Sun creams for children, how to choose and apply them


  • 1 Sun: some things to know
  • 2 Sun creams: high protection 
  • 3 Sun creams: effectiveness
  • 4 Sun creams: safety
  • 5 Sun creams: protection in water
  • 6 Sun creams and exposure: general advice
  • 7 Recognize a sunburn
  • 8 What to do in case of sunburn

The luckiest mothers are already at the seaside or in the mountains with their children, for many others departures are approaching, while others will be satisfied with "hit and run" days. Are you all ready to sunbathe in a healthy and risk-free way? There aren't many rules to follow, but especially when it comes to our little ones, precautions are never enough. Starting with sun creams, essential to keep dangerous burns away. So let's see how to choose the best and the tips to stay under the sun in complete safety.

Sun: some things to know

The sun's rays are very important for the production and synthesis of vitamin D, a substance that is very good for our health and that we often underestimate a bit, for example in pregnancy (we talked about it HERE). To assimilate it better, however, we had to stay under the sun during the hottest hours and without sun protection. That's exactly what dermatologists forbid! So sunbathing means getting a ticket for melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer there is.

This is why pediatricians strongly recommend vitamin D supplementation for children and even we adults should check it every now and then with tests to see if we are deficient.

Children's skin is particularly sensitive to sunburn. A severe one in childhood is enough to double the chances of melanoma when you grow up. Infants under 6 months should never be exposed directly and the protective cream should always be spread. Take them to the sea in the early morning and late afternoon, when the rays are a little less violent. 

Those who are fair in complexion, hair and eyes are at greater risk, even if no one is immune from the potential damage of the sun. These categories of people, however, will have to choose sun creams with even greater care. 

The criteria according to which to buy a sunscreen for our children are: high protection, efficacy, safety, protection in the water. 

Sun creams: high protection 

Sun creams are classified according to the protection factor. On the package you will find written SPF or Sun Protection Factor, ranging from 6 to 50+. The higher the number, the greater the protection. A very high SPF of 50+ is required for infants and children. The suggestion applies to all little ones, no matter if they have a darker complexion.

Forget about tanning products as they are not protective enough. They often activate the production of melanin, the substance that gives the skin the beautiful color of a tan, but in babies they can be harmful. To be honest they are not good for adults either ...

Sun creams: effectiveness

To be really good, a sunscreen must contain products that shield you from: 

  • low wavelength ultraviolet rays (UVB);
  • high wavelength ultraviolet rays (UVA).

The former are the most dangerous because they cause burns and tumors. I UVA, on the other hand, tans, but at the same time can cause long-term damage to the skin (photoaging) and accentuate the carcinogenic effects of UVB rays.

Sun creams: safety

This is a basic choice criterion: our children's sun creams must be safe and respect their very delicate skin. In some subjects, certain components of the sunscreens can trigger allergic reactions or in any case be irritating. The most common "accused" ingredients are paraaminobenzoic acid (PABA) and its derivatives (parabens), perfumes and dyes.

To be on the safe side, do a "skin test" on a new cream. Spread some on your forearm 48 hours before using it all over your body. If you develop a redness, itchiness or other skin reaction, or if your baby's eyes burn, it is evident that something has bothered him. At this point you have to change the product, perhaps choosing a hypoallergenic one.

If you have extremely sensitive skin, which tends to burn or become filled with sunburn, buy a product that contains titanium dioxide. This substance is capable of blocking the UV component of solar radiation. 

Sun creams: protection in water

Have you ever seen a child from one year of age standing still under an umbrella for more than 3 minutes? A rarity! For the little ones, the best thing is to splash around in the water, a continuous and tireless coming and going. Sun creams for them must therefore be water resistant. 

This does not mean, however, that it is enough to spread it just once and that's it. Even the most water resistant cream eventually loses its effectiveness. It is therefore necessary to put it repeatedly.

Sun creams and exposure: general advice

  • The ideal time to spread the cream is 30 minutes before sun exposure. This way, you already start protecting in advance, for example if you have to walk to the beach; 
  • older children need larger amounts of cream because they get wet often;
  • the nose, lips and ears are the parts of the body most prone to sun damage. Ask your pediatrician if you can use a lip balm or a full-screen or zinc oxide-based stick;
  • 80% of solar radiation penetrates through the clouds. Sun creams should be used even if the weather is apparently not nice;
  • sunscreens should also be used in the mountains: the sun is more striking;
  • water and sand reflect the sun's rays, increasing the risk of damage and the need for protection;
  • wet skin favors the penetration of ultraviolet rays;
  • apply the cream every 2-3 hours, more often if the child plays in water or if he sweats a lot;
  • always use a cap with a visor to protect the baby's eyes and face;
  • from 8-9 months yes to the use of sunglasses that filter harmful rays. There are 4 degrees of protection: choose the maximum. Check that they comply with UNI 1836 and that we have the CE mark;
  • if your child is undergoing drug therapy, check that the drug he is taking does not increase sensitivity to sunlight. Some antibiotics are among them.

Recognizing a sunburn

If you are not particularly careful, sunscreens may not be enough to fully protect children's skin, for example if you go to the beach at noon or if you forget to put the cream back on after a while. When the signs of sunburn are evident, it means that you have arrived late. The skin is red, inflamed and very hot, a condition that lasts for up to 10-14 hours.

In more serious cases, the sunburn is accompanied by blisters and pain. When it is really bad, the child complains of headaches, chills and nausea. Usually, the redness begins to subside and symptoms subside after 48 to 72 hours. At this point the skin peels off.

What to do in case of sunburn

  • Apply fresh tap water compresses for 10-15 minutes 3-4 times a day until there is redness.
  • In between packs, spread an aloe vera-based gel (available at the drugstore, but you can also use a peeled fresh leaf) or a moisturizer.
  • Consult your pediatrician if the pain is very intense. He may prescribe a pain reliever, cortisone ointments for blisters, or antihistamines. Do not take any initiative without asking for his opinion.
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