Staying Safe in the Sun

May 11, 2017
Staying Safe in the Sun

It’s spring!  The SUN is out and your sunscreen should be too!!

Here are some important tips, created with expert advice from pediatric dermatologist Lauren Geller, MD on why your children need protection from the sun and how you can get them to cooperate.


  1. Prevention is key.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (, just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles your child’s chances of having melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

  2. Young children’s skin is thinner than adults and therefore especially vulnerable to sun.

  3. ALL shades of skin are susceptible to burns.


  1. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am-4pm, so it’s best to limit direct sun exposure during that time.  Make sure children wear hats, sunscreen, sunglasses and light weight clothing to cover as much skin as possible when outdoors.

  2. Children over the age of 6 months should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before they go outside and reapply at least every 2 hours (more if they are swimming or sweating).  No sunscreen is truly waterproof.

  3. Under 6 months of age, clothing and shade covers are the best protection. You may apply sunscreen to small areas not covered by clothing, such as the face.  Just test a small amount of the sunscreen on your child’s forearm to make sure it is tolerated.

  4. Don’t forget about sunscreen on cloudy days!!  Children can still get exposure to ultraviolet rays on seemingly cloudy or cool days.  Wearing hats, sunglasses and sunscreen should become a habit – regardless of the weather outside.

  5. Use sunscreen with SPF 30-50 broad-spectrum coverage for UVA and UVB (*note: SPF greater than 50 has not been shown to offer better protection)

  6. Be careful applying sunscreen to the face, to avoid contact with the eyes which can be very irritating.

  7. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers of the sun and are good for young kids or those with sensitive skin/eczema because they are less likely to cause irritation.

  8. Sunscreen sprays are NOT recommended because it is difficult to control the amount applied and often not enough gets on the skin.  In addition, the chemicals from the spray sunscreen may be inhaled


  1. Make it a ritual.  Once your children learn that sunscreen is the routine, they stop fighting it.  Teach your children from the start that lotion goes on before they leave the house and that items like swim shirts, hats or glasses are always a part of the outing.  Having few to no exceptions makes it easier for children to predict what comes next and be accepting of the routine.

  2. Recruit a team.  Having another set of hands, car seat or stroller straps can help make the job easier.  Toddlers can be especially slippery and often lying down can improve your chances of keeping them still.

  3. Start one body part at a time.  Put a small amount of lotion in your hands and talk to your children – about something unrelated – while you cover just one part of their body.  Trying singing or counting while you do it.  It distracts kids and keeps their mind off the sunscreen.

  4. Leave the face and ears for last.  For little ones, try telling them it is “face painting” and see if they can sit still for a “magically disappearing design.”  For older children, try letting them watch you apply sunscreen in the mirror, or take a turn putting lotion on your face too.

  5. Model good habits.  Your children take their cue from you.  Show them that you wear sunscreen and take precautions from sunburns in your own day.  A positive role model can make a huge difference.

For more information on sun safety, see the Sun and Water Safety Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.