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When it comes to sunscreen, you know the basics: Put it on your kids (and yourself) before heading outside, and reapply often. But here's what else you need to know about keeping babies and kids safe in the sun, from Ari Brown, MD, pediatrician and co-author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411.
Look for a broad spectrum SPF. Dr. Brown recommends using a product with SPF 30 or higher that's labeled "broad spectrum." (That means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.)
Protect your baby. You may have heard that babies under 6 months shouldn't wear sunscreen, but that's outdated advice, according to Dr. Brown. "Ideally, it's best for babies (and everyone else) to avoid the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," she says. But when out in the sun, "anyone who has skin should wear sunscreen -- no matter what their age or skin type."
Apply sunscreen before heading outdoors. Slather on ample amounts of sunscreen before you go to the pool or beach. "You'll be less likely to be rushed during the application process, and it takes a few minutes for the sunscreen to start working," says Dr. Brown. And even if your tube says "waterproof" or "water resistant" she cautions against believing the claims. Reapply every two hours and after being in the water or sweating.
Focus on effective ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that works to protect children from toxins, recently released its 2013 sunscreen guide, revealing 184 sunscreens that pass muster for SPF protection. Most of EWG's recommended sunscreens are made with "physical blocks" like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that coat the skin and filter UVA rays, which the group deems safer than those made with oxybenzone, a potentially hormone-disrupting chemical. Dr. Brown says the concerns at this point are theoretical. What's not theoretical is the real risk of sun damage -- and both of these ingredients, along with zinc oxide, are effective sunscreens that can help protect your family from skin cancer.
Here are some of the brands that earned a top rating from EWG: