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As a parent, one of the most important things you can do to protect your child’s health is choose the right sunscreen. After all, our kids’ skin is sensitive and requires extra care, especially when out having fun in the sun.

But with so many options on store shelves, how do you know which sunscreen is best for your child? Don’t sweat it! Here you’ll learn everything you need to confidently choose a safe, effective sunscreen to keep your child’s skin protected.

First, What Exactly Does Sunscreen Do?

Sunscreen is an essential barrier between your child’s skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays. There are two types of UV rays that damage unprotected skin. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing premature aging and wrinkling. UVB rays burn the top layer of skin, leading to sunburns while also increasing skin cancer risk. A good sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays to provide complete protection.

Understanding SPF – Your Sun Protection Factor

When reading sunscreen labels, you’ll see a sun protection factor or SPF listed. This tells you how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays. For children, dermatologists recommend choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

The higher the SPF, the greater percentage of UVB rays the sunscreen blocks. Also look for the words “broad spectrum” on the label. This means the sunscreen shields skin from both UVA and UVB radiation. Using broad spectrum sunscreen is key to reducing your child’s risk of skin cancer and early aging.

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Types of Sunscreen – What’s Best for Your Child?

There are two main types of sunscreen – chemical and mineral. Understanding how they work will help you decide which is better suited for your kid’s skin type. Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, or octocrylene.

The ingredients absorb UV rays before they damage skin. While convenient, some parents avoid them because of potential hormone disruption concerns. Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These natural minerals sit atop skin, deflecting damaging rays. Mineral sunscreens are gentle, effective choices for children, especially those with sensitive skin.

Consider Your Child’s Skin Type

When picking a sunscreen, think about your child’s skin. Is it dry or oily? Do they have skin allergies or conditions like eczema? Tailor your sunscreen choice to your child’s needs. For oily skin, choose an oil-free, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) sunscreen formulated for acne-prone skin.

For dry skin, look for a hydrating sunscreen with antioxidants to soothe and moisturize dry patches while protecting skin. For sensitive skin, opt for a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic mineral sunscreen made for extra-sensitive skin. And for eczema, use an unscented sunscreen made specifically for eczema or very sensitive skin. Avoid potential irritants.

The Importance of Expiration Dates

Like all skincare products, sunscreen expires. And old sunscreen may not adequately shield your child from UV damage. So always check expiration dates before you buy. Pick a sunscreen that will last all season, so you don’t have to worry about it expiring mid-summer.

Proper Application – Your Key to Protection

You’ve chosen the perfect sunscreen for your child, but it’s useless if not applied properly. Be generous with each application – use the “shot glass” rule of 1 ounce per body, enough to cover all exposed skin areas thoroughly. Don’t skimp! Reapply every 2 hours without fail, or more often if your child is swimming or sweating heavily. Remember, sunscreen wears off over time.

Carefully apply sunscreen to often-missed spots like the face, ears, neck, and tops of feet. Rub it into the skin really well so it’s fully absorbed for best protection.

Before dressing, let the sunscreen dry completely. Then layer clothes and towels over fully absorbed sunscreen, not wet product. And never forget lips! Apply lip balm or sticks with SPF to shield those tender lip areas. Proper application is key to getting the most protection from your sunscreen.

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Other Essential Sun Safety Tips

Diligently applying sunscreen is crucial, but it simply isn’t enough on its own to fully protect delicate young skin. You need to use every tool in our toolbox if we truly want to shield our kids from sun damage while still allowing them to enjoy the summer sun.

So what does a multi-pronged approach look like? Well, first and foremost, have your children seek shade whenever possible, especially during the peak UV ray hours of 10am-4pm.

The midday sun is intense! Cover up their little bodies with lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Don’t forget to protect their eyes too with good quality sunglasses.

Staying hydrated is also key when kids are active outdoors. Encourage plenty of water breaks! You may also consider limiting direct sun exposure during the harshest parts of the day. We know it’s difficult to rein them in, but even 30 minutes less of peak sun can make a difference.

Washing Off Sunscreen

Yes, sunscreen is so important to keep your kids’ skin safe, but it can clog pores and cause breakouts if you don’t wash it off.  You’ll need to wash it off, but also keep their skin gentle and refreshed.

Here is one effective yet kid-friendly way to remove sunscreen before bedtime. First, fill the bathtub with warm water and add a fizzy boys or girls bath bombs in their favourite colour.

Let them soak for 10 minutes – the bubbles will lift off most of the sunscreen. Follow up with a mild cleanser on the face and body to remove any residual product. Rinse very thoroughly. Pat dry gently, then apply a hydrating lotion.

This routine cleans sunscreen off entirely while also nurturing the skin. It avoids using harsh scrubbing or products that could cause irritation. At the end, your child’s skin will feel clean, soft and refreshed. While it takes a few extra minutes of care, it’s worth it to remove pore-clogging sunscreen residue

Choose Sun Protection with Confidence

You want your child to have fun in the sun while keeping their skin safe. Now that you know what to look for on sunscreen labels, how to pick the right formula for your kid’s skin type, and how to apply it properly, you can check this worry off your parenting “to-do” list!

Arm yourself with a high-quality broad spectrum sunscreen in a formulation made for children’s delicate skin. Then watch your kids splash in the pool or dig in the sand with peace of mind. After all, the best memories are made under the sun – with the right sun protection!

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