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Kid's Health (Archive)
Our award-winning Kid's Health Magazine is designed to provide healthful information for your growing child. Please Note: Kid's Health Magazine is no longer being printed. Please visit our blog at http://www.choc.org/blog for the latest articles about your child's health from the experts at CHOC Children's. You can also receive our electronic Kid's Health newsletter in your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list: http://www.choc.org/subscribe
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Q & A: Sunscreen for Your Child

Mark Colon, M.D., CHOC Pediatrician

At what age can I begin putting sunscreen on my child, and what SPF is best for young children?

A child is never too young for sunscreen. But it’s wise to keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight altogether. Their thin skin can burn after just minutes in the sun. Dress infants in lightweight cotton pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a broad-brimmed hat for added protection.

Before using sunscreen, test a patch on your child’s back to make sure there’s no allergic reaction. Look for sunscreen that includes:

  • “Broad-spectrum” on the label. This means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
  • SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 for UVB protection, and 45 for babies.
  • The new UVA “star” rating. Four stars is the highest protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen, and the best for children.

For sensitive areas, such as the nose, tops of the ears and the shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

While there are sunscreens made particularly for babies and toddlers, the most important thing to remember is that the higher the SPF and UVA stars, the better. For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. And remember to re-apply every two hours and after swimming. A final caveat: Just because your children are using sunscreen doesn’t mean they can stay in the sun all day. It just means they’re lessening the risks of sun damage.

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