Sunscreen Safety Tips

With spring in full swing and summer well on its way, we are all headed for the outdoors. It’s wonderful. Our extended outdoor adventures mean more time in the sun, so inevitably, the sunblock comes out and we start slathering it on.
I get many questions from parents regarding sunscreen, most of these questions have to do with safety. Sunscreens have long been touted as a major prevention against skin cancer. However, in recent years, chemicals found in sunscreens have raised questions about how safe they really are for our children.

With that in mind, today I will share with you some very important sunscreen safety tips so that you can protect your children without the added worry that you may be causing harm.

What you DO want in a sunscreen:

  • A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • PABA free and preferably fragrance free
  • An SPF of at least 15, though I would recommend SPF 30 or 45. Anything above SPF 45 is essentially overkill and does not mean you can stay out in the sun longer.
  • Look for sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are physical versus chemical sun protectors. Sure they may leave a white residue on your child’s skin and don’t blend in as easily, however, they are free from some chemicals called into question lately (see below).

What you DON’T want in a sunscreen:

  • You don’t want sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A derivative) or oxybenzone (an estrogen like chemical). These are the chemicals found in many popular sunscreens and have been called into question regarding safety in recent years.
  • You don’t want a sunscreen that has expired. Sunscreen has a shelf life of three years. After that, it starts losing its efficacy. Toss all expired products.

Sun Safety and Sunscreen Tips:

  • Keep in mind that sunscreen is just part of the sun protection package. Use clothing, sun protective bathing suits, hats, and sunglasses in addition to sunscreen as part of your sun safety routine.
  • Apply sunscreen to the exposed areas of skin and reapply every two hours.
  • For infants less than 6 months, try to avoid direct sunlight. Cover in light clothing and hats, only apply sunscreen to exposed areas.
  • Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes prior to heading out.
  • Remember that UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. This doesn’t mean you have to hide away during those hours, it’s not practical. Just be aware and protect that skin.

Above all, don’t skip the sunscreen. It still is essential as part of our sun protection package. Hopefully with this information and tips, you can rest assured that you are in fact protecting, and not harming, your child when you lather on the sunblock.

The environmental working group (EWG) has a wonderful web site where you can check out how your sunscreen measures up. It’s also a great place to start if you’re deciding on a safe sunscreen for you and your children.

Have you ever worried about sunscreen? How did you finally decide on a product?

*Every Wednesday I will be answering a question from You! Please submit your parenting or health related question to mommamd4two(at)aol(dot)com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and featuring your question. *

13 Responses to Sunscreen Safety Tips
  1. Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop!
    April 13, 2011 | 9:10 am

    Great reminders! Thanks!

  2. Katherine
    April 13, 2011 | 9:46 am

    I'm such a fanatic about sunscreen. My kids practically never go outside without it. However, I can't remember what type we use. That's probably because it's been months since we last saw the sun.

  3. Erica
    April 13, 2011 | 10:10 am

    Great tips. I found coppertone kids sensitive to be pretty good.

  4. Hello! I'm Kate.
    April 13, 2011 | 1:42 pm

    Awesome Tips!

    I use Bull Frog! It's the best & it's waterproof & never washes off!

  5. Stefanie
    April 13, 2011 | 3:20 pm

    Exactly the information parents need to know …along with a little humor and a lot of heart! We can't ask for more than that :) Thanks Melissa!

  6. Betsy at Zen-Mama
    April 13, 2011 | 3:29 pm

    I've always wondered how long sunscreen lasts. Thanks for the great post!

  7. Laura@OutnumberedMom
    April 13, 2011 | 6:41 pm

    "This is SUCH an important post," said the redheaded mom of four redheads who has had melanoma herself.

    For years we've practically bought sunscreen by the case!

  8. Liz
    April 13, 2011 | 6:41 pm

    And…for us parents who pat down the kids but don't put it on ourselves??? Shame on us! :)

  9. Kristin
    April 13, 2011 | 7:14 pm

    Thanks for the tips!

  10. Barbara Manatee
    April 13, 2011 | 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I was wondering what the shelf life was on sunscreen. Good to know I can still use the 'leftovers' from last summer :-) I had stocked up then didn't need it all.

    I love the spray on, no rub kind – so do my kids' preschool teachers. We've had good luck with it but do you know if its as good as the good old 'rub in' kind?

    April is Autism Awareness Month. I'm dedicating my blog to Autism all month long.

  11. Cheryl D.
    April 13, 2011 | 10:13 pm

    Thanks for the tips! My daughter is white, white, white, so I have to be really diligent about sunscreen!

  12. Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds
    April 14, 2011 | 5:09 pm

    Thankfully, my daughter isn't bothered by sunscreen. I get the kid stuff and don't worry about it.

  13. Yuliya
    April 17, 2011 | 1:19 pm

    Such great tips, thank you!