PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Summer Skin Care Tips for Kids

Posted on Jun 25, 2013

Whether you’re building sandcastles at the beach, playing Marco Polo at the pool or hiking at the park, summer spells outdoor fun. But pesky bugs, the harsh sun and our dry California climate can take a toll on your child’s skin. Here are PAMF Pediatrician Manisha Panchal, M.D.‘s answers to some of parents’ common questions about summer skin care. 

 Bugs seem to love my kids. What’s the best way to ward off mosquitoes?

If you’re in an area that has lots of mosquitoes, dress the kids—and yourself—in long sleeves and pants. That’s the best preventive measure. For added protection, apply an insect repellant containing 30 percent or less DEET to exposed skin once before going outdoors.

Don’t put repellant around the eyes and mouth. And, remember, never use DEET insect repellants on babies under 2 months.

If you don’t want to use repellant on your child’s skin, buy a small, light-weight repellant product that you can clip on to your child’s clothes. Also, consider a plug-in repellant for the bedroom, or a mosquito net to protect your child from those pesky critters at night.

What’s the best way to protect kids from the sun?

Limit direct sun exposure. That’s the very best way to protect your children from the sun’s rays. Light-weight, long-sleeved clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses offer the most protection when outdoors. If possible, have your child play in the shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Use sunscreen regularly. For the most effective sunscreen coverage:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally to cover all exposed skin, including your child’s ears, neck, hands and feet. Remember, more is better when it comes to sunscreen. Don’t skimp on covering up.
  • Put on sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors. It can take 30 minutes for sunscreen to start working.
  • Don’t save your sunscreen for sunny days. Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. You can check the national UV Index to find the specific UV risk for your area on any given day.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after a dip in the pool, even if you are using a water-resistant product.
  • Keep babies under 6 months of age out of direct sunlight. They should avoid all sun exposure. Dress your little one in light-weight clothing and a hat with a brim.

There’s a huge choice of sunscreens. How do I pick the right one?

There are countless rows of sunscreens at the drugstore. Look for these labels and ingredients:

  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. That means it will protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
  • SPF 30 is best for kids who are active outdoors for long periods of time. That higher sun protection factor blocks out 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Sunscreens with even higher SPFs don’t offer much additional protection.
  • Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are good for young children and those with sensitive skin. Sunscreens with these ingredients physically block the sun’s UVA rays from penetrating the skin. They are best for infants, toddlers and anyone with eczema. They are also effective and safe for older children and adults.

My child’s skin is really dry. What type of moisturizer will help?

Our dry California climate is harsh on skin. Moisturize regularly to avoid rough patches, itchy discomfort and dry skin. If your child has eczema, it’s essential to moisturize often. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is cheap and very effective but greasy. Cream or ointment-based moisturizers, like Aquaphor, are best.

Don’t be tricked by products marketed specifically for babies. Instead, choose creams free that are fragrance- and dye-free to avoid irritating your baby’s skin. Look for creams that come in tubs or squeeze bottles for the best results. Lotions in pump-based containers are thinner and not as effective.

Moisturize twice a day. If your child still has dry and itchy skin, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

Manisha Panchal, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and contributed to this blog post.

Manisha Panchal, M.D.

Manisha Panchal, M.D.