Sunscreen for children: Five myths dispelled

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Being vigilant about sun protection may greatly reduce your child’s odds of getting Melanoma —  the deadliest form of skin cancer — later in life. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that fifty-four percent of children have received either a sunburn or a tan by their second year of life. Both are signs of skin damage at the cellular level.


With all of the information on the Internet about children and sunscreen, we’d like to dispel some common myths.

Myth 1: You need to purchase a sunscreen made especially for babies and kids.

Truth: This is a marketing gimmick. I admit that I used to be guilty of buying into this claim, thinking that if I bought the bottle with the cute picture of a baby on it that I was getting something safer or more effective. The most recent issue of Consumer Reports covers this topic and shares that most sunscreens with the label of “for babies” or “for children” actually contain the same ingredients.  Check your labels and opt for mineral sunscreens for children, as they are generally safer than chemical options.

Myth 2: You can apply sunscreen to the youngest babies.

Truth: Doctors advise against using sunscreens, even chemical-free mineral formulations, until babies are six months old. This is because their skin is too sensitive to sunscreen ingredients. Plus, the skin of babies does not have enough melanin to be exposed to the sunlight. Choosing UV film covers for car windows, dressing baby in long sleeves and light layers and making sure he or she is wearing a wide-brimmed hat will offer some protection for babies. Once a baby is six months old, applying a mineral sunscreen with a mineral sunscreen free of nanoparticles is advised.

Myth 3: The higher the SPF, the more protected your child will be.

Truth: Not necessarily. If you see a product with a label of higher than SPF 50, be suspicious. I have seen products at the store claiming to be “SPF 100+.”  While these may sound extra protective, it isn’t. The FDA says that numbers beyond SPF 50 are misleading. This gives people a false sense of safety and often makes them think they can stay in the sun all day long.

The reality is that higher numbered sunscreens really are not more effective. You may see a product on the market with an SPF of 50, but in reality that may be much less effective than a natural mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 15, 30 or 40 that also provides broad spectrum protection, which is what you need.

Myth 4:  Children are small and only need a small amount of sunscreen.

Did you know that you need two tablespoons of sunscreen in order to get adequate protection? For reference, this is the same amount as a shot glass. You need to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin. Don’t forget the often overlooked areas such as necks, feet, ears, and parts of the hair.

Myth 5: One little sunburn isn’t that big of a deal.

Truth: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one blistering sunburn in your lifetime more than doubles your Melanoma risk. While one sunburn may seem harmless, it may have major health implications in adulthood.


Don’t forget that exposure to UV rays happens year ’round, even on cloudy winter days. Be sure to take a couple of extra moments to protect your children from the sun. It  may just save their lives.



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