Two kids hugging at a sand beach
kate_sept2004/E+/Getty Images

Turns Out, Your Kids Should Always Wear Sunscreen

by Caroline Tung Richmond

Growing up, my brother and I rarely used sunscreen. Sure, our parents made us slather it on whenever we headed to swim practice, but other than that we pretty much ignored the sunscreen bottle. Crazy, I know. Now that I'm a parent myself, I liberally apply SPF lotion on my toddler's face every morning and I spray her down before I send her off to preschool, but I still wonder if I'm doing enough. So when should kids wear sunscreen? And how often should you reapply it? If you're like me, you wouldn't mind learning a couple pointers on how to protect your child's skin.

Sun care is very important for kids because their skin is especially vulnerable to harmful rays. Parents magazine pointed out, too, that a kid who gets just one blistering sunburn during childhood is at higher risk of developing melanoma. Obviously, this doesn't mean that you should turn your kids into pseudo-vampires and keep them indoors until the sun sets, but it is important to keep their skin protection in mind.

As a rule of thumb, the Skin Care Foundation recommended kids3 use sunscreen year-round, even when it's overcast or in the middle of winter. This is because UV rays can penetrate clouds and also because children tend to spend more time outside when it's cooler. So be sure to line up your kids and lather on that sunscreen — especially on overlooked areas like the ears — even if there's a foot of snow on your lawn. While you're at it, don't forget about eye protection either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested wearing sunglasses that block out as much UVA and UVB rays as possible.

In general, you should reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, but you should increase that amount during the summertime when kids are swimming and sweating more often. If you're using a water-resistant lotion, the American Cancer Society noted that you should read the fine print because some products will protect the skin for 40 minutes while others can stretch up to 80 minutes. And when it doubt, it doesn't hurt to reapply, although you may have to listen to your beloved child whine about it. (They will thank you later.)

While sun care is essential for growing kids, you shouldn't put sunscreen on your baby until they're at least 6 months old. Instead, dress your infant in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs, according to the Mayo Clinic, and keep them out of direct sunlight. Don't forget to put on a wide-brimmed hat, too, not only to protect their face, but because babies in hats are super adorable.

Parents have so much to worry about these days, from screen time to social media, but thankfully protecting your children's skin is pretty straightforward. Just remember to apply sunscreen everyday and keep an eye out for any sunburns, and you can breathe easy that you're doing right by your kids — at least in one department.