We all know how important it is to protect our children
from the damaging rays of the sun. But with all of the information
out there it can be difficult to know exactly what protocol is
best. Recently I sat down with renowned Chicago Dermatologist, Dr.
Keren Horn, owner of Dermatology & Aesthetics
of Wicker Park, to talk about the latest in family sun
protection as we head into warmer weather, spring break and the
Q: What can unprotected sun exposure do
in terms of long-term skin damage in kids?
KH: Long term unprotected sun exposure
can lead to lots of undesired effects such as skin cancer, long
term sun damage and early skin aging.
Q: How long is sunscreen good for? If
parents have sunscreen left over from last year is that still
KH: The FDA requires that all sunscreens
retain their original strength for at least three years. Some
sunscreens include an expiration date. If the expiration date has
passed, throw it out. If you buy a sunscreen that does not have an
expiration date, write the date you bought the sunscreen on the
bottle. That way you'll know when to throw it out. You can also
look for visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good.
Any obvious changes in the color or consistency of the product
means it's time to purchase a new bottle.
The truth is, sunscreen will run out in weeks (not
years!) when used daily and in the correct amount.
Q: What sunscreens do you like the best?
And do you have different recommendations by age? What SPF do you
recommend for children?
KH: My favorite and best method of sun
protection for babies under six months of age is total avoidance.
Shade, shade, shade.
My preferred method of sun protection for infants
over six months and kids of all ages is sun protective clothing
such as rashguards, swim shirts, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Seeking shade should also be prioritized, particularly during the
sun's strongest rays between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2
Sunscreen can be applied to the skin of infants
over 6 months, toddlers and kids of all ages not covered by long
sleeves, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. The three
non-negotiable elements to look for in a quality sunscreen
1) Broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB)
2) An SPF of 30 or greater
3) Water resistance
A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 blocks 97
percent of the sun's rays. Higher number SPFs block slightly more,
but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's rays.
High-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs.
Therefore, regardless of the number, it should be re-applied
approximately every one to two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy
days, and most importantly during times of heavy sun-exposure, such
as after swimming or sweating.
Sunscreens that contain physical blocking agents
such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (in concentrations above 4
percent) are my preferred protection for all ages. These
non-chemical minerals are less likely to cause irritation to
sensitive skin, making it the ideal choice for infants and
toddlers. Some examples of my favorite sunscreens for all ages
include EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 (physical only),
EltaMD UV Sport Waterproof SPF 50 (combined physical/chemical),
Badger Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 35 (physical only) and Vanicream
Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin, SPF 60 (physical only).
Q: Is it necessary for kids to wear UV
sun protective clothing?
Q: Should kids always wear hats and
Q: How important are rashguards?
It is nearly impossible to apply and reapply the
appropriate amount of sunscreen in the correct time intervals to
keep skin safe and protected. Rashguards and swim shirts provide
ongoing protection. Utilizing sun protective clothing to protect
the bulk of sun exposed skin also allows for more reasonable and
easy-to-succeed sunscreen application and reapplication of the much
smaller areas not covered by clothing (e.g., face, hands, lower
Q: How much sunscreen do you recommend
being applied? I feel like sometimes I lather it on my kids,
which adds to their resistance in wanting to comply.
KH: Unfortunately, no one seems to use
enough sunscreen. Sunscreen should be generously coated to all skin
areas that cannot be covered by clothing. Most people only apply
25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. And,
unfortunately, the UV protection indicated on the product label
will be meaningless if less than the recommended amount of
sunscreen is applied. The guideline of "one ounce, enough to
fill a shot glass", is the amount needed to cover the exposed areas
of the body. Depending on your body size, this amount of sunscreen
should be adjusted.
Q: Do you only have to apply sunscreen
on sunny days?
KH: No. Sunscreen, or a daily
moisturizer with SPF, should be applied every day you are outside.
The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays year round. Even on
cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays can
penetrate your skin.
Q: Are the sprays as effective as the
KH: Spray sunscreens, though found to be
very convenient for parents, are relatively controversial. The FDA
is currently investigating the risks of accidental inhalation of
spray sunscreens. And, current FDA regulations on testing and
standardization of sunscreens do not pertain to spray sunscreens.
The agency continues to evaluate these products to ensure safety
The practical challenge in using spray sunscreens is that
it is difficult to know if you have used enough sunscreen to cover
all sun-exposed areas of the body, which may result in inadequate
coverage. The one spray sunscreen I do like contains over nine
percent zinc oxide, called EltaMD UV Aero Broad-Spectrum SPF
Spray sunscreen should not be applied around or near the
face or mouth. Accidental fume inhalation can be avoided by
spraying adequate amounts of the sunscreen into your hands and then
applying the sunscreen.
Q: What about those powder sunscreens that were
all the rage last year?
KH: These are fine! In fact, most of
these have a high percentage of zinc oxide in them, my preferred
ingredient for sun protection. Overall, the kind of sunscreen you
choose is a matter of personal choice. Sometimes, the sunscreen
vehicle preference depends on the area of the body being protected.
Creams are best for dry skin and the face. Powders are great for
reapplying to the face throughout the day so as not to disrupt
makeup. Gels are good for hairy areas, such as the scalp or male
chest. Sticks are good to use around the eyes. There are also lip
balms or lipsticks specially formulated with SPF for this
Q: How long should kids wait after
putting on sunscreen before they can go in the water? Should they
reapply the sunscreen immediately after coming out of the water or
are the waterproof/ water resistant sunscreens still effective from
their prior application?
KH: Sunscreen should be applied to dry
skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors. Sunscreen should be
reapplied every one to two hours or immediately after swimming or
sweating heavily. Use extra caution (30-45 minute
reapplication times) near water, snow and sand as they reflect the
damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of
Q: Can parents use the same sunscreen
that we're putting on our kids?
KH: Of course! We are all on the quest
for our perfect sun protection arsenal to keep our skin healthy and
protected from the sun. Let the search begin!
Chrissy Jones is a local Chicago mom blogger with three children (12,7 & 4). Her blog Beyondthepark.com showcases the best special events, activities, restaurants and products for Chicago families.
See more of Chrissy's stories here.
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