Choosing the Right Sunscreen for Your Family

By Megan Summers, BSN, RN II, CPN, CRRN, RN Remedies nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

RN Remedies Megan SummersWith so many types of sunscreens available, it is easy to get overwhelmed at the local drug store. Understanding what you might see on sunscreen labels will allow you to choose the right sunscreen for you and your family’s needs.

What Does UVA and UVB Mean?

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful ultraviolet radiations: UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays penetrate into the thickest layer of skin and have long-term effects on the skin that lead to premature aging, wrinkles and age spots.

UVB rays have short-term effects on the skin and are the primary cause of sunburn.

Facts on Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the length of time a sunscreen will prevent your skin from reddening or burning from UVB radiation only. Choosing a higher SPF does not necessarily mean you will have more protection. Adequate protection comes from applying the right amount of sunscreen and ensuring that you reapply throughout the day.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Before picking out a bottle of sunscreen, make sure it follows the recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology, which are:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (protects against both UVA and UVB rays)
  • Sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater
  • Water-resistant

When you’re shopping for sunscreen for your family, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Which sunscreen feels best on my child’s skin?
  2. Which sunscreen is free of ingredients that my child is allergic or sensitive to?
  3. Which sunscreen is easiest to apply and reapply?
  4. Which sunscreen will stand up to sports and other activities (swimming, surfing, sun bathing, etc.) my child might be doing?

Putting Sunscreen on a Picky Child

Wearing sunscreen is the first line of defense against skin cancer. If your child is picky or gives you a hard time about wearing sunscreen, here are some suggestions:

  • Lead by example. Put sunscreen on yourself to show them it’s important for you (mom and dad), too.
  • Allow your child to apply sunscreen on you first and then on themselves.
  • Create a fun name for sunscreen, such as “Super Spray” or “Magic Lotion.”
  • Allow your child to use a large, clean paintbrush to apply sunscreen on their body.

To further understand the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations regarding sunscreen, click here to view my blog post “Sunscreen Safety: Understanding the FDA’s Requirements.

Megan explains the types of sunscreen you see at the store—for the face, sensitive skin, outdoors and sports. Click here to read about it!

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