Sun Safety: Expert Q&A

Pediatric dermatologist Andrea Cambio, MD, answers common questions about sunscreen, tans, and more.

From the WebMD Archives

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.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 19, 2012



Andrea Cambio, MD, board-certified dermatologist; fellow, American Academy of Dermatology, Cape Coral, Fla.

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