Everything You Need to Know About Sun Protection

While you should enjoy the outdoors to the fullest this season, make sure keep your skin safe when you’re having fun in the sun! Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about sun protection and how to best protect your family from the sun’s powerful rays.

What’s the difference between UVA and UVB?

In simple terms, UVA rays are what cause the skin to tan, while UVB rays cause the skin to burn. Though you might have heard that UVB rays are more dangerous than UVA, scientists are now saying that the damage from UVA rays can cause skin cancer too. This new information is especially significant because, according the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more common than UVB!

What does SPF mean? How much SPF should you use?

SPF stands for sun protective factor – this number tells you how long it will take for UVB rays to burn the skin when using the sunscreen compared to how long it would take without using the sunscreen. For example, if your child starts to burn after 5 minutes of sun exposure, then an SPF 15 sunscreen should keep them protected for 75 minutes, or an hour and 15 minutes (5 minutes multiplied by 15 SPF = 75 minutes).

What should you look for in a sunscreen?

Since we know that UVA and UVB rays are both harmful, look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects your skin against both. Try to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. If you’re going to be at the beach or pool, then you’ll want to find one that is waterproof. Also, some children are sensitive to certain sunscreen ingredients, and tend to tolerate zinc oxide or titanium dioxide better than other chemical ingredients. Do a spot check of the sunscreen on your child’s upper arm ahead of time, and check the area in 24 hours for any sign of a rash.

How much sunscreen should you use on your child, and how often do you need to reapply?

If your child is less than 6 months of age it is not usually recommended to use sunscreen on them, but if your doctor says it’s okay then aim to use it in small amounts. Instead, keep your baby out of the sun and use protective clothing to keep them safe.  For anyone over the age of 6 months, experts recommend that you apply one ounce of sunscreen to the entire body 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming.

General tips:

  • Seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when UVB rays are the strongest.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use sunscreen all year round! Up to 80% of UV rays penetrate clouds and reflect off sand, water, snow, concrete, etc. Cooler, overcast days can be even more dangerous because people stay outside for longer.
  • Never go to tanning salons!
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