Sunscreen FAQ to Keep Michigan Kids Safe in the Summer Sun


Now that summer fun is finally in sight for kids in Michigan, we thought it would be a good time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about sunscreen.

Q: What does SPF mean?

A: SPF is an acronym for sun protection factor. The rating system is used to evaluate how effective the product is at preventing sunburn. What that means is if your child typically can only be in the sun for 5 minutes before they begin to experience sunburn, an SPF of 15 will allow them to be outdoors 15 times longer or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15.

Q: What type of sunscreen is better to use a stick, spray or cream?

A: That depends on which part of the body you are covering. For the most part, a cream or spray can be used anywhere from the neck down. For the face, especially around the eyes, a stick is best. They help you cover the curves and contours in their face without getting sunscreen in the child’s eyes. Creams and sprays are equally effective if they contain the same ingredients. 

Q: Is there a difference between UVA and UVB?

A: Yes. UVA refers to ultraviolet A rays and UVB to ultraviolet B rays. It is UVB rays that cause the skin to burn, but both can be equally damaging to the skin. UVA rays are more common and penetrate the skin more deeply. 

Q: At what age should you begin applying sunscreen to a baby?

A: Experts generally say children under the age of 6 months should be kept out of the sun and not covered in sunscreen. The chemicals generally aren’t safe for a baby’s delicate skin. If that isn’t possible for some reason, talk with your pediatrician about what baby-safe sunscreen product they might recommend. 

Q: How often should sunscreen be re-applied?

A: That depends upon what activities your children are engaged in while they are outside. For the most part, the rule is every 2 hours.  If they are swimming or working up a sweat, re-apply more frequently. 

Remember, it only takes one burn where a child’s skin blisters to double their risk for deadly melanoma later in life. To learn more about children and sun safety, visit The Skin Care Foundation.