Lots of good sunscreens are available for kids, including formulations for sensitive skin, brands with fun scents like watermelon, long-lasting waterproof and sweat-proof versions, and easy-application varieties in spray bottles.
What matters most in a sunscreen is the degree of protection from UV rays it provides. When faced with the overwhelming sea of sunscreen choices at drugstores, concentrate on the SPF (sun protection factor) numbers on the labels.
For kids age 6 months and older, select an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent both sunburn and tanning. Choose a sunscreen that states on the label that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays (referred to as "broad-spectrum" sunscreen). In general, sunscreens provide better protections against UVB rays than UVA rays, making signs of skin aging a risk even with consistent use of sunscreen.
For sunscreen to do its job, it must be applied correctly. Be sure to:
• Apply sunscreen whenever kids will be in the sun.
• Apply sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before kids go outside so that a good layer of protection can form. Don't forget about lips, hands, ears, feet, shoulders and behind the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them (in case the straps shift as a child moves).
• Don't try to stretch out a bottle of sunscreen; apply it generously.
• Reapply sunscreen often, approximately every 2 hours, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. Reapply after a child has been sweating or swimming.
• Apply a waterproof sunscreen if kids will be around water or swimming. Water reflects and intensifies the sun's rays, so kids need protection that lasts. Waterproof sunscreens may last up to 80 minutes in the water, and some are also sweat- and rub-proof; but regardless of the waterproof label, be sure to reapply sunscreen when kids come out of the water.