Putting (and Keeping) Sunscreen on Children

1. Before applying, consider other ways to protect skin

Dressing your child in sun-safe clothing will minimize the amount of skin you have to cover with sunscreen, which will reduce the struggle from the start.

2. Make it a ritual right from the start

Kids should understand early on: “The privilege of getting to do this fun activity comes with the responsibility of taking care of our skin while we do it.”

3. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply

When you arrive at the beach and kids can see the water, the last thing they’ll want to do is hang around for a sunscreen application. Make sure they’re protected and ready to go.

For sunscreen to work best, apply it 30 minutes before exposure to the sun.  In an ideal world, you’re in an indoor environment when you apply.

4. Apply when they’re strapped in their car seat

This approach can make the process easier with infants and toddlers.

5. Make it fun

Make up games, sing songs, do a silly dance — whatever it takes to make the sunscreen application fun.

6. With older kids, appeal to their vanity

The most powerful strategy for reluctant teens is not around cancer risk and scary scars from melanoma, but around vanity and appearances.

7. Consider spray

They’re convenient, easy to use, and may encourage families to reapply sunscreen in regular intervals.

8. Make sure you have enough

The key to having sunscreen stay in the right place is to use enough. You need an ounce of sunscreen to cover someone’s whole body, so if you have a 3-ounce bottle, it won’t last for a whole day once you start to reapply.

9. Reapply strategically

When children get out of the water for a break or a snack, it’s the perfect time to reapply.

10. Be prepared for impromptu fun in the sun

A sunscreen stick packed in a purse will ensure you always have sunscreen on hand.