Do kids need a different kind of sunscreen?

A busy sunscreen aisle can leave parents confused about which lotions, sticks or sprays to buy for their kids.

Complicating matters are varying recommendations for the average consumer: The US Food and Drug Administration recommends buying products labeled with at least SPF 15, and the American Academy of Dermatology puts the bar at SPF 30.
Several consumer guides provide product rankings using their own criteria, including Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group, whose guide to roughly 650 products was released Tuesday.
“Sunburn during early life, especially childhood, is very dangerous for all skin cancers but especially malignant melanoma,” said Dr. Eleni Linos, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco.
These sunburns “are actually much more dangerous than sunburns later on,” she added. “That’s why we need to really protect our kids.”
“If you look at ingredients in sunscreen, you really don’t see many differences in the sunscreens that are marketed towards children versus the ones that are marketed toward adults — except perhaps in the fragrances,” said Dr. Lisa Garner, a private-practice dermatologist and a clinical professor in dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Regardless of whether a sunscreen is marketed to kids or adults, “essentially, the SPF value is what’s worth focusing on,” Linos said.
Every time you step into the sun, you’re hit with ultraviolet rays that “can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The impact of this damage can range from premature wrinkles to skin cancer.