What you need to know when picking SPF for your kids…. and more!
A few weeks back, we presented an Instagram Live with Dr Britt Craiglow. She is a widely recognized expert in pediatric dermatology. She has authored over fifty publications, speaks at national and international conferences, and has served as an investigator on numerous clinical trials. She practices in Fairfield, CT if you are lucky enough to live in the area. You can also find her on Tik Tok @dermdrbritt.
We loved our Instagram Live with Dr Britt so much that we decided to turn it into a blog. If you prefer to watch the IG Live, head over to Instagram, the episode is saved in the IGTV icon.
My kids get the importance of sunscreen (4 and 6). From the beginning, we have been very rigorous about skincare. Last year, I realized how much. My then 4-year old came to me and said ‘can you get my Legos from the driveway’ and I asked him why he could not get them himself. He replied ‘I don’t have sunscreen on!’ Maybe we have done too good of a job!!
One of the things I tell parents is to ‘make it part of your routine from the beginning’. My kids know we don’t go out or play outside without protection, sunscreen, a rash guard. Now that they are older, I let them participate, choose the one they want to use, put it on themselves. It’s really like wearing helmets on a ski slope, no one did that when I was growing up. Now everyone wears a helmet skiing. And same thing for sunscreen. It’s what their friends do too, so it’s easier when they do what their friends are doing too. Wear sunscreen, a hat, a rash guard.
As a dermatologist and a mom, what is the key thing to look for when picking out SPF for kids?
My number one rule is “The best sunscreen is the one they will wear!”
As dermatologists, we like sunscreens that are at least SPF 30 or more, that is water resistant and in general, for kids, I prefer physical blockers or mineral blockers which contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. I often say look for zinc and/or titanium and you will be ok. I don’t love the aerosol sunscreens because the application may not be sufficient. People should use the equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen to cover their whole body.
What do you recommend for a beach day with kids in terms of clothes/bathing suits?
I love rash guards or long sleeve UPF clothing. The more you can cover with clothing the better. Make sure they wear a hat as the scalp is a place we see a lot of skin cancer in older patients. Rash guards or full-on suits for littler kids. And make sure to reapply every couple of hours and on the important areas – top of the ears, back of the hands, feet, behind the knees, you want to cover every square inch of exposed skin.
Sticks or Crème?
My boys like the sticks a lot, especially for the face. You need to make sure you cover every square inch. They are great for getting the nose. The crèmes can feel nice too if they are well engineered like MDSolarSciences’.
Any tips for application on kids?
The earlier you start and make it part of your routine, the more they get used to it. I also like to tie something to it, ‘when you have your sunscreen on, you can do ____.” Also let them participate, choose where to put it on first, give them a little control over the situation. Or put a big blob on their face and take a funny picture. Once you get through the younger years, it becomes relatively easy, especially if they have something they want to do afterwards – go to the beach, to the pool, play outside…
However creative you have to be, make it happen, make a little game of it – you can use a beauty blender if you want, that can be fun.
I have had multiple skin cancers so our family does not stay out on the beach for hours, but it’s hard when they are having fun to remember to reapply. It’s important to reapply every 2 hours or if they have been in the water for a long time, or are sweating a lot. Always err on the side of caution for reapplication.
Why physical over chemical sunscreen?
There is a lot in the media about chemical sunscreen and the jury is still out over safety data. There are studies that suggest that chemical sunscreen can be absorbed into the blood stream, but keep in mind that in these studies, people used a lot more than is typical. But in general, something sitting on the surface of the skin is probably safer, so that is why we tend to prefer mineral sunscreens, especially for babies and toddlers.
Why start them young?
Starting sunscreen young is the best anti-aging tool. Also skin cancer happens. I got too much sun as a kid, I am very fair and would get tanned in the summer. A lot of the damage is done in childhood. Also, when you are young, you don’t think about what your skin will look like later, so we are here to remind them.
Toddlers, elementary school age kids are getting a much better sunscreen message than before.
For teens, talk about it as something that is essentially skincare. When you are 50 and if you did not use sunscreen, you will not be happy.
Is skin more fragile when you are a child?
For sure, an infant or young toddler, especially babies, are more susceptible to sun damage. Every skin type needs sunscreen, we recommend it for any skin type, even if you don’t burn, you might get skin cancer and aging happens to everybody.
What do you recommend to parents of kids with very sensitive skin or eczema?
For them, physical blockers for sure. Trying to find products that have fewer ingredients. Some additives can be irritating. Usually winter is the worse for eczema but some get worse in the summer when they get sweaty. In the summertime, I recommend more frequent bathing because there are more irritants, also to remove sunscreen at the end of the day.
For teenagers, what are some of the best ingredients for acne prone skin? Or rosacea type skin?
Again, generally less is more. Some suncreens like MDsolarSciences' contain anti inflammatory ingredients like Niacinamide which has added benefits.
Biggest recommendations for teenagers? Tips for better skin in the future?
Skincare is very trendy. Everybody gets their skincare tips from Hyram and Tik Tok. Some of my patients ask me if they should have a skincare routine. If you are a teenager and have great skin, you may not need to have a multi step skincare routine. If you cleanse, moisturize and apply sunscreen, you are probably fine.
Also, just because something works for your friend, it might not work for you. Stay away from peer pressure and do what is best for your skin.
Most common issues you see in kids and teens skincare?
Most common things I see in little kids is atopic dermatitis (eczema). Very common in babies. It tends to improve over time. For them, my recommendation for skincare is to be gentle. Less is more. Natural or organic formulas may have a lot of plant-based additives that can be irritants. Minimize irritants. Use a soap free cleanser, make sure you moisturize.
For teens, acne is the #1 issue. I try to get a sense of how much it bothers them. The most important thing is matching them to the right product or treatment, as they might be using a product that does not work for their type of acne. Also, they may be spot treating and that is not enough. You also need to be patient, you need a good 2 months of treatment to see long term improvements.
A lot of acne treatments make you more susceptible to the sun, so you need to be more careful if you use topical retinoids, Accutane, etc. Adding sunscreen is so important. Teenagers don’t want to look like they have sunscreen on. That’s why I love products like the Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30 from MDSolarSciences because it does not look or feel like sunscreen. If you have acne scars that are pink or red, sunscreen is the best thing you can use.
What are your thoughts on removing sunscreen at the end of the day?
Double cleansing is definitely trendy. I don’t double cleanse, I don’t have time! Cleansing is a place where you can save money, splurge on sunscreen, Vitamin C serum, but not on cleansing. People are using micellar water, that can be very effective. If you wear a lot of makeup, that could be a good start.
With kids, you can just use a cloth to help remove the sunscreen in the bath. But it’s totally ok if a little bit is left on the skin.
• Start them young, make it fun
• Prefer a physical/mineral SPF blocker
• Keep it simple – cleanse, moisturize, protect with SPF
• See a dermatologist if you are dealing with recurring acne
EARLY 20s and beyond…
• Once you hit 25, the top 3 things to do for your skin are:
• Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen!
• Add a retinoid to your routine (introduce it slowly + use SPF)
• Anti oxidants (Vitamin C)
• Find a product with SPF that feels good to wear
• Find a routine that works for you
• Ask yourself, Is it effective and how does it feel?
To learn more about our Kids' formulas, check out this blog.