What’s the Best Sunscreen for Kids To Use?

In a sea of options, how do you make the right sunscreen choice for your child?

sunscreen being applied to a young child's shoulder
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Sunlight has a lot of benefits, like being a good source of vitamin D or an instant mood booster.  Unfortunately, it also has damaging effects that can potentially be a long-term concern.

We’ve all experienced the uncomfortable consequences of sunburn after staying in the sun too long. And as if that pain wasn’t enough, too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays, from the sun is responsible for things like premature aging and skin cancer.

Fortunately, there are ways to take the sting out of our time spent in the sun.

Sunscreen is an effective tool for keeping our sun exposure light, but they’re not all made equal. With countless options promising the best results across the board, how can you be sure you’re picking the best sunscreen available? Especially when it comes to your kid.

That’s what we’ll answer in this post.

Why sunscreen is so important

Fun in the sun isn’t actually all fun if you’re not careful. The sun emits UV radiation that can cause short-term and long-term consequences. Of the UV rays that reach the earth, 95 percent is ultraviolet A or UVA. This type of radiation has been shown to contribute to early skin aging, play a major role in pigment darkening, and the development of skin cancer. The remaining 5 percent is ultraviolet B radiation, which is responsible for causing sunburn, early aging, and skin cancer.

That’s why taking protective measures for you and your child is so important. Measures like wearing sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, or staying indoors at hours can prevent those complications from sun exposure.

With several options available, it can be hard to know what the best sunscreen to choose from is. So, let’s break down the different types of sunscreens and what they do to make that decision a little bit easier.

The different types of sunscreen

When you apply sunscreen, you’re applying something containing filters that reflect or absorb UV radiation.  In the United States, there are currently 17 different UV filters approved by the Food and Administration.  They’re classified as either organic or inorganic.

Organic sunscreens, which were previously known as chemical sunscreens, contain a variety of compounds that absorb UV radiation and convert it to heat. Some organic sunscreens use compounds that specifically absorb UVB radiation, with octinoxate being the most widely used. Oxybenzone is the most commonly used organic filter that provides protection from UVA.

Inorganic filters, previously known as physical sunscreens, are mineral compounds, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These filters are believed to reflect and scatter UV light. However, some studies have shown these compounds protect mainly through absorption rather than reflection of UV radiation. In comparison to organic filters, inorganic sunscreens can be less irritating for sensitive skin and offer broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB radiation.

You may hear the term broad-spectrum and wonder what it is. Broad-spectrum sunscreens are commonly produced by combining approved filters that have different UV absorption capabilities, which then offer protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.

What sunscreen is best for a child

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen product that has a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher, provides broad-spectrum protection and is water or sweat resistant.

When it comes to your kids, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of sunscreen products in infants younger than six months of age. Although, if adequate protective clothing or shade won’t be available, a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF can be used on small areas, like the infant’s face and back of the hands.

Since infants have an immature skin barrier, the use of sunscreen products that are non-irritating to skin and eyes and have a low potential to cause sensitivity is recommended. While the frequency of reactions in children to sunscreens hasn’t been determined, allergic reactions or skin sensitivity have been reported in the use of organic filter sunscreens in children.

An oil-based solution of inorganic filters is the preferred choice for children and infants over organic filters because they offer broad-spectrum protection and have a minimal risk of irritation or sensitivity.

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