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How to Choose the Right Sunscreen for your Children

Browsing the sunscreen aisle at any local drugstore might make you feel like you are in 10th-grade chemistry class: Oxybenzone. Zinc Oxide. Octocrylene. Huh?! Below I have outlined the basics to help you choose the right sunscreen for you and your family.

How do I choose a sunscreen?

  • Choose a sunscreen that is BROAD SPECTRUM. This means it protects you against UVA and UVB rays- both of which can cause skin damage and skin cancer

  • Look for a water-resistant sunscreen. Most water-resistant sunscreens are effective for 40-80 minutes in the water. Read your labels so you know when to re-apply

  • SPF 30 or higher (as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology)

Chemical vs. mineral (physical) sunscreen

  • Both chemical and mineral (physical) sunscreens are FDA approved

  • Mineral sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide

  • Mineral sunscreens form a barrier on the skin that reflects UV rays

  • Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays

  • Active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate, homosalate, and octocrylene

Is sunscreen safe?


You most likely read or heard about the 2019 study that showed ingredients (specifically avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) found in chemical sunscreens were absorbed systemically, and were present in the bloodstream after application. Of course, this is of concern, as it is recommended that we wear sunscreen every single day.

A 2020 follow-up study looked at six different ingredients found in chemical sunscreens (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate) and found that all of these ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream, even after just 1 use!

Now, with that being said, additional information and data is needed to determine if there are in fact, any harmful effects and/or long term effects of absorption. We don’t know enough yet!

This DOES NOT mean you get a free pass from wearing sunscreen!

Both mineral and chemical sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” has shown to help protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays (preventing skin damage and skin cancer).

If you are iffy about wearing a chemical sunscreen, choose a mineral (physical) sunscreen instead.

I personally wear a mineral sunscreen daily…Even on cloudy days or days that I am indoors!

Spray versus lotion?

Although spray is very convenient, lotion is the best choice. Sprays just aren’t consistent! You typically end up with patches of sunburn after using a sunscreen spray. Sprays also pose the risk of inhalation, which could lead to breathing difficulties. Lotions will provide you with a much more even coverage and no risk of inhalation.

How often should I re-apply?

  • First, apply at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. I typically recommend applying your sunscreen before getting dressed

  • Re-apply AT LEAST every 2 hours

  • After swimming or in the water

  • When sweating

  • After toweling off

What about my baby who is under 6 months of age?

Most sunscreens are approved for ages 6 months and up. It is best to keep your infant in the shade as much as possible and put him or her in sun-protective clothing. When exposure to the sun is inevitable, and there is no shade in sight, The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a mineral-based, broad-spectrum, and water-resistant sunscreen (SPF 30+) even on your infant that is under 6 months.

Other Tidbits

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in his/her lifetime

  • It takes only ONE sunburn during your childhood to almost double your chances of developing melanoma later in life

  • No sunscreen will 100% protect you: stay in the shade when possible, cover exposed skin, wear a wide-brimmed hat, wear UV blocking sunglasses, and avoid peak hours (10 am-4 pm)

  • Don’t forget the SPF lip balm

  • Make sure to apply sunscreen to those “forgotten” areas- ears, behind the neck, hands, feet, and even underneath bathing suit straps and watch bands

  • Say NO to tanning salons

  • As an adult, be a good role model and wear your sunscreen, too!

Until next time,



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