Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Sun Safety: Expert Q&A

Dermatologist Andrea Cambio, MD, answers common questions about sunscreen, tans, and more.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Pediatric dermatologist Andrea Cambio, MD, of Cape Coral, Fla., provides answers to your questions about staying safe in the sun.

How much sunscreen do I need to use?

If using a lotion, one ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Be liberal with the application; most people apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount.

What is the right way to apply sunscreen?

The correct way to apply sunscreen to kids is to apply it 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. If using a spray, avoid the face and spray each arm, each leg, and the trunk evenly, making sure the skin is evenly coated. Apply it to the front of the body then the back of the body, making sure to get the sides of the body too. Always remember to apply it under swim suit straps because they have a tendency to move around during swimming and other activities. Areas that are often missed include the scalp -- especially the area where you part your hair -- and the tops and backs of ears, feet, and neck. So don’t forget them.

Does a tan protect you from getting sunburn?

Just because you’re tan doesn't mean you can play around in the sun. People who have a tendency to tan instead of burn have a little bit of natural protection. But that can give you a false sense of security. Also, it doesn't matter what your skin color is; everyone can get skin cancer.

Doesn't sunscreen prevent my child from getting much-needed vitamin D from the sun?

There are many parents who ask the vitamin D question. I tell them that daily exposure to sunlight (even with sunscreen) for 10 minutes or so, is all that is needed for our bodies to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D-fortified foods, such as milk and cereal, and foods naturally rich in the vitamin, such as fish, help boost our levels of vitamin D, too. There are also vitamin D supplements. Most healthy American children are not at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Unfortunately, they are at risk of getting skin cancer at some point in their life from ultraviolet light. Skin cancer is diagnosed in the U.S. more than any other type of cancer.  

Does my child need regular body checks?

Everyone should have a full skin check every year by a qualified doctor. You should establish a baseline at birth or 1 year of age; your pediatrician can do this as part of your well-child visits. A pediatrician will refer your child to a dermatologist if there are any suspicious moles or other signs of skin cancer.

Reviewed on November 19, 2012

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply