How to Apply Kid's Sunscreen

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
March 29, 2023
how to apply kids sunscreen

What works for me as a parent may not work for you.

I like caps that won’t click pop open or explode in the heat. You may prefer a flip cap that is easier to open.

What is more important is applying enough sunscreen with enough frequency to avoid sunburns.

What do I mean? Look, if one bottle of sunscreen lasts you all summer, you are not using enough. On particularly extended outings in the sun, you should be going through an entire bottle, which is why I get several of the most trusted kids sunscreens.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a cloudless day to get a sunburn.

If possible, I like to start applying sunscreen before dressing my child. This gets coverage underneath the clothes. Unless specifically manufactured to provide more protection, most shirts, pants and hats provide SPF 5. Applying sunscreen before putting on clothes also helps reduce the chances a sunburn will happen near collars, sleeves or waistbands.

Otherwise, if the child is already dressed, I start at the top of my child and work my way down. I pour or dab a generous amount of product into my hand and begin to work the sunscreen into the face and ears until the product is no longer chalky. If using a stick, I will smear the stick around the face, avoiding the eyes, and then I rub the product in. Some sunscreens are meant to provide coverage to the scalp; please review the labels for more detailed information.

Then I work my way around the neck and stick my hand down the collar of the shirt. I always work the sunscreen into the skin. The product should no longer be white once properly rubbed in and absorbed by the skin. Next, I focus on the arms and the back of the hands. I’m careful not to get any on the insides of their fingers, as small children are more likely to touch their faces and experience irritation if there is sunscreen on their fingertips.

After that, I work on any exposed parts of the legs, and I do a generous swabbing around the any place where there might be a gap between the shirt and pants. If the tops of their feet or their toes are exposed because of the shoes, I make sure to cover all the exposed skin in a good dose of sunscreen. If using a spray, I press the applicator down and make a sweeping motion from top to bottom. I often place my hand in front of my kid’s face to prevent them from breathing in the fumes. I make sure to rub the sunscreen into their skin for proper coverage.

When my kid is sweating a lot or swimming, I reapply the sunscreen after 40 to 80 minutes, depending upon the company’s recommendations. You need to towel your child completely dry before doing so. I know this isn’t the fun part, and I have found it is often the time when kids fight the most to get to go back to playing. However, reapplication is important to prevent sunburns. Try to make this time fun by offering your child a snack after drying off so you can reapply sunscreen.

Always follow the company’s instructions on the label and avoid getting the product in eyes or mouths.

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