Choose a ‘physical’ sunscreen that’s made with zinc or titanium oxide rather than a chemical one. The reason for this is not necessarily that the chemical ones are harmful, but that they can irritate delicate skin.
If you do use a chemical sunscreen, make sure that you allow 15 to 20 minutes before you go in the sun, for them to be activated properly. Physical sunscreens work immediately.
Make sure that you do a patch test on your child’s skin the day before you use a chemical sunscreen, to ensure that your child does not have a reaction to it.
Choose a sunscreen that’s rated at least 15 and 30 SPF (ideally use 50 SPF), and one that is water resistant, and labelled as ‘broad spectrum.’ Broad spectrum sunscreens block both UVA and UVB rays, and in Britain and Ireland are commonly indicated with the addition of several stars (which indicate the ratio of UVA to UVB protection). Look out for and favour sunscreens which have 4 or 5 stars.
Apply sunscreen liberally, and look for sunscreens that change colour over time – they are easier to apply to all the areas that need protection. Make sure that you reapply sunscreen regularly, and after every time your child is in water.
Lastly, remember that there is little difference between children’s and adults sunscreens, and it’s okay to use an adult sunscreen on your child (as long as they have a suitable SPF). Also remember that only physical sunscreens can be called ‘sun block’ so if you want to be sure, check the ingredients list. If they don’t contain titanium or zinc oxide, they’re an ordinary sunscreen!
As an additional tip, make sure that your child also wears a hat in the sun – even though your child’s scalp is covered with hair, it can still burn. Also, reapply regularly and especially after swimming.