Hey Laura, when should I apply sunscreen?

Amy writes:

So, what’s the big deal with putting sunscreen on the kids first thing in the morning…does it really work? I have always done this and know so many others who do, but I know for my kids we have to reapply quite soon after we finally get out in the sun. Does it really help/work to put sunscreen on the kids first thing in the morning, even and esp if you’re not really going to be out in the sun until later in the morning or afternoon?

I honestly had never even heard of this practice until Amy asked the question! Sure, I wear a face lotion with spf 15, but I have never considered putting actual sunblock on myself or my kids unless I’m anticipating some major sun exposure.

So, I did some reading and of course found varying opinions. Here are a couple of articles written by opinion editors on parenting sites.

This article from HealthyChild.com suggests that lathering our skin with potentially toxic chemicals every day could be worse for our health than incidental sun exposure. (I tend to agree, actually.)

This ParentDish.com article interviews a dermatologist who adamantly supports daily sunscreen application for kids. He says we should even be applying it to our kids’ scalps. (What?!)

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends:

Sunscreen should be applied every day to exposed skin, and not just if you are going to be in the sun.


Sunscreens should [also?] be applied to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.


Sunscreens should be reapplied approximately every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily…Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so if you’ve towel-dried [or you’ve sat in a chair, or rubbed your arm against your side, or, or, or], reapply sunscreen for continued protection.

These instructions seem really unrealistic and rather paranoid, if you ask me. Plus, the AAD says that you must use one ounce (imagine a shot glass full of sunscreen) in order to adequately cover your exposed parts. An ounce?! My favorite kid-friendly sunscreen comes in a 2.9 ounce tube. The AAD recommends I go through about three tubes of sunscreen (per person!) per week?! Assuming I only applied it once a day (a violation of AAD protocol), that would mean spending $39 a week on sunscreen, or $2028 to keep one person “safe from the sun” for a year.

Doesn’t that sound a bit fishy to you?

The thing you have to remember, when sifting through the opposing “evidence” is who is funding the research. It is estimated that 20 percent—more than $6 million—of the American Academy of Dermatology’s budget comes directly from sunscreen makers (ironically, the source for that factoid is a tanning company exec!). On the flip-side, the indoor-tanning industry funds all kinds of pro-sunshine propaganda as well! Can you say conflict of interest?

It’s important to be informed, but ultimately you have to just pick a side and do what you feel is best for your family!


Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, when should I apply sunscreen?

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