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The best sunscreens to use on kids

"Just because it says baby on the label doesn't mean it's just for babies," Dr. Kally Papantoniou says of sunscreen. Credit: Dreamstime

At what age can parents switch a child from baby to kids’ sunscreen, and at what age can they switch from kids’ to adult sunscreen?

The infant and kids’ sunscreens are zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based, which are mineral blockers and gentler and less irritating to sensitive younger skin than the chemicals used in many adult formulas, says Dr. Kally Papantoniou of Advanced Dermatology in Commack.

“You don’t want to be spreading something all over a baby’s body that might irritate their skin,” she says. In fact, parents shouldn’t be using any sunscreen at all on babies younger than 6 months, Papantoniou says. Instead, limit exposure to the sun by keeping baby in the shade and in sun-protective clothing.

She recommends that her patients use baby sunscreen until about age 2 or 3, even though it’s marketed to infants, she says. “Just because it says baby on the label doesn’t mean it’s just for babies,” she says. “It just means it’s gentle enough to use on a baby.”

Papantoniou has two children, ages 2 and 6, and she still uses baby sunscreen on both.

When advancing from baby sunscreen to a “kids’” product, parents should be aware of the ingredients. Again, look for zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide to block UVA and UVB rays.

Adults typically prefer the chemical sunscreens because they are more aesthetically pleasing — they’re more sheer and don’t leave as much of a film when applied, she says.

“I generally recommend switching at 12, 13, 14 — the early teenage years. That’s around the age when the kids tend to become more conscious of the sunscreen, what it looks like,” Papantoniou says. “They might be less inclined to wear sunscreen if it doesn’t look right.”


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