A mean mom (and doctor’s) rules on sunscreen

Summer is in full swing, bringing with it sunny skies and lots of time outdoors. Whether it is afternoons at the pool or beach, or fun-filled days at summer camp, your kids are likely soaking up the sun.  In my house, we have adopted a few hard and fast rules when it comes to sun protection:

  • Sunscreen is a non-negotiable. If your kids are like mine, they hate getting sunscreen applied. They are usually excited to get in the pool, or running out the door to summer camp. However, they know no matter how much they fuss or whine, they will never win this battle. I’ve found that using a sunscreen that is easy to apply and rubs in quickly works best to keep my wiggly kids happy. I also use stick sunscreens on the face to keep my kids protected in a pinch. Just make sure the sunscreen is at least an SPF 15, and is labeled “broad spectrum” to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Yes, they must wait. Often, I use a barrier sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which means no wait time after applying. But for those times when I only have a chemical sunscreen available, I make them wait the recommended amount of time before they go out to play in the sun or jump in the pool. Check the information on the sunscreen bottle as the time may vary, but typically kids should stay out of the sun and water for 30 minutes until the sunscreen soaks in. And be sure you are applying enough – about one ounce of sunscreen is the recommended amount per application.
  • Take a break to reapply. So I’m the “mean mom” who makes their kids stop what they are doing to reapply their sunscreen. In fact, I set a timer for 80 minutes when they are in the pool or ocean, as directed on the sunscreen label. The last thing I want is for them to get sunburned because I forgot to reapply. I also send the sunscreen sticks with them to summer camp so they can reapply before outdoor activities.
  • Protective clothes. My kids have reached the age where they refuse to wear hats in the sun, but I do still insist on sun-protective rash guards and bathing suits with SPF protection when they are in the pool or at the beach. For younger kids, I strongly suggest a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Choose outdoor times wisely. I try to limit my kids’ direct sun exposure between 10am-4pm whenever possible, to keep them out of the sun’s strongest rays. We do lots of late afternoon swims and bike rides for just this reason.


If you keep these tips in mind this summer, you will be taking positive steps to protect your family from the dangers of the sun. And remember to model good behavior for your children as well by applying your own sunscreen every day!


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