Top tips for choosing the right sunscreen for your children

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking of holidays, warm Summer days and ice-creams! Even though we are not blessed with a tropical climate in Ireland it’s still really important to apply sunscreen. This is especially true with small children who have delicate skin and are unable to apply it correctly themselves.

What sunscreen to choose?

There are a number of things to look out for when selecting a sunscreen for your children. Most importantly are the SPF, UVA and UVB ratings. These will be displayed either on the front or back of the bottle.

SPF relates to the length of time you can spend in the sun without getting sunburnt. It indicates how long your skin’s natural protection will be multiplied by when using sunscreen. For example, if your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer). In Ireland the majority of us have pale, sun-sensitive skin, children even more so. You should always look for a minimum of 30 SPF for children.

UVA causes skin cancer and aging. It reaches the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. It accounts for about 95% of all UV rays and so for that reason is much more dangerous.

UVB is responsible for sunburn and skin cancer. It usually reaches the superficial layers of your skin causing burning.

SPF only relates to UVB protection and not UVA. It’s really important to apply a generous amount of sunscreen and reapply frequently. Sweating, rubbing and washing will all remove its effectiveness.

Choose a sunscreen that is made for children and babies. Make sure to patch test it on their skin first. If their skin reacts to the product stop using it straight away and try a different brand.

Rating system for sunscreens

This can cause parents confusion. There are two rating systems in operation. The one most parents are familiar with is the star rating system. This is an optional system that brands choose to use. The higher the rating the better, with 5 being the highest rating possible.


There is only one system that is recommended by EU regulations. This is the UVA symbol (see across). So if you see a sunscreen that has this logo then you know that it meets EU recommendation standards for UVA protection.

The recommendation is firstly always look for the UVA logo and if the star rating system is in place go for the one with the highest rating.

How long can sunscreen be used for?

This is really important. If you look at the back of a bottle of sunscreen there is a time symbol at the bottom, usually 12 months. This means that once open it is safe to use for 12 months. A good tip is to write the date on the bottle with a permanent marker when you open it. As we all know sunshine in Ireland is not guaranteed! Many of us have opened bottles, used a small amount of sunscreen and put it back in a cabinet where it sits until the following year.

There will also be an expiry date on the bottle which is different. Usually, when you buy a bottle of sunscreen the expiry date will be a few years in the future. It’s perfectly safe to keep that bottle unopened in your cabinet. Once you open the bottle you must use it by the timeframe specified on the bottle.

Other points to note when choosing sunscreen

No sunscreen gives 100% protection from UV damage. Also, many of us do not use enough sunscreen and as a result get a fraction of the protection they were hoping for.  This is especially true for children. It’s really important to apply sufficient sunscreen frequently.

Other precautions to take include

  • Wearing a hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Keeping young babies, under 6 months, out of the sun
  • Try to avoid the sun when UV rays are at their strongest. In Ireland this is generally from 11am to 3pm from April to September.


Further information regarding how to protect your child in the sun can be found here

Have fun in the sun!

By SureSitter