If you’re a parent of young children, then searching for the best children’s sunscreen is important. All children love playing outside. And because they do spend a lot of time outdoors, all year round, they are at greater risk for skin damage that may result from unprotected UV exposure. The average child gets three times more sun exposure as the average adult every year from playing outside. Experts recommend that the amount of time a child should be allowed outside should depend on their skin type.
Children Have More Sensitive Skin
Compared to adult skin, children’s skin is especially sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. And if exposed to unprotected sunlight, they risk developing various types of skin cancer when older. Sun damage to the skin is cumulative, so that even a brief exposure adds to the lifetime total. Children under the age of 16 are most vulnerable to skin damage, because individuals tend to accumulate somewhere between 50% and 80% of lifetime sun exposure by the time they’re 16 years old.
While sunburns are most damaging in terms of causing melanoma, chronic sun exposure contributes to other types of skin cancer including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancers. Conditions including actinic keratosis, which previously manifested in older individuals, can now be observed in adults in their early 20s. Exposure to sun at an early age is the cause of most cases actinic keratosis – scaly or crusty bumps that form on the skin’s surface. Actinic keratosis is considered a precursor to cancer as it can be the first step in the development of skin cancer.
Choosing a Children’s Sunscreen
Like adults, children should be protected from harmful UV radiation. And while your first option should always be good sun practice, UV rays can bounce off sand and other reflective surfaces leaving far less protection with umbrellas, shade or hats than we may think.
Choices for a children’s sunscreen range from those that incorporate either physical or chemical agents. Physical sun filters include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which reflect, absorb, scatter and physically block UV radiation. They offer broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. Chemical sunscreens incorporate sun filters such as Mexoryl XL, Mexoryl SX, avobenzone and Octocrylene. Depending on how these sunscreens are formulated they can block some or all of the UVA/UVB spectrum.
Whether you choose a physical or chemical sun blocker, ensure that you are using one with a minimum of SPF 30 and that is formulated with ingredients that will block against both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF rating is only a measurement of UVB protection, meaning that you may be exposing your children to harmful UVA rays without knowing it.
Best Children’s Sunscreens
Once you’ve selected a brand or formulation that will afford broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, ensure that the sun filters in the preparation are photostable. Photostability means that the ingredients will maintain their efficacy upon exposure to sunlight; some sun blocking agents break down upon exposure to UV rays, leaving you without any protection at all.
Spray formulations or colored creams and lotions work well as a children’s sunscreen. Sprays are easy to apply and convenient for reapplication. Colored creams and lotions include a novelty factor that appeals to children. More importantly, their coloring allows you as a parent to see where you’ve applied, ensuring that you don’t miss anywhere. Lastly, look for water resistant or highly water resistant formulations which will give your child 40 to 80 minutes of protection while swimming, perspiring or rolling around in the sand. Brand like Anthelios sunscreens and Ambre Solaire sunscreens offer a range of formulations suitable for children.