How to Pick a Sunscreen for Teens, Tweens & Kids

We at PREP Cosmetics believe brains and a great personality (not a ton of makeup or fancy clothes!) are the best ways to show your beauty to the world. Smart girls need a skincare routine and they especially need a safe sunscreen they can use every single day. Today’s post is dedicated to understanding how to pick the best natural sunscreen for pre-teens and teens, and how to use it in the most effective way possible. Read below for more info!

3 Tips for Picking the Best Sunscreens for Tweens and Teens

  1. Use a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide. Many sunscreens contain a ton of unpronounceable ingredients whose names don’t really tell you what they are doing in your sunscreen. If there is one ingredient that you should recognize and love, it should be zinc oxide. Zinc oxide has been around for decades and it is still one of the most powerful sun protective ingredients that you will find in modern sunscreens, since it can offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays (more about these below!). But why is zinc oxide such a big deal – don’t all sunscreen ingredients do the same thing? Well, not quite; ingredients like avobenzone and ecamsule are better for handling UVA rays, whereas UVB rays are best deflected by ingredients like octocrylene and trolamine salicyliate (see what we said about them being a mouthful?). But zinc oxide is able to provide significant defense against both UVA and UVB rays, which means that it can offer more protection than most other ingredients.

Zinc oxide-containing sunscreens are recommended for kids and teens, as zinc oxide rarely irritates the skin and is even suitable for those who have sensitive skin (Skin Cancer Foundation, UV Awareness). We love our P.R.E.P. sunscreen because it contains zinc oxide and it won't sting your eyes! Interested to learn more about different ingredients in sunscreens? Check out our article about Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens!

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen. You’ve probably seen the term “broad-spectrum” on our blog quite a few times – but what does it mean, and why should it be a part of your sunscreen? A broad-spectrum sunscreen is one which can protect against both UVA (the rays that AGE you) and UVB rays (the rays that BURN you). When you look at the SPF rating on your sunscreen bottle, this only judges the sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB rays – not UVB and UVA rays. You need protection against both types of rays because they can cause serious damage to the skin. UVA rays are largely responsible for aging the skin and causing wrinkles, fine lines, sagginess and age spots, while UVB rays are responsible for burning your skin. In some cases, too much UVA and/or UVB exposure can lead to skin cancer.

When using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, make sure to use one that is at least SPF 30. A sunscreen with SPF 15 can filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while a sunscreen with SPF 30 can protect against 97% of UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a daily use of a broad spectrum SPF 30.

  1. Don’t use a spray-on sunscreen. Don’t get us wrong, spray-on sunscreens are super convenient, especially when you don’t want your hands to feel all greasy and slick. But even though spray-on sunscreens are made of the same ingredients as those that you rub into your skin, it’s difficult to tell whether you have truly applied enough sunscreen when you use a spray-on sunscreen. The pattern that you use to spray your skin and how much the wind is blowing can affect how much of your sunscreen actually makes it onto your skin, which is why it is generally better to rub it into your skin.

Another thing to consider: most spray-on sunscreens are flammable and may catch fire if they are sprayed near an open flame, like a grill or a bonfire. If you accidentally inhale sunscreen while you are applying, you may also irritate your lungs and leave a pretty unpleasant taste in your mouth. In fact, many dermatologists don’t even recommend children and teenagers use spray-on sunscreens. So for the sake of your skin, it’s best to just use a rub-in sunscreen (Consumer Reports).

3 Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Sunscreen

  1. Don’t rely on sunscreen alone. We at PREP Cosmetics are proud to have designed products like our ultra-nourishing SPF 30 Face+Body Lotion and super-hydrating SPF 15 Lip Gloss, which both use the natural mineral zinc oxide to defend your skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays. But despite our awesome formulation, relying on just sunscreen to protect your skin is like eating only fruits in order to remain healthy; you need to take a diverse and multi-step approach if you want to achieve the best results.

We recommend pairing our SPF 30 Face+Body Lotion with sun-protective clothing that contains UV ray-absorbing colorless dyes or that has a tight weave (think denim, velvet and silk), as loosely woven clothing gives UV rays more of an opportunity to reach the skin.

Darker clothing is best for blocking out the sun’s rays, but your typical bright and breezy summer clothing fails to provide much protection. For example, a white cotton T-shirt only has a UV protection factor (UPF) of 7, whereas a darker cotton T-shirt has an UPF of 10 – this UPF goes as high as 50 if you wear a dark-colored shirt that is also made of a heavier fabric. To maximize your clothing’s sun protectivity, you may also want to consider using laundry additive sunscreens. Simply mix a laundry sunscreen with your favorite laundry detergent, and you can see the UPF of your clothing be improved for up to 20 washings.

Although it may be the best time to relax by the beach or the pool, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM the sun’s UVB rays are the strongest. If you can, make sure to seek cool shade during this time so that you don’t have to worry about extra-strong UVB rays penetrating and burning your skin.

Pair your sun protective clothing with a broad-brimmed hat that covers your neck, cheeks and ears, as well as sunglasses that protect the entire eye area, and you should be ready for sun fun in the sun (Skin Cancer Foundation)!

  1. Make sure to reapply regularly. Remembering to apply your sunscreen before you go to the beach or the pool is one of the first steps towards protecting your skin from the sun. You should also reapply sunscreen whenever you go swimming, sweat a lot, or towel-dry.

Keep in mind, however, that quickly rubbing some sunscreen into your skin doesn’t guarantee that your skin is fully protected. In fact, people routinely apply only a quarter to one half of what they should be applying to their skin! For maximum protection, you should apply about 1 oz. of sunscreen to your body each time you apply – for reference, 1oz. is approximately the size of 2 tablespoons of liquid.

  1. Wear sunscreen every day. An integral part of any skin routine involves wearing a sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather or temperature outside! Remember that UVA rays are strong from sun-up to sun-down, and UVB rays are the strongest from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, so it’s especially important to put your sunscreen on earlier in the day (American Academy of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic).

Bottom Line

When selecting a sunscreen for pre-teen and teen girls, make sure to pick a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection and contains zinc oxide, an ingredient that defends against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s also better to select rub-on sunscreens instead of those that you can spray on, because it’s much harder to get even coverage when you use spray-on sunscreens. To maximize your sunscreen’s efficacy and to keep your skin looking gorgeous, make sure to avoid sun exposure during the peak hours of 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, reapply your sunscreen every two hours, and wear a natural sunscreen every day of the year.

Remember to check back regularly, as we will continue to post great tips and advice!

Stay healthy,