As parents, our children's’ health and well-being is our number one priority, but when it comes to protecting our kids from the sun, the ins and outs of sun care and sunscreens can get a little confusing &mdash especially for new parents.
When exposed to the sun’s harmful rays, a child’s delicate skin can get sunburned in less than 15 minutes, which can cause fever, blisters and heat stroke while also increasing your child’s skin cancer risk. In fact, one bad sunburn during childhood can double a child’s risk of developing melanoma later in life.
So before venturing outside with your little bundle of joy, follow these nine sun protection tips for a child-safe sunbathing experience!
Safe sun care for babies over six months
1- Always opt for broad-spectrum sunscreens
A sunscreen’s SPF will measure the protection against UVB rays, but not against deep-penetrating UVA rays, which are largely responsible for premature skin aging and melanoma. Most U.S. sunscreens don’t offer adequate protection against UVA rays, which is why choosing a sunscreen that protects against both UVAs and UVBs, known as a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, is important to adequately protect your child’s skin.
2- Avoid high-SPF sunscreens: SPF 30 is the way to go!
Many people are led to believe that a sunscreen with a high SPF offers better sun protection than one with a lower SPF. This is exactly why parents tend to choose the sunscreen with the highest SPF for their children. However, a high sun protection factor is not necessarily better. When used correctly, an SPF 30 sunscreen will block 96.7% of UVB rays, while an SPF 70 will block 98.5%, only a marginal increase in protection for over double the SPF value. Surprising, right?
Not only do sunscreens with a SPF over 50 contain a higher dose of chemical filters, they also offer poorer-quality sun protection, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG recommends applying a sunscreen with an SPF of between 15 and 50, but an SPF of 30 will more than adequately protect your child.
3- Mineral zinc oxide is your child’s best friend
Babies’ and toddlers’ delicate skin is more susceptible to sunburn, so make sure you always use a physical, zinc oxide-based sunscreen to protect it. This natural, safe and hypoallergenic mineral ingredient sits on top of the skin, creating a physical barrier that blocks harmful UV rays, rather than being absorbed like chemical sunscreens are.
4- Particle size matters: look for non-nano sunscreens
Particle size is also an important consideration in physical sunscreens. Nanoparticles are extremely small compounds that have been ground into fine particles. This minimizes the appearance of white residues on the skin, making sunscreen easier to apply, non-whitening, lighter and therefore more attractive to consumers. However, the downside of nanoparticles is that they can penetrate your child’s delicate and highly absorbent skin. Because studies are still underway to determine their direct impact on human health, it is recommended that nanoparticles be avoided in topical products as a preventative measure. According to EWG’s experts, the safest option is to use a non-nano zinc oxide mineral sunscreen.
5- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before, then every 2 hours
Because we mistakenly think we get better protection with a higher SPF, we tend to spend more time in the sun and apply less sunscreen. It’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours regardless of your sunscreen’s SPF value.
For babies six months and older, apply a generous amount of sunscreen (30 ml minimum, the equivalent of a shot glass) on your child’s exposed skin 20 minutes before sun exposure, then every two hours after that. Pay special attention to sensitive areas, such as the head, ears and nose. Remember that sunscreen wears off after swimming or sweating even if it’s waterproof, so be sure to reapply every time you get your child out of the water, or when you’re outside for an extended period of time.
6- Protect your child, even in the shade!
We know that the best line of defense against sun protection is prevention. When outdoors, keep your child in the shade as much as possible. But contrary to popular belief, sitting under an umbrella will not fully protect your little one from the sun’s rays, even if you’re out of direct sunlight. UV rays reflect everywhere: they can reach the skin indirectly through glass, and bounce back from surfaces like sand, snow, concrete, and even grass &mdash so make sure your child is protected at all times, even in the shade.
Also, don’t let a cloudy day fool you! Just because the sun’s hiding doesn’t mean your child is safe from harmful UV rays.
7- Cover your child up!
Sunscreens should not be the only source of sun protection. Always dress your child in protective clothing, with a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Cover as much skin as possible with loose, opaque clothing that prevents rays from penetrating, while making sure your little one doesn’t get overheated, of course! While outdoors, always watch for signs of dehydration, such as fussiness, redness or excessive crying.
8- Plan family activities around the sun
Try to avoid sun exposure between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are at their peak. Check the daily UV index during the weather forecast to avoid overexposure to UV radiation and sun-induced skin damage. The UV Index is on a scale of 0 to 11+, with 0 representing low UV exposure and 11+ representing extreme UV exposure. Try as best possible to plan your outdoor activities when the UV index is low (between 0–2), and to stay indoors or in the shade when the sun is at its brightest. If you need to be outside during those hours, make sure your child is extra protected.
9- Read the label
Sun-filtering chemicals can have harmful effects on your child. They absorb UV rays by causing a chemical reaction on the skin, which in turn can cause potential health concerns and unwanted skin reactions, such as rashes, skin allergies and eczema.
Always check the ingredients list before purchasing any personal care product, and watch out for sunscreen ingredients to avoid,according to the EWG. Among the ingredients listed, oxybenzone (hazard score of 8) and octinoxate (hazard score of 6) are considered to have the highest toxicity index, followed by homosalate, octisalate and benzophenone-2 (BP-2), with a moderate hazard score of 4.
Also make sure that the sunscreen you use on your child is free of synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, colors and other chemicals and that it is EWG-VERIFIED™. We recommend checking EWG’s Sunscreen Database, which assesses the safety and efficiency of many SPF-rated products and measures every ingredient’s neurotoxicity index.
When you protect your child with the right sunscreen, you’re also protecting the coral reefs!
Over 82,000 kinds of chemicals from personal care products have made their way into the world’s oceans, according to non-governmental organization Marine Safe. And one of the biggest culprits of this massive pollution is sunscreen.
Many ingredients found in sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and benzophenone-2, can have negative effects on your child’s health and on marine life. National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) researchers discovered that benzophenone-2 (BP-2) bleaches colorful corals, kills juvenile corals and potentially induces or increases coral mutation by damaging their DNA. So the next time you take a dip in warm ocean waters, think about the corals, too!
Luckily, natural mineral ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide were found not to be harmful to coral reefs. In fact, they’re the only ones! Protect your child’s skin and coral reefs by investing in a sunblock containing non-nano zinc oxide.
While you’re under the summer sun, remember these nine best practices to ensure that your child gets maximum sun protection. Because we care about you and your child’s health, all ATTITUDE suncare products are crafted with only the safest and natural ingredients, are proudly EWG-VERIFIED™ and top rated in EWG’s Best Moisturizers with SPF.
For more information, download our Ultimate Guide to Safer Sunscreens and discover everything you need to know on how to filter the sun, not the fun!