By Guest Blogger Neely Turlington

Fun in the sun has begun! Before you spray, slather, smear or coat let’s talk sunscreen.

Reading a sunscreen label doesn’t have to be confusing. There are a few keywords to understand to make the best decisions for your child’s sunscreen: expiration date, SPF, broad spectrum, water-resistant and active ingredients.

Expired sunscreen is no sunscreen at all.
When’s the last time you checked your bottle’s expiration date? Sunscreens expire just like food and using them after their date makes them less effective and exposes the skin to burns, damage and increased risk for cancer.

Always check the expiration date on your lotion bottles and spray cans. Most sunscreens have a three year shelf life, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to use them. If the container has been stored in heat it may appear watery or thin. Handling sunscreen bottles over time with dirty hands (and we know kid’s hands are never clean!) allows bacteria to creep in and transfer to the skin. Expired sunscreen won’t protect you and it can carry harmful bacteria.

What is SFP anyway?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures how long you can stay in the sun before UVB rays start to burn the skin. For example, let’s say your skin starts to redden in 20 minutes without sunscreen. An SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without getting burned. SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin. A bigger impact can be made by using SPF 50 which blocks 50 percent more UV radiation onto your skin. These measurements are determined in a lab, so applying sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or sweating is always the best policy. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and SPF 30 or higher for extended sun exposure.

Choose broad spectrum for complete coverage.
Choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. UVA rays penetrate the skin more than UVB and are the chief cause of wrinkles and other signs of aging. UVB rays damage the skin’s upper layer and are the main cause of sunburn. Both rays cause skin cancer.

No sunscreen is waterproof!
Water-resistant and sweat-resistant refer to sunscreens that are effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when you are swimming or sweating. The FDA does not allow the term “waterproof” because no sunscreen is fully waterproof.

The back label doesn’t have to be scary.
On the back of your sunscreen bottles you can find the main ingredients that protect your skin from UV rays. There are two types of main active ingredients: chemical and physical. Chemical ingredients such as avobenzone work by absorbing UV and reducing is penetration into the skin. Physical ingredients such as titanium dioxide remain on the top of the skin and deflect UV rays. Both types of ingredients are important and many sunscreens contain both chemical and physical ingredients.

In summary, follow these steps to ensure healthy sun safety:
Use enough sunscreen.
Regardless of SPF, always apply one ounce (two tablespoons) to cover your face and body 30 minutes before sun exposure and re-apply it every two hours or right after swimming. With the size of most bottles, you should be applying a fourth to a third of the bottle every two hours! Don’t forget to cover those areas we often ignore like ears and eyelids.

Choose the most complete coverage.
Always choose broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher for the most coverage. Kids are active so getting a sunscreen that is water- or sweat-resistant is also a good idea.

Always have a backup method.
Using sunscreen alone may not fully protect the skin. Have a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing to keep the skin covered.

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