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Sunscreen 101 for Kids and Adults – from the Experts at Modern Dermatology!

The good news is sun safety has never been more buzzed about…the downside is the landscape has become confusing for consumers, between new products seemingly launching every day, vitamin D hype, and headlines about SPF’s chemicals causing harm.

I’d like to start by stating what we whole heartedly know about this topic, and that is: unprotected sun exposure does cause skin cancer and premature aging of your skin. For purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the skin cancer side of things. Rates of skin cancer are on the rise and the Melanoma Research Foundation estimates that 1 person dies from Melanoma every hour.

Cumulative sun exposure is mostly responsible for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, while episodes of severe sunburns, and tanning bed use, can raise the risk of developing melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanomas may appear on the skin suddenly without warning, but also can develop within an existing mole. The majority of melanomas arise de novo (meaning new, with no associated nevus) and are more aggressive in general than melanomas that arise within existing nevi.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention with a good old-fashioned scare tactic, let’s talk about how to safe in the sun. 

When it comes to sunscreen, each product falls into one of two categories: Chemical or Physical. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin where they absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone (note: oxybenzone and avobenzone should not be used during pregnancy – and overall for pregnant woman I encourage using a physical, mineral-based sunscreen). For chemical sunscreens to work they need to be applied directly onto clean skin so they can be absorbed and do their job. On the other hand, physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and create a physical barrier that reflects the sun’s rays. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical sunscreens. If you’re using a physical sunscreen it needs to be the last thing you apply in your skincare routine for it to work.

Whichever sunscreen you’re using it should be broad spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30+, applied at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours (or immediately after swimming).

When it comes to Babies…

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using sunscreen on babies less than 6 months old. For newborns, it’s best to avoid sun exposure, but when that’s not possible I encourage UPF clothing, blankets, tents, etc. The reason for not using SPF on infants is because their skin has a much thinner stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin), giving it less protection against outside irritants, including chemicals in sunscreen.

For Kids, 6 months and older:

Overall, I recommend physical blockers for kids, they are less likely to cause irritation and kids tend to have more sensitive skin.

My favorites for kids:

  • Blue Lizard
  • ThinkBaby & ThinkSport
  • Coola
  • Supergoop
  • Kiss My Face
  • Any zinc-based sunscreen stick, which is easy for reapplying on the face and kids can even reapply on their own.

Favorites for the ladies – these are great aesthetically-pleasing options, meaning they work well with makeup, don’t leave you greasy or with a white coat on your skin. Remember if you’re using a sunscreen and makeup, apply it in the right order if the SPF is chemical or physical.

Men’s Favorites:

  • ISDIN Eryfotona
  • Supergoop Unseen
  • Kiehl’s Facial Fuel UV Guard SPF 50+
  • L’Oreal Men’s Expert Comfort Max After-Shave Balm with SPF

Sunscreens for max protection for extended time in the sun:

  • Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF50+
  • Supergoop
  • Blue Lizard
  • ThinkBaby & ThinkSport
  • Shiseido Wet Force

Favorite Liquid Sprays – liquid is the key word here. I advise against aerosolized sprays, which not only contain a large % of alcohol in them (a common skin irritant) but are also bad for the environment AND require 7x layers to yield the same protection as a lotion.

  • Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF50+ (comes as a 400ml bottle which is amazing for large families) & Bioderma Photoderm Kid SPF50+
  • Supergoop Sunny Spray
  • Kiss My Face Sunspray Lotion SPF 30
  • Elta MD UV Spray
  • Babyganics Sunscreen Spray

Favorite Sunscreen Sticks – great for kids and adults:

  • Dan’s
  • Elta MD Stick
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free
  • Bioderma Photoderm Max Large Stick

I also love UPF protective clothing for coverage. Like the SPF measurement in sunscreen, UPF is the standard to measure the effectiveness of sun protective fabrics. We have some really fun tie-die UPF rash guards at the office, which are free with purchase of $40 or more on sun protection or $10 each (available for purchase in office). We have sizes ranging from toddler through Y18 (which fits like a women’s S/M). (see photo and post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvMYx-RF2Ub/).

We’re also carrying these Salt n’ Rays UPF towels made by a local Trumbull-based mom! The towels are salt and chlorine resistant, breathable fabric to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays. The cooling fabric is sand-free (yay!), provides UPF 50+, and yes, it will dry you off.

Other UPF brands I love:

  • Athleta
  • Coolibar
  • Uvida Sun Essential Sportswear
  • Cabana Life, Boden, or Hannah Anderson for more upscale outfits
  • Lands End or REI for sportier gear
  • Don’t forget your surfing brands for more stylish adult gear (Hurley, Billabong, Roxy)

Key takeaways:

  • SPF 30+ everyday to any exposed area (face, neck, top of hands, etc)
  • Apply 15 mins before sun exposure
  • Reapply every 2 hrs. or immediately after swimming
  • UPF clothing
  • Wide brimmed hat and sunglasses

You can also refer here for more information. https://www.moderndermct.com/blog-1/melanoma101

Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, MPH, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist with award-winning experience in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology and half of the team (alongside her partner, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD) behind Westport’s Modern Dermatology, which opened in summer 2018. Dr. Klein was recently recognized by Westfair Communications on their list of 40 Under 40 list of rising stars in Fairfield County, a legacy Castle Connolly “Top Docs” and Aesthetics Everything “Top 100 Aesthetic Doctors.” Dr. Klein lives in Westport with her husband Gentry and their four children: Luke (9), Tyler (7), Cameron (6) and Isla (3).

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