How is sunburn prevented?
Avoid the sun when sun ray intensity is the strongest. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to the whole body.

Remember to wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses with UV protection. Remain in shady areas to avoid sun exposure. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight due to extreme vulnerability to sunburn.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using sunscreen on infants for small areas such as the face and back of hands where protection from clothing is inadequate. Be careful to avoid the area around the eyes. When using a spray sunscreen do not spray near the face due to the risk of inhaling harmful chemicals. Consult a health care professional before applying sunscreen to children under six months of age. Sunscreen can be used in children older than six months.

How to choose a sunscreen?
It is important to choose sunscreens that are “broad-spectrum” for full protection against both UVA and UVB rays. For protection against UVB choose products that contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, Mexoryl, and oxybenzone. SPF only protects the skin from UVB rays. Be aware that a sunscreen with an SPF 30 is not twice as protective as an SPF15 sunscreen. The number refers to how much longer it would take the skin to redden with the sunscreen compared to skin without sunscreen. Sunscreens that have the “water resistant” label maintain their SPF 40 minutes after water immersion and “very water resistant” maintain their SPF 80 minutes after water immersion.

Always apply sunscreen about 20 minutes prior to outdoor activities, regardless if it’s sunny or cloudy since sun rays can still penetrate through clouds and car windshields. Reapply after swimming and every two hours after the first application. Thoroughly rub into the face, nose, ears, shoulders, and other areas that may be exposed to the sun. Do not forget areas under bathing suit straps, necklaces, bracelets, and sunglasses. Even though some products state they are “water resistant,” apply sunscreen regularly because sweating, water exposure, and towel drying may remove the protective layer. Buy sunscreen with the most updated product labeling since the FDA has recently issued new labeling regulations.

Further Information
U.S. National Library of Medicine:
Skin Cancer Foundation:
Environmental Protection Agency:

Last Reviewed: May 2013