“One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person's risk for melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.” Facts about Sunburn and Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. The most preventable risk factor for developing skin cancer is sun exposure.
Children under six months of age should be kept in the shade. They cannot regulate their body temperature as effectively and get easily overheated so I recommend light weight clothing and shade. Their skin barrier is not mature so they absorb more through their skin than older children. That’s why sunscreens are not recommended in babies, especially chemical sunscreens or microionized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide; think shade!
Clothing: Older kids should have a long-sleeved rash guard and swim shorts as well as a wide brimmed hat. Avoid direct sun between 10 and 4. Bikinis are cute, in the evenings:)!
Sunscreen (face): I recommend a sunscreen stick such as the Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block (not the Continuous Protection line) or Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby for sunscreen on the face. Kids don’t seem to mind the sunscreen sticks as much as lotions and creams being smeared all over their faces. These sunscreen sticks use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active sunscreen ingredients. I like this because physical sunscreen ingredients are not chemical sunscreens which I prefer avoiding in children, and they have a slight white tint to them so you can see where you have missed. After you get the sunscreen applied thoroughly which you should be able to see, you can rub it in to decrease the white tint. The higher the concentration of the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the better the protection but the whiter the look. Zany Zinc by Solar Sense is a colored facial 25% zinc oxide for faces. It’s great for the nose or cheeks under the eyes and kids think it’s fun because of the color variety.
Sunscreen (body): Creams and lotions are better for kids’ bodies because they are quicker to apply. Again, I recommend looking for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the active ingredients vs. the chemical sunscreens. Look for SPF of 30 or above. My favorite brands are Blue Lizard Australian Cream and Neutrogena Pure and Free. These can go on kind of white but that way you know where you are getting it and you can try to rub it in to take away a little of the white effect. But unless you go more with the chemical sunscreens, it is almost impossible to avoid the slight whitening of your child’s skin. But they don’t seem to mind and I’ll take a little white glow over skin cancer and premature aging any day!
I know moms love the spray sunscreens because they are quick and easy but I really recommend they only be used in time crunch emergencies which we all have. The spray sunscreens are chemical sunscreens, again which I try to avoid in children, and it’s difficult to quantify how much you are actually using and where it is going so it’s easy to overestimate the protection you are actually getting. In fact, most people don’t use enough of the spray. Reapply at least every two hours.
If you are a mom who is concerned with sunscreens because of all of the chemicals in the active and inactive ingredients and you prefer natural ingredients, check out Badger line of sunscreen products.