Sun Protection for the Family

As the weather begins to warm up, all members of the family both young and old are ready to head out for some fun in the sun. Many of us know that we should use sunscreen before going outside and are able to apply it ourselves, but what about infants and children? How important is it to use sunscreen when you are a child? What sunscreens should you use on children? Is sunscreen safe for infants? These are all great questions!


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. Melanoma, one of the more well-known and notorious skin cancers, is the most common type of cancer in young adults 25-29 and the second most common cancer in the 15-29 age group. Although genetic factors, other diseases, and environmental exposures play a role in skin cancer, UV radiation from the sun is among the most important. Fortunately, we can play an active role to help prevent or reduce UV radiation exposure that damages our skin cells.

Many parents are concerned about sunscreen safety when used on their children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as many pediatricians, have recommended that sunscreen either be used minimally to sun exposed areas or not be used at all in children less than six months of age. Before six months, children’s skin has not yet matured and compared to older children and adults, has a higher surface area to body weight ratio. This fact is important because a greater body surface area can potentially result in higher absorption of the chemicals used in many sunscreens. As we get older and our bodies get bigger, absorption becomes negligible. After six months of age, sunscreen should be applied to sun exposed areas of your body every day.


Sun Safety Tips for Infants (less than six months of age)

-Wear lightweight clothing that covers most of your infant’s skin.

-Avoid being outside during the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as this is when UV rays are most intense.

-Seek shade when possible.

-If applying sunscreen, apply only to sun exposed areas (neck and cheeks).

-Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours.

-Check for redness and fussiness as these can be indications of early sunburn, dehydration, or overheating.

Sunscreen Recommendations

So now that we know about the importance of sunscreen, which one is the best for you and your children? Sunscreen active ingredients can be divided into two types, physical blockers and chemical absorbers. The two most common active ingredients in physical blocking sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical absorbing ingredients include active ingredients like oxybenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone. Physical sunscreens are superior to chemical absorbers. They block more UV radiation than chemical absorbers, they begin working immediately after application, and do not degrade (become less effective) over time. Additionally, several studies have found that sunscreens with chemical absorbers are more likely to cause allergic contact rashes, especially in young children.

So here are your must haves in a good sunscreen: SPF 30+, physical blocking ingredients (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide), and broad spectrum (UVA and UVB coverage).

So whether you are out on the lake or just going for a walk outside remember sun protection for the whole family. Have fun and keep your skin safe.

If you need a dermatology appointment please feel free to call our office today to see one of our excellent dermatology providers!  We can help you pick out some great sunscreens from our clinic while you are in the office.

Bentonville:  701 NW McNelly Rd., Bentonville, AR 72712 (479-268-3555)

Fayetteville:  1444 E Stearns St., Fayetteville, AR 72703 (479-718-7546)

Harrison:  620 N Main, Harrison, AR 72601 (870-204-5279)

Ryan Crowder, MPAS, PA-C

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