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How to Choose the Best Sunblock for Your Kids: 5 Things to Check
  • How long would you say your kids would be out in the sun when on vacation to the beach? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe sunburn, especially during childhood, can raise the risk of skin cancer later in life. 

    Sunscreen is a must especially during the summer when children are out in the sun for long periods of time. But, not all sunscreens are created equal in protecting your kids. Check for these when buying sunscreen:

    1. There is “broad spectrum” on the label — an absolute must
    This should always be the first thing you check when buying a new bottle of sunscreen as you want a product that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. “UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn. UVA rays can prematurely age and wrinkle skin. Both contribute to skin cancer,” Harvard Health explains. 

    Sunscreen made in the US that are not broad spectrum carry a warning that partly reads, “This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging,” as per the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

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    2. The sunblock should be at least SPF 30
    Don’t go lower than SPF 30, as advised by the American Academy of Dermatology. You can go higher, but there may be little to gain from it. “Above a certain level, a higher sun protection factor (SPF) has little added benefit compared with a lower SPF. Experts generally recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97% of UVB radiation,” according to Harvard Health

    “Anything over 50 SPF does not clearly offer any additional benefit and may be harmful. Moreover, sunscreens with SPFs over 50 probably cost more,” Dr. Jack Maypole, a pediatrician for medically complex children at Boston Medical Center, told The Washington Post.

    3. It has “water resistant” on the label
    This is especially important for parents of active kids who love to play and swim under the sun. Mayo Clinic explains, “The term 'water resistant' means that the SPF is maintained for up to 40 minutes while swimming or sweating. 'Very water resistant' means the SPF is maintained for 80 minutes.” Set a timer to remind you to reapply sunscreen on the kids when the minutes are up. 

    Always keep in mind that one application cannot give you whole day protection. It’s not enough to apply once if you’re staying under the sun long. “Reapply at least every two hours,” said the US FDA. “Read the label for your specific sunscreen. An average-size adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass, to evenly cover the body.”

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    4. Lotions are best — avoid sprays
    Sunscreen sprays can make it hard to know if you've applied enough, and there's a chance that kids could breathe in the fumes,” said KidsHealth, the health resource site of The Nemours Foundation. 

    They may take a little more effort to apply but lotions are still the best choice. “Sunscreen lotions and creams provide more even coverage than sprays and tend to be absorbed less through the skin, which is what we should aim for,” said Dr. Maypole. 

    5. Repurchase every three years

    Remember to check the expiration date on the sunscreen bottle to make sure it’s still as effective as it can be. If there’s none, sunscreen generally has a shelf-life of three years, according to Harvard Health. Here’s a tip: Right after purchasing, take a marker and write down the current month and year on the bottle. 

    If you’re in need of a new bottle of sunscreen now, dermatologist Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson from Mayo Clinic said, “Find a sunscreen you like. If you don't care for the sunscreen, you're not as likely to use it consistently.” Just remember to keep in mind the criteria mentioned above: broad spectrum, at least SPF 30, water resistant, and is a lotion or cream. 

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