What’s the Difference Between Child and Adult Sunscreen?
Here's what to know before you put that grown-up SPF on your little one.
I'll admit, I occasionally use sunscreens on my three-year-old son that aren't formulated specifically for children. I'm more likely to pay attention to how the sunscreen reacts on my sensitive skin when determining whether it's something I should use on my toddler. Lately though, I've been rethinking this trial-and-error process that up to this point has (thankfully) only had positive results. Is it really safe for me to be using adult sunscreen on my little guy, even if I'm only using the super gentle formulas?
To get the full picture, I reached out to Dr. Jill Fichtel of Nashville-based Transformative Dermatology. In short, it seems I was on the right track—adult sunscreens can be used for kiddos, but taking a good look at the ingredients is of the upmost importance.
"As long as it is a sunscreen that only has titanium and/or zinc," says Dr. Fichtel, "there's absolutely no reason a kid shouldn't use adult sunscreens."
Sunscreens that utilize titanium and/or zinc as the primary ingredients are known as mineral sunscreens. That means they sit on top of the skin, deflecting rays, rather than being absorbed into it. These formulas are less likely to irritate sensitive skin, making them ideal for little ones.
Dr. Fichtel also shared a few more sun-care reminders that go for all ages. As we head into the second half of the summer (where has the time gone?), we'll be taking these quick tips to heart:
Daily sun protection isn't just for your face.
Whether you're heading to the office or the carpool line, you should first slather SPF on your arms, neck, chest, and hands too. We're not just talking beach days here. "These areas are at greatest risk for wrinkles, age spots, and non-melanoma skin cancer," says Dr. Fichtel
Avoid fragrance and waterproof and water-resistant formulas.
As many with sensitive skin already know, it's best to avoid SPF that includes fragrance ingredients as they can prove to be quite irritating. In addition, acne-prone skin will want to skip the waterproof and water-resistant formulas—they can trigger breakouts.
Go for all-over protection when you're outdoors.
"Use any sunscreen that's easy to apply and affordable," says Dr. Fichtel. "My preference is a spray sunscreen with at least SPF 30." She reminds that you'll want to reapply every 2 to 4 hours if you're in direct sunlight and reapply after a heavy sweat session or swimming—regardless of whether you're using a water-resistant or waterproof option.
WATCH: A Dermatologist Warns Against Using This Type of Sunscreen
Get an extra dose of sun protection.
If you're really looking to boost your sun protection, Dr. Fichtel suggests taking a supplement called Heliocare before heading out in the sun. Learn more here.