As the weather becomes hot, it becomes important to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of sun rays. This is true in case of children too. Whether your children are toddlers or teens, it is crucial that they use sunscreen on their skin to protect them from burns and sun damage.

How can you choose the right sunscreen for your child? And, just as importantly, how can you encourage kids who are old enough to apply it themselves? Keeping your kids safe from the sun is an important part of protecting their health. You won't just be saving your kids from sunburns - you'll be helping to prevent long-term sun damage, and even reducing their risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

Keep Age in Mind
Children have different sun protection needs depending on their age. It is recommended that babies younger than six months be kept out of direct sunlight. For example, it is a good practice to keep a baby covered with a sunhat, long pants, and long sleeves, and shade them under a stroller canopy or umbrella.

When babies under six months can't be properly shaded, you should only apply sunscreen to small areas of the body, including the face and backs of hands. Babies and children older than six months can have sunscreen applied to all areas of their skin, taking care to avoid the eyes.

Choose Protection Wisely
All sunscreens are not created equally, and it's important to pick the right sunscreen for your little ones. Regardless of the age of your child, the following recommendations should be following while choosing a sunscreen for your child:

  • Select a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. The higher the SPF number, the greater the amount of sun protection.
  • The sunscreen you choose should specify "broad spectrum" on its label, which means it, screens out both types of harmful ultraviolet sunrays (UVB and UVA).

When it comes to more delicate areas of the face and body - such as the nose, ears, cheeks, and shoulders - it is recommended that parents apply a sun-block product that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These lotions often remain visible on your child's skin even after rubbing them in.

Make It Routine--and Mandatory
Finding the right sunscreen for young skin is only half the battle. The other half is convincing your kids to wear it. One of the best ways to do this is by practicing smart sunscreen habits yourself, and applying sun-protection products regularly before going outside. Routine is important to children, so make it a point to build sunscreen application into their daily schedule, particularly in the summer and on sunny days.

If you are on a beach vacation, get younger children accustomed to you putting on their sunscreen along with their swimsuit, and be sure that adolescents and teens pack sunscreen in their beach bags. Let children of all ages know that using sunscreen whenever they're in the sun is a non-negotiable step that they must take for their health and safety - just like brushing their teeth.

Educate Teens
Teenagers may be the hardest to convince about the need to wear sunscreen. But education can help - don't be afraid to discuss serious issues such as the risk of sun damage and skin cancer with your children. It only takes one or two bad sunburns to put your child at greater risk for developing skin cancer as an adult.

HealthAhead Tip: Focus on Long Lasting Protection
While your kids may complain about wearing sunscreen now, they might thank you later. However, while sunscreen can protect your child from sunburn and skin cancer, it only works if used properly. Set a good example by modeling safe sun-protection habits, choosing age-appropriate sunscreen, and teaching kids how to apply it correctly as soon as they're old enough. These simple rules can protect your family from sunburns today, and sun damage tomorrow.