Kids are more vulnerable to damage from the sun than adults. A few blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s lifetime chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer.

The best sunscreen is a hat and shirt. After that, protect kids with a sunscreen that’s effective and safe. Our tips will help you keep kids of all ages safe in the sun.

Infants

Infants under 6 months should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible. Their skin is not yet protected by melanin. When you take your baby outside:

  • Cover them up with protective clothing that is tightly woven but loose-fitting, and a sun hat.
  • Make shade. Use the stroller’s canopy or hood. If you can’t sit in a shady spot, use an umbrella.
  • Avoid midday sun. Take walks in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • Follow product warnings for sunscreens on infants younger than 6 months old. Most manufacturers advise against using sunscreens on infants, or advise parents and caregivers to consult a doctor first.

Toddlers and children

Sunscreens are an essential part of a day in the sun. But young children’s skin is especially sensitive to chemical allergens – as well as the sun’s UV rays.

  • Test sunscreen by applying a small amount on the inside of your child’s wrist the day before you plan to use it. If an irritation or rash develops, try another product. Ask your child’s doctor to suggest a product less likely to irritate your child’s skin.
  • Apply plenty of sunscreen and reapply it often, especially if your child is playing in the water or sweating a lot. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests about one ounce of sunscreen per application for a child.

Teens

Teenagers coveting bronzed skin are likely to sunbathe, patronize tanning salons or buy self-tanning products – all of which are bad ideas. Researchers believe that increasing UV exposure may have caused the marked increase in melanoma incidence noted among women born after 1965. Tanning parlors expose the skin to as much as 15 times more UV radiation than the sun and likely contribute to the melanoma increase. Many chemicals in self-tanning products have not been tested for safety.

Parents of teens should be good role models – let your teen see that you protect yourself from the sun. Tan does not mean healthy.

Sun safety at school

Sometimes school and daycare policies interfere with children's sun safety. Many schools treat sunscreen as a medicine and require written permission to use it on a child. Some insist that the school nurse apply it. Some ban hats and sunglasses. Here are a few questions to ask your school:

  • What is the policy on sun safety?
  • Is there shade on the playground?
  • Are outdoor activities scheduled to avoid midday sun?

Click here to see the best scoring kids’ products in EWG’s 2018 Guide to Sunscreens.

EWG is committed to providing parents with vital information on children’s exposures to environmental contaminants. Stay tuned in to EWG’s work, in particular our Children’s Health Initiative, for the latest breaking news and analysis.