Choosing a Sunscreen


May 22nd, 2016













Many parents are finding the recommendations for using sunscreen and sunblock in children confusing. To help you sort out this confusion, we are pleased to offer our interpretation of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports.


Facts worth considering:

  • The risk of a child developing skin cancer by adulthood is now one in 33.

  • The risk is from both intermittent and continuous sun exposure.

  • One blistering burn in childhood doubles the risk of melanoma later in life.

  • Children less than 33 months are particularly at risk due to less melanin and skin thickness.

  • Glass blocks UVB but not UVA (except the front windshield of a car and tinted glass at home). Since both UVA and UVB can cause skin cancer, parents need to provide protection for their kids inside the car or the house.

  • UVA and UVB can penetrate clouds on a cloudy day.

  • In short, the best way to protect your child is by applying a layer of sunscreen daily.


For infants less than 6 months of age: we prefer a physical sunblock, as it may be less irritating and it eliminates any concern that avobenzone might interfere with the body’s hormones.

  • parents can apply a minimal amount of sunblock to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands." (Tops of the ears and back of the neck are also a good idea.)

  • There's no need to cover a baby's whole body with sunblock if she's properly dressed with a wide brimmed hat and light long clothing. Infants don't perspire as efficiently as adults, and covering too much of the baby’s skin can interfere with their cooling mechanism.

  • Choose a sunblock with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide

  • Choose a sunblock with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 30.

  • Keep your infant out of direct sunlight and check him constantly for reddened or pinkish skin. Use a canopy as much as possible. When in the stroller, put the canopy up. You can also consider a portable crib with mesh sides and turn it upside down on a blanket while the baby naps. This keeps the sun as well as the bugs away!


For infants and children over 6 months:

  • Broad-spectrum products contain one of three active ingredients: avobenzone, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide.

  • Avobenzone is a chemical sunblock, while zinc and titanium oxides are physical sunblocks.

  • Avoid Oxybenzone until the debate about its potential ability to disrupt hormone by absorption into the bloodstream is resolved.

  • For full-body protection, apply 1 to 2 tablespoons of lotion (older children should apply 2 to 3 tablespoons) 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

  • Watch your clothes. All of the products stained when applied directly to various fabrics and left to sit for a day.

  • Discard sunscreen that is more than two years old because it might have lost its potency. If it has no expiration date when you buy it, mark one yourself with a permanent marker.

  • Apply lip balm to protect the lips.


For all infants, children, teens and adults:

  • Your best protection from the sun is sun protective clothing, a wide brim hat and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.

  • If you are worried about skin sensitivity, consider doing a "patch test" on your child by applying sunblock to a small (quarter-size) area of skin with the sunblock, and wait a day or two to see if there's any irritation.

  • Choose a waterproof or water-resistant formula, and reapply at least every two hours while your child is outdoors.

  • It doesn't matter whether you use a lotion, gel, or spray. Many parents like a stick product, which is easy to apply and doesn't run into the eyes and sting.

  • Look for baby/child-friendly words such as non-irritating, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic on the label.

  • Look for the Skin Cancer Foundation seal as a sign of this independent organization’s approval.

  • Infants and children need extra fluids in the heat to make sure they do not become dehydrated.

  • Up to 85 percent of the sun's rays may be reflected off the water or sand, so try to rig up protection to help avoid this indirect yet potent source of burning. We suggest that you try enjoying the shaded areas around the water during peak sun hours (10am to 4pm) while saving the water time for later in the evening.


For 2016, Consumer Reports continues to warn consumers that mineral-based sunscreens containing only titanium dioxide or zinc oxide (frequently referred to as "natural" or “sunblocks”, are not the best option on the market today — noting that in tests they frequently perform far worse than the chemical-based sunscreens. Though there are two sunblocks that performed well in the 2016 tests that you can consider using for infants less than 6 months of age:

  • Cotz Plus SPF 58 ($20): contains zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

  • California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ ($19.99): contains titanium oxide.


For optimum sun protection, Consumer Reports advises consumers to choose a chemical sunscreen with a 40 or higher SPF. These were the best-rated lotions for 2016:

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk ($36)

  • Pure Sun Defense SPF 50 ($6.30)

  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 ($10.50)

  • Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50 ($7.85)

  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50 ($10)


If you prefer spray, here are the top five performers:

  • Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50+ ($6)

  • Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+ ($10)

  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection SPF 70 ($10.50)

  • Caribbean Breeze Continuous Tropical Mist SPF 70 ($16.60)

  • Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 ($4.98)


In the future, Consumer Reports hopes that the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will review its sunscreen requirements. They currently only require manufacturers to test their own products, and don't routinely conduct their own tests.

Primary Care Pediatrics with a specialized touch


Children's Healthcare Medical Associates

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San Diego CA 92103

Phone: (619) 297-5437

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