of eyes), to ears, back of neck as well as to the usual areas including neck, arms, legs, under bathing suit straps, and back.

2. Reapply sunscreen every two hours AND after getting out of the pool or heavy physical activity.

3. Remember to apply sunscreen to lips.

How long are sunscreens good for?

The FDA requires sunscreens to work for three years (at their original strength).  When you buy sunscreen, if it does not have a date on it (all the bottles I have at home do not have dates), write the date you bought it on the bottle with a permanent pen.

Children with sensitive skin:

Sunscreens with titanium dioxide are often the best for children (and adults) with sensitive skin.  After you buy a sunscreen, try it out on a small area of skin to make sure that it does not cause a rash before applying it all over.

Spray on sunscreen concerns:

1. Inhaling the sunscreen spray – According to the AAD, the FDA is evaluating the possible harm of inhaling the chemicals to the lungs.

2. Burn risk –Some spray on sunscreens may be flammable.  Although most of these have been pulled from the market, consider not using these if you or your child will be around sparks or open flames.

What to do if your child gets a sunburn:

1. Give him/her a cool bath or you can apply cool compresses (can use a washcloth or towel).

2. If your child is feeling pain, give him/her either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  If the rash is itchy, you can use diphenhydramine.

3. You can apply 100% Aloe Vera to the rash for a cooling effect.

4. If the sunburn is severe or develops blisters, have your child seen by your doctor.

For More Information:





By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

Dr. Forbis is a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s Hospital and a mother to two girls. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. Forbis blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health.


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