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Experts Give Advice on Choosing and Using Sunscreens

8 Burning Questions About Sunscreens

4. Which sunscreens are best to use on children and infants?

Best for kids, says Sutton, are sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide at levels of at least 7% and with an SPF of 30 or higher. "You can typically find the percent on the list of active ingredients on the label," she says.

The sunscreens with physical blockers are preferred for kids, agrees Pat Treadwell, MD, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and a member of the executive committee for the dermatology section of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "If there is a generic brand, that should work fine," she says.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight as much as possible. For babies older than 6 months, the Academy recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on all exposed areas. For babies younger than 6 months, use sunscreen on small areas, such as the backs of the hands and the face if shade or protective clothing aren't options. The Academy recommends broad spectrum products and products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for sensitive areas such as nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and shoulders. Some are now available in "fun" colors.

5. Which is better, spray sunscreens or cream sunscreens?

While a spray form of sunscreen is often viewed as more convenient -- especially for hard-to-reach areas -- most experts say creams offer better coverage and are more likely to be used properly.

Sutton has yet another reason to prefer creams. "The problem with sprays and actually with powders is inhalation. You can actually inhale these small particles and they can potentially damage your lungs," she says.

Badreshia-Bansal is not a fan of sprays, either. "It's definitely not the optimal way to put on sunscreens." She offers sunscreen pads with SPF 30, available through physicians, to her patients who hate to put on creams.

But Began doesn't discount spray sunscreens. "I think it's a convenience issue. Some people will find the spray is easier to use. If both are applied in adequate quantity and spread over the surface of the skin, I think you can get comparable results. The spray should be sprayed diffusely. You want an even film on the skin. It is a good idea to rub it in. But it's often used on areas you can't reach. So respray [to be sure you have enough applied]."

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