Sunscreen (and So Much More!) – Sun Safety with Kids

Summertime, I love you,  I do. But why do your beautiful sunny days have to come with the pain of applying sunscreen onto small children? I know it’s just part of the job: For moms and other caregivers, the summer sun brings more than just fun-filled days. There’s also the concern of keeping kids safe from sunburns and cancer-causing UV rays.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their most intense from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., but they are also strong beginning as early as 9 a.m. until as late as 5 or 6 p.m., depending on where you live. Experts say to stay out of the sun if possible during those times. But take a look at any summer camp, daycare or swimming lessons schedule and we’re pretty sure the average kid has a whole lot of outdoor time during these peak hours. So hibernating is probably not an option!

The good news is sun safety is big business these days. There are so many readily available products designed to protect kids and their adults from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation that causes premature aging, sunburns, and skin cancer. Head over to Amazon after this and you’ll see that sunscreen is just one way to protect your little’s sweet skin. From UPF-infused clothing to sun umbrellas to hats and full-coverage swimsuits, the options for keeping this generation of kids covered go far beyond a thick strip of zinc on the nose.


For more ways to keep your kids sun safe, follow these tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • Check the UV index on your weather app or at https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/uv-index-scale-1 whenever you are outside to help you determine how much sun protection your kids need.
  • Exposed skin is at risk for sunburn or other damage, so cover up with lightweight long sleeved pants and shirts, and invest in cute sunhats for your kids that shield their faces and necks. If you can’t get them to wear their large-brimmed hats consistently, aim for baseball hats and a thick layer of sunscreen over their necks and ears. Hey, at least their faces and scalps are getting some extra protection, right? Better than no hat at all!
  • About that sunscreen: SPF (sun protection factor) matters (you want 15+), but don’t forget about broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVB rays (the ones that cause sunburns) and UVA rays (the ones that also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging). Not all sunscreens are broad spectrum, so double check before you buy.
  • When it comes to babies under six months old, ignore everything you just read about sunscreen. Unless directed by a doctor, it’s not safe to apply sunscreen to infants and babies because they might end up exposed to a greater amount of chemicals than is safe for their tiny bodies to handle. Instead, keep them out of the sun, and keep their skin well covered when they are exposed to rays.
  • So much more to say about sunscreen here: the FDA no longer allows any sunscreen to claim it’s waterproof; instead they now use the term “water resistant.” Whatever their aquatic claims, this stuff needs to be thoroughly applied, in a generous amount (most of us don’t use enough), before your kiddos head out into the sun. Reapply often! Remember, no sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation, so don’t think just because you’ve lathered up your kids with SPF that sunburns can’t happen. Unfortunately they can and do, to good sunscreen-wearing folks like yourself!
  • Hanging out in the shade is a cool way to protect yourself from the rays. When no natural shade exists, like on the beach, create some with a sun tent or umbrella. And of course sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen your kids!
  • And finally, if you can get your kid to wear sunglasses, you are the world’s most amazing mama and you should write a book. Both of my kids like the novelty of shades, wear them for a second, and then promptly rip them off their tiny faces. But should your children adhere to wearing them, sunglasses are a must when your crew is out on bright-light days.

Phew! So much to do when it comes to sun safety. Don’t forget to have fun out there too, mamas!